The federal government’s easing of general solicitation rules pertinent to securities registration has created more and faster opportunities for small business start-ups to raise investment dollars from third parties. These actions are the result of the J.O.B.S. Act passed in 2012. This means that companies can now publicly fundraise via their website, social media, or solicitation of online syndication groups. Online syndicates look to take funding positions in promising business start-ups. These early stage investor groups take ownership stakes in companies they fund unlike other so-called crowdfunding initiatives which may take product or in-kind benefits. These syndicates have been formed for specific single investments or for more open ended investing. Businesses looking to raise capital can find interested investors through Google searches such as “Business Crowdfunding” or “Business Syndicates”.
An August survey by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) indicated a downward bias in small business confidence from the prior month. This survey went on to say that reported earnings continued on a downward path with little opportunity for business owners to reprice their goods or services more favorably given weak demand.
August is traditionally a vacation-laden month so it’s not necessarily a bellwether indicator for the remainder of the year. It does reinforce the constant necessity of performing a sales result analysis. This review should tell you who your customers are, why they’re buying from you and not your competitors, and what marketing or outreach vehicles are driving them to you. You can then focus your resources on those channels that are creating these sales. Whether tepid demand or more competition are underlying root causes, the business that gets its message out most effectively will be a sales winner.
Not content to see traditional brick and mortar sales share continue to erode to a plethora of on-line competitors, there are a number of retailers that have begun initiatives to add an ecomm feel to their store locations. While largely still in the early stages, these retailers are looking for tech partners that can assist in extending the in-store utility and information access that web shoppers crave.
By providing digital content on in-store devices, they hope to mimic the data search accessibility and sales tools that shoppers use to make buying decisions. This new tech-oriented marketing approach is seen as an extension of their existing web presence and reflects the buying preferences of a lot of today’s shoppers. While not entirely removed from the old retail store design adage of announce, amplify, and explain, it adds a dimension that may also impact the role of sales people in a more self-service environment.
It remains to be seen whether an ecomm component can restore some of the lost store traffic and buying excitement of a traditional retail shopping event for those that are inclined to surf the web and hit the shopping cart button. Retailers are closely watching to see if this strategy will help restore brand loyalty and boost in-store ROI’s.
When Google acquired Waze in May, 2013 for a reported $1 billion, it solidified its hold on intelligence-gathering for the PDA mobile market. Waze is a free GPS-based navigation application for Android, Apple, Blackberry, and Windows mobile. Waze has an estimated 50 million worldwide users. A stated value of the Waze app is to allow users to provide real-time updates on traffic jams, accidents, speed traps, cheap fuel locations, and landmarks along their route. Waze’s programmatic ability to to know where you are at all times by assessing vehicle speed and location has the benefit of potentially saving you a lot of time, although the ‘eye in the sky’ tracking of 50 million vehicles or PDA’s is a bit Orwellian.
Google and Waze see mapping as the key to monetizing mobile potential in much the same way as search engines have done for the web. They seek to differentiate between when you’re ‘just’ going to work and not likely interested in ads from those trips where you might be influenced by advertising prompts along your route. All in all, it underscores the importance of your PDA mobile planning to attract new customers. At Western Equity, we recognize that a mobile device strategy is essential to any new initiative.
If you examine 10 year trends in consumer marketing searches, whether TV, radio, print, internet, or mobile devices, not surprisingly the fastest rising sector is PDA’s. An Edison Research consumer survey indicates that, for the first time, more people view the internet as more important to them in their daily lives than TV. Traditional media like TV and radio, while still leaders in total views, have not shown any material growth during that time frame. Over 135 million of Americans have smartphones. Their utilization is more than 14 times that of a desktop computer. B2C mobile sales now account for about 15% of ecommerce sales. As highlighted in other Western Equity LLC blog articles, your business needs to prepare for on the go PDA-enabled marketing and selling.
Facebook is still the dominant player in social media with an over 50% share of social media use. Twitter and LinkedIn follow at less than 20% each. Content marketing is still key over advertising. Content that works best are social posts and updates, newsletters, and specific articles. Users tend to rely on new content first before looking at marketing add-ons. Twitter continues to make giant inroads in mobile marketing. Don’t ignore that growing audience.
If you want more information on this or related analyses, please see the 2013 Infinite Dial Report created by Edison Research or an article by Patricia Redsicker at Social Media Examiner. Good Stuff for the small business looking to expand their business.
Noticed Google Maps lately? Google has already rolled out their Android-based enhanced Maps app with similar functionally expected soon for Apple IPhones. Beyond routing the user to their intended destination, Maps seeks to intuitively suggest shopping, dining, entertainment, or similar site content that may appeal to the traveler. All of this suggests having your PDA-enabled website and social media marketing and selling incentives at the ready for these timely searches.
While so-called POS digital wallets, such as Google Wallet, using near field communication (NFC) are still relatively new, it’s another opportunity for businesses to grow their customer base, add value, and differentiate themselves from competitors.
Digital wallets, for now, are largely NFC-enabled Android smartphones or tablets that allow customers to pay using pre-established debit and credit card account information by tapping or bringing their mobile device into close proximity to an NFC device at a check-out station. There’s no need for the customer to pull a card, swipe it, sign the receipt, and the like.
As an example, a dry cleaner the other day indicated that they wanted to attract more and younger customers. This POS capability could combine the payment processing speed of NFC with the marketing potential for promotional offers and loyalty program capture. Similarly, NFC has many other ecommerce and plastic card information storage applications beyond payment processing. A personal medical history could be accessed at a doctor’s office just as readily, for example.
Along with scannable Quick Response Codes (QR), those odd-looking black postage stamp-like images you see in magazines that are used for marketing and advertising, there’s a lot to consider before you decide if these initiatives make sense for your business. Some research on your part will help you decide, if and when, these capabilities are accretive to your sales planning. Websites such as nfc.org, nfc-forum.org, and mashable.com can help you learn more.
So, how’s your website doing? Social media and SEO efforts building momentum? Site traffic up? Ecommerce sales increasing? Probably not, if you’ve not optimized your website for the explosion in handheld devices: smartphones, tablets, Kindles, and the like. Virtually everyone has a smartphone or similar device with them for instant internet access. And the device numbers are increasing at a dizzyingly frenetic pace.
Google estimates that more than 75% of smartphone users research local businesses on that device before they buy. And then they act in a hurry! Yet it’s estimated that less than a quarter of all websites are optimized for mobile access. Can you shout OPPORTUNITY!
Want to stay ahead of your competitors and pick up some new customers? Make your site mobile device-friendly. Do it now. At Western Equity LLC all of our future web initiatives will emphasize mobile device access to max out their visibility and potential for success.
As someone once said: “Will all of those that say it can’t be done, please get out of the way of those of us that are doing it.” Starting a new year is traditionally an opportune time to make needed strategic and tactical improvements. Did you meet or exceed your business goals in the last calendar or fiscal year?
The real test of business health is sales and revenue growth. It’s why businesses are started. Growth demonstrates market and competitive effectiveness. No matter how a business delivers goods or services, owners must analyze, evaluate, plan, and adapt as needed in order to maintain positive sales momentum. Should traditional markets erode, find others. If better competitor product or service alternatives exist, then tough decisions are required. Consumers and B2B’ers are buying every day, which means someone’s business is successfully selling. For all the gloom and doom out there, new entrepreneurs and savvy in-place business adapters find a way to sell and excel. It might as well be you!
So get your company story told, embrace your customers and prospects, and stay slightly paranoid, but always on the offensive. Too many businesses have tried to save their way to continued existence. Such cutbacks invariably end, typically with unintended sales and customer impact. It’s just not realistic to expect to “save” your way to high performance.
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