Category Archives: Trendspotting

Creative Tips for Running a Business Without a Central Office

by Jenna Smith

When most think of businesses, they imagine offices, meetings and memos. Increasingly, however, more businesses are moving their activities online and using a decentralized model that eliminates the need for a main office.

Although many still view this model as radical, the technology exists to help make this vision a reality. Here are some of the technologies that enable what some envision as the future of business.

Internet Communication 

Email is a great tool to communicate, but it is not sufficient for the type of communication that businesses need to work effectively. Fast broadband connections, high-quality video hardware and clever software are able to replicate the standard business model.

Business that adopt the decentralized model are using audio conference calling and virtual meetings to communicate in a manner similar to that of standard offices, and communication platforms encourage staff communication. Document sharing and visual tools fill the gap that older methods of Internet communication lacked.

Collaboration platforms 

New platforms allow businesses to plan and track projects in real time. These platforms enable employees to log their activities and work on files in a central location. Changes are documented instantly, and version control allows managers to view how documents change over time.

Further, chat capabilities and integration with tools used for communication help employees work together wherever they are located. Many of these platforms function as a web app, so users simply need a standard web browser and Internet access to work.

Cloud platforms 

The cloud paradigm allows businesses to use a centralized data store for their business purposes. It also take the centralization a step further and serves applications over a network. Businesses can use these platforms to allow workers to access business programs and software from anywhere.

In conjunction with collaboration platforms, cloud programs can be used to accomplish tasks that typically demand an office computer. With the increasing speed of Internet connections, advanced network deliver methods and good software design, cloud platforms can replicate a typical office experience through a web browser.

Working without a centralized located places demands on employees. Working from home requires self-discipline and the ability to work in a solitary environment. The benefits of being able to hire employees across the nation, however, let employers to hire talented employees without having to worry about where they are located. While many business will continue to operate from a centralized location, certain projects can be best accomplished over the Internet.

What Trends and Apps Do YOU Think Marketers Can’t Do Without in 2010?

iStock_000011005721XSmallAs a part of the Small Business Trends expert group, I get to write articles that are posted on the Open Forum blog.   My last article “10 Must Do Marketing Tips” got a lot of traction, so I thought I’d do another kind of list article that people could use in the coming months as they put together their marketing plans.

My idea was to pull together a list of hot applications; some that I use a lot and some that I wish I could use more.  Well, in the process of doing the research I found that Guy Kawasaki did a post on his Favorite Apps on the Open Forum blog. “RATS!”, I thought.  “He beat me to the punch.”  Undaunted, I started looking for another twist.

So now, I’m exploring the top trends and apps that YOU think marketers and small businesses can’t do without!

Leave a comment below with your ideas.

So far, I’m listing Google Wave (c’mon people register and start using it, it’s no fun being there all alone!) Virtual collaboration will only start getting bigger and better.

Location-based applications like BrightKite were floundering and maybe before their time.  Now FourSquare has gotten into the mix.  I’ve registered and posted a couple of things, but still don’t see how it will replace Twitter.

Augmented Reality Apps are getting popular on the Andoid systems and iPhone.  I’ve been asking around about how a small business can be sure that they are included when potential customers are scanning the area with their phones.

So there you have it — send me your ideas and links.  Don’t forget to leave a link to your blog so I can give you credit!

Trendwatching and How to Spot and Describe a Trend

trendwatchingIf you haven’t visited Trendwatching, then you are missing out on some great insight into consumer trends.  I’ve been a fan of Trendwatching for at least a year or two because they literally deliver on-the-money trends to my mailbox every quarter.

They primarily focus on “consumer” trends – but that shouldn’t stop you from devouring their quarterly reports because Trendwatching understands something that few industrial organizations grasp — PEOPLE make purchasing decisions – not machines or committees.

Trendwatching is really a consumer research firm that uses “Trendspotters” from all over the world to report in what they see as upcoming treneds.  In other words, it’s a sort of “ask the audience” crowd-sourcing methodology that I find really interesting and useful in my work.

The other wonderful thing I like about Trendwatching is their graphics and descriptions of trends.  In fact, they’ve even pulled together some pre-designed presentations that you can use in your reports and presentations to management (of course you’d need to be a premium member to get those).

About the Briefings

There is a definite science to how Trendspotting creates, designs and presents their briefings – and it’s a process that you should copy and learn from if you want to position yourself as the “Oracle” in your market.

  1. The give trends cool names.  Naming a trend is practically half the battle in getting it communicated and giving it life and legs.  The process is both simple and difficult at the same time.  As you’d might imagine it takes some brainstorming and mind-mapping.  Often it’s simply a merging of two key descriptive elements of the actual trend slicked up with some word wizadtry.  Take “Transparency Triumph” for example.
  2. Describe trends as if you were watching them and reporting.  When you’re describing a trend, imagine yourself having landed on a new planet where people are exhibiting this trend.  Now imagine yourself describing it to everyone back home.
  3. Images are critical.  Finally, to help communicate your trend, use amazing images.  Don’t be afraid to use whatever image best communicates the essence of the trend.

Trends used to be something we only watched at the end of the year and during market and business planning time.  Now, there’s no excuse not to be watching trends at least quarterly.

Leave a comment about how you watch for trends or what triggers you to spot a trend.

2009 Trend Reports, Slideshows and Tidbits

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Like many of you, I’m doing my survey of what trends are going forecasted for 2009.  I wrote about a few in the last post, in this post, I’m doing  a round-up of some of the interesting articles I’ve run across.

Let’s Get Social.  This is a terrific little slide show by Randy Price.  Grab this one if you have to justify a social media strategy for your company.

The 2008 Social Network Analysis Report. Check out the demographic data for many of the most popular social media sites.

The Yellow Pages Association Report. The YPS most recent survey of small businesses shows that while 53% of all small businesses struggle with getting and keeping customers, two-thirds of them will simply go it alone.  In what ways can you help them?  I’m launching DIYMarketers!  A subscription site where DIYMarketers can get tips, tricks forms and real-world help in getting and keeping customers.

5 Most Dangerous Trends. This slideshow is loaded with all kinds of statistics that you can use in your marketing plan.

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How to Use These 2009 Marketing Trends to Build Your Business

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While everyone is moping, crying and predicting how deep the recession will get – there is a small quiet group out there kicking marketing ass and making money!  Which will you be this year?  You get to choose.  You can be an excuse-maker and join the group that’s crying and feeling sorry — or — you can resolve to take control of your marketing destiny and do something.

This is what I love about this kind of business environment is that there is this huge group of people pre-occupied with complaining about the economic trend instead of acknowledging the business environment and marketing accordingly.

So let’s take a moment to acknowledge some marketing trends and see in what ways you can use these 2009 marketing trends to make some money.

Social media goes mainstream.

If you’re still thinking that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube are for kids – SNAP OUT OF IT.  Social media has gone mainstream.  Stop deluding yourself and start using these tools to market your business.  Here is your quick action list:

  1. Start a blog on WordPress.com or Typepad.  WordPress has a new version out 2.7 and it’s amazingly easy.  You can also use Typepad (thanks Joel!).  I started on Typepad and it’s a terrific choice.  Their customer support is terrific.  I’ve never had a problem. If you already own a domain name – simply forward that name to your new WordPress Blog.  Stop over analyzing and start blogging.  Remember to put your new blog name and link in your e-mail signature.  Tell your customers and prospects.  A blog is an on-going advertisement about your organization and the cool new things you are doing that set you apart from other alternatives.
  2. Register your company name or product names on Twitter.  As much as I love and idolize Jack Trout (guru of positioning) I’m disappointed at his article in Forbes.  Jack says that we might have gone overboard on Word of Mouth.  I think it’s a boon to any small business with a non-existent marketing budget.
  3. Start a group on LinkedIn or Facebook.  Whether you choose LinkedIn or Facebook mostly depends on your product, service or target audience.  LinkedIn is more “professional.”  The audience is generally older and more traditional. Facebook is more casual and friendly.  There is no reason you can’t do both.  You can use LinkedIn to post questions and get feedback on purely business issues and you can use Facebook to get to know your customers a little better and build more loyal/friendly relationships.
  4. Post on YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare. Jack Trout says the customers don’t want to talk about toothpaste and I say why not?  If millions of people could talk Blendtec — why couldn’t they talk about YOU?  Look, you will need to take some time to really let loose and think about the personality of your product, service or company.  Stop sensoring yourself and take some risk.  It costs next to nothing and the benefits are many.

The tighter the niche the better.

To build on this social media goes mainstream trend, let me just tell you that one out of every six people is using social media.  That means that you will have to take your segmentation efforts to the extreme.  You have to re-evaluate your web strategy. Before – the goal was to have a web site and put everything under an umbrella.  NOW it’s beeter to have lots of web sites (that’s why the blog is such a good idea).

  • Start a web page for every segment. You will have to decide whether every segment or product or service requires a blog or is a web site/page better.  But whatever you do – make sure they are all independent targeting a specific audience.  The tighter the niche the better.  Remember Hedgehog Leatherworks?  Leather knife sheaths for outdoor/survival enthusiasts.  That is tight.

Build a Personal Brand

The job market is tight.  You might get laid off.  What if you have to take on projects to survive until the next gig?  You’re a small business that’s lost a big customer?  No matter which group you are in, you are in the pool of options for opportunities.  That means that you will have to stand out in the information clutter.

Personal branding used to be something for Oprah, but now – it’s for the rest of us.  If you don’t have a personal brand, people won’t know why to choose you.  If they don’t know why to choose you, you’ll find yourself on the couch instead of cashing checks.  Here’s how to get a brand.

  1. Subscribe to Personal Brand Magazine.  This is an awesome online publication.  Dan Schawbel connects with experts and personal branding success stories and gives you practical insight in how to get your brand started.
  2. Get StrengthsFinder 2.0 and do the assessment. I’ve recommended this before – it’s a great place to start and will give you the words you can start using that set you apart.
  3. Network and tell people what sets you apart.
  4. Start blogging and Twittering .  Twitter and share links on those topics where you want people to choose you.
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Sources for Trend Information

It’s the end of October and time for one of those really scary activities — watching for trends.

I’ve decided to give you a little roundup of articles and resources where all you marketing types can go to shine at your next meeting or planning session:

Online Publications

Small Business Trends: If you want to see what’s hot in the small business market – check out Small Business Trends. You’ll not only get a sense of what tools, books and products small business owners are into, you’ll actually get to see their comments on products and articles. Cheaper than a focus group, more authentic and real than a Friday night at the pub.

Trendwatching: With a little more focus on the consumer and macro side of things, Trendwatching is really on the cutting edge of what you might be seeing in the world of product design. I like to read it for hints on what people really want – what people are going to copy next.

Trendhunter: This site is so darn interesting – you could spend hours just clicking around and getting inspired. I like to look at the products they feature and see what else pops into my mind regarding complementary products and services that might suit the trend.

Tools and Resources

SRC Free Demographics.com: This is much like the census data that you get from the Census Bureau, what I liked about this is that you can point and click on the information you’re interested in, and the site gives you a report which you can then download into Word, Excel or simply print.

Prizm Market Segments: This site is so much FUN. They’ve literally characterized people by zip code and buying habit. I’ve used this FREE data to identify potential store locations for a client. It’s idea for any kind of retail research you want to do.

Blogs with Great Articles

Luxury Trends: During a time when everyone is whining, it might be healthy to read this little ditty about the growth of luxury brands. All I can tell you is that this article says that research shows that when we know that something is expensive – it releases happy chemicals in the brain. How can you argue with that?

10 Strategic Technologies for 2009: This article outlines the trends and all you have to do is see how you can take advantage of them.

Global Food Trends: I love how this article is laid out. There are sections such as “Indulgence” with a clear description of the trend in such a way that you can easily come up with ideas about potential opportunities.

General Trends: This is a great first place to start reading. It outlines trends from a variety of categories and lets you focus in on what you want. Trends range from “More home cooked meals” to “more time in education”

If you’ve got some favorite sources for trends- send them here and I will create a roundup.

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Trend Storming

4218982429 On this blog I have the "Trendhunter Magazine" widget where I click over to see what cool new products they’ve come up with.

Today, I had some time to lurk around and the products I’ve clicked on made me realize that some of the neatest inventions come from innovations around products or concepts that swiftly run through our brains and never really take hold because we’re just too preoccupied with other things.

Magical Glass – How often have you walked past, or driven by a building, statue or landscape only to wonder what that was all about.  Well, enter the magical glass.  It sort of looks like a takeoff of the HP printer commercial where people place a frame around an object and a picture appears.  In this case – you place this sceen-frame in front of an object and you get a quick tell-all.

  • Next time you get one of those fleeting thoughts – capture them.  You never know what ideas will result.

Portable Luxury Potties – If you’re like me and hate overnight camping because you miss the comforts of your bathroom – well this one is for you.  Someone had the obvious – yet brilliant idea of creating luxury portable bathrooms.  God Bless You – whoever you are.

  • In what ways can you take an existing product or service and make it a luxury item?
  • In what ways can you take a luxury item and make it accessible to the rest of us?

If you get the chance – hop over to trendhunter yourself and see what new ideas pop up for you.

Pricing Models and Strategies

4217669214 I guess I’ve had pricing and profits on the brain lately. 

First, there are consulting contracts to negotiate, then there are other consultants who need help with pricing and most importantly, my clients are dealing with daily pricing and value questions. 

All of this has me thinking about price, value, distribution, offering and most importantly, profitability.  In my last post, I talked about several different ways to help your customer perceive more value.  Today, I’d like to talk about some different pricing models that I’ve seen, thought about and experienced.

The Long Tail strikes again.  Chris Anderson, author of the "Long Tail" has an interesting post that not only talks about the new realities of what I’ll call the Long Tail Pricing Model, but he’s actually showing all of us how you can do some quick and dirty pricing research. 

Here are some ways that newspapers and other on line media use the Long Tail Pricing Strategy – FREE.

Paying on People Performance:  This is a question from a LinkedIn user. (you may need to be a registered LinkedIn user to see the whole thing).  Here a recruiter asks about a pricing model where the client only pays if the person actually is a good hire over time.  For example.  If they hire a sales rep who brings in $10 million and the reps commission is $1 million.  The recruiter will receive 20% ($200,000 as long as that rep is at or above his goal)  WOW.  That’s risky!  I also see a lot of room for playing with the numbers if a company is not very ethical.

On line Marketing Pricing Models. "Don’t confuse marketing pricing models with business pricing models." WOW – that is a powerful statement.  Think about this.  A marketing pricing model makes it easier for your target customer to choose you.  These would include free experiences that will let the customer see if this is a good choice for them.  If they like it, they can move on to a paid, premium service with more functionality and capability.  While a business model is more about a pricing philosophy, it’s a pricing model that makes it easy for customers that have already chosen you to stay with you.

Here’s the lesson.  Whatever you learned about pricing; remember it’s all about delivering value, delivering the promise of your brand and creating a win-win relationship with your customer.

You have to be happy enough with your price to enthusiastically deliver the value and the customer has to be even happier and feel like they got more for their money.

Young People See Parents as Heroes

On today’s Akron Beacon Journal’s front page there was a story about how today’s young people between 13 and 24 see their parents as heroes.

The survey was conducted by the Associated Press and MTV.  They talked to 1280 people between 13 and 24 ont he nature of happiness among Americas young people.

As it turns out this nature of happiness is slightly different along racial lines.  White kids being slightly more happy than African Americans or Hispanics.

Money never really came up as high as you might think, although kids from families with higher incomes came out slightly happier.  And having more educated parents appeared to be an even better predictor of happiness, with those kids from more educated families, being happier even than those with more money.

So family time is what today’s kids really value.  Of course if you spend it intelligently while having more money to spend – well that’s just a bonus.

Collective Customization

4217673381_2 We’ve heard of mass customization but now there’s a trend that’s spilling over from the tech world of open-source to what’s now being called  "Collective Customization."

It’s the next big thing.  Companies are reaching out to their product and service enthusiasts and giving them product which they begin to adapt to their own use. 

It’s truly brilliant when you think about it.  If you really want to be customer focused and improve their experience, what better way to promote your product than to give it away to enthusiasts and collect their adaptations which you then incorporate into your next re-design.