10 small-business trends to know about for 2012

As 2012 unfolds and small-business owners continue to face an anemic economy, knowing the trends that will reshape how you do business can give you a critical edge. Here are 10 top small-business trends for 2012 and beyond:

• Technology disruption accelerates: Web-based or “cloud” computing, mobile commerce and social-media marketing are three fast-growing mega trends that are reinforcing each other at the same time. The cost of software will drop dramatically as the same functions become available cheaper or even free online.

For example, a free online scheduling service just launched call GoBook (gosuite.gramercyone.com) that gives local businesses such as hair and nail salons, auto-repair shops, dance studios, personal trainers, health clubs and medical offices a new way to book appointments via the Web. GoBook also lets customers book appointments via Facebook or a mobile device.

• Segmentation picks up steam: As marketing dollars remain tight, and more small businesses move to digital, mobile, social media and other methods, targeting specific customer “segments” becomes both easier and more compelling. Small businesses should analyze existing customers as well as target markets to identify as precisely as possible those that are most profitable.

• More and more mobile: Ownership and usage of smartphones and other mobile devices is skyrocketing, and research firms have been stunned by how fast some small businesses have moved to tap into mobile commerce. Widespread adoption of mobile technology has occurred more rapidly than for any technology of the last 100 years, including radio, television and the Internet. Bottom line: Your business must be visible on mobile. Mobile searches on Google have quadrupled in the last two years alone. And despite tremendous growth, the upside remains huge.
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