Why Size Matters: How Marketing Automation Vendors Define the SMB Market

This is the third post in a blog series discussing key marketing automation trends for SMBs. This series is excerpted from SMB Group’s December 2014 report, SMB Group Perspectives Report: Top Trends in Marketing Automation and How Vendors Are Helping SMBs to Capitalize on Themwhich provides detailed information and insights to help SMBs capitalize on these trends.

Before small and medium businesses evaluate different marketing solutions, its important to understand how vendors define and target the “SMB market,” which is actually a term that has many definitions, depending upon who you ask.

We at the SMB Group define small businesses as those with fewer than 100 employees, and medium businesses as those with 100-999 employees. Meanwhile, the U.S. Small Business Administration defines a small business as having 500 or fewer employees, and has no standard definition for medium businesses.

Among marketing automation and CRM vendors, several tend to view the SMB size range similarly to the SMB Group definition of up to 1,000 employees. But some rely more on revenues to define their SMB niche. In addition, vendors’ market focus varies significantly. For instance, Infusionsoft concentrates on very small, owner-operated business with less than 25 employees, while IBM focuses on what it defines as midmarket companies, those with 51 to 1,000 employees and at least one dedicated marketing professional.

Figure 1: How Technology Vendors Define and Represent Themselves in the SMB Market

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Source: SMB Group, 2014

This diversity reflects the very heterogeneous nature and requirements of what is actually a very fragmented SMB market. Small and medium businesses should scrutinize how vendors define and position themselves because different types of SMBs often require very different marketing, sales, solutions and services.

Vendors usually focus on a particular slice of the SMB market because it’s difficult to satisfy the diverse requirements of the broader market. In addition, SMBs should consider how big a footprint a given vendor has in the segment of the market the vendor is targeting—in terms of both the number and the percentage of its customers that are in that segment. Again, this is a good indicator of both vendor commitment to a given SMB segment and its ability to serve those types of SMBs.

For more information about the full report, SMB Group Perspectives Report: Top Trends in Marketing Automation and How Vendors Are Helping SMBs to Capitalize on Them, please contact Lisa Lincoln, Director, Client Services & Business Development: 508.734.5658 or lisa.lincoln70@smb-gr.com. 

 

SMB Adoption and Trends in Marketing Automation

This is the second post in a blog series discussing key marketing automation trends for SMBs. This series is excerpted from SMB Group’s December 2014 report, SMB Group Perspectives Report: Top Trends in Marketing Automation and How Vendors Are Helping SMBs to Capitalize on Themwhich provides detailed information and insights to help SMBs capitalize on these trends.

SMBs consistently cite factors that impact top and bottom line results as their key business challenges. Attracting new customers, growing revenue, improving cash flow, maintaining profitability and retaining customers are critical, ongoing concerns. So it’s no wonder that they are exploring how marketing automation can help them.

But when it comes to marketing solutions, many small and even medium businesses rely on point solutions such as SEO tools, paid search or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, email newsletters and social media.

Increasingly, however, SMBs are turning to a more integrated marketing approach. SMB Group’s 2014 SMB Routes to Market Study shows that in 2014, 20% of small and 25% of medium businesses purchased/upgraded a marketing automation solution in the past 24 months. Meanwhile, 22% of small and 26% of medium businesses plan to purchase/upgrade a marketing automation solution in the next 12 months (Figure 1). Although some of these plans aren’t likely to result in actual purchases, the use and awareness of marketing automation are clearly growing among SMBs.

Furthermore, cloud already has become SMBs’ preferred deployment option for marketing automation, with the number of planned cloud deployments exceeding that of on-premises deployments.

Figure 1: SMB Marketing Automation Adoption and PlansSlide1

Simultaneously (Figure 2) SMBs are also using social sites to better engage with customers and prospects: 48% of small and 57% of medium businesses use at least two social sites.

Figure 2: SMB Use of Company-Managed Websites and Social Sites

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Mobile marketing capabilities are also quickly becoming a priority for many SMBs. Mobile marketing is becoming an increasingly important component of SMBs’ overall marketing strategy, with 56% of small and 60% of medium businesses agreeing or strongly agreeing that mobile marketing drives business growth (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Mobile Marketing as a Driver of Business GrowthSlide4

SMBs are incorporating mobile marketing into their businesses by using a two-pronged approach. First, they are increasingly providing employees with mobile-enabled solutions for CRM, marketing and advertising, and social media. Second, they are extending mobile functionality to their customers, partners and other constituents via mobile apps and mobile-friendly websites. Providing access to customer service, the ability to purchase goods and services, and the ability to check delivery status are leading areas (Figure 4). In addition, a substantial percentage of SMBs currently provide or plan to provide capabilities that enable customers to access marketing offers and to join and manage loyalty rewards programs.

Figure 4: Use of/Plans for Customer (External) Mobile Marketing SolutionsSlide6

In subsequent posts in this series, we examine how vendors (Act-On, HubSpot, Infusionsoft, IBM Silverpop, NetSuite, ReachLocal, Salesforce.com Pardot, SugarCRM) view the SMB market, and their strategies and plans to help SMBs integrate marketing across different channels and media.

For more information about the full report, SMB Group Perspectives Report: Top Trends in Marketing Automation and How Vendors Are Helping SMBs to Capitalize on Them, please contact Lisa Lincoln, Director, Client Services & Business Development: 508.734.5658 or lisa.lincoln70@smb-gr.com. 

“Must-Consider” Marketing Trends for SMBs

This is the first post in a blog series discussing key marketing automation trends for SMBs. This series is excerpted from SMB Group’s December 2014 report, SMB Group Perspectives Report: Top Trends in Marketing Automation and How Vendors Are Helping SMBs to Capitalize on Themwhich provides detailed information and insights to help SMBs capitalize on these trends.

Choosing a marketing automation solution may be one of the most important decisions your business makes. As cloud, mobile, social, analytics and other technologies continue to transform the buyer’s journey, this choice is likely to become even more critical.

As the term “marketing automation” implies, small and medium businesses (SMBs) must automate tasks to scale their marketing campaigns in order to reach more prospects and customers, and to provide them with the right information at the right time in their buying journey. Although many small and even medium businesses rely on point solutions, more are turning to an integrated marketing approach. In 2014, 20% of small and 25% of medium businesses had purchased/upgraded to a marketing automation solution in the past 24 months. Meanwhile, 22% of small and 26% of medium businesses plan to purchase/upgrade a marketing automation solution in the next 12 months, as indicated in SMB Group’s 2014 SMB Routes to Market Study.

Figure 1: SMB Marketing Automation Adoption and Plans

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However, marketing requirements are changing rapidly. Today, buyers conduct much of their research and evaluation online across multiple channels. Because businesses need to be where their customers and prospects are, they must invest to build their digital footprint via websites, social media engagement, search, email marketing and mobile marketing. Simultaneously, they must continue to invest in traditional marketing activities.

SMB Group has identified several key trends that SMBs should consider when selecting a marketing automation solution, including:

  • Cloud computing: The cloud is quickly becoming the preferred deployment method for marketing automation because it relieves SMBs of IT deployment and management issues.
  • Mobile: Buyers are doing more research, shopping and buying on mobile devices, and SMBs must optimize the buying journey on these devices. At a basic level, this means, for instance, that email campaigns and websites need to be automatically rendered and optimized for devices from laptops to smartphones. But many more areas also need to be addressed. For instance, should an SMB develop mobile apps or mobile websites, or use text messaging to connect with customers—or all of the above?
  • Social: Social media has become the equivalent of digital word of mouth, and SMBs need solutions to help them observe, participate in and track the social networks that their prospects and customers use in order to engage and nurture relationships.
  • Content: Content feeds all marketing initiatives and is critical to establishing and sustaining customer relationships. But creating good content is often difficult and time-consuming. SMBs must be able to produce, distribute and repackage content more effectively so they get more value from it.
  • Omnichannel: As the buyer journey evolves to include more touch points, SMBs need to create and maintain a consistent look and feel across different channels as well as gain an integrated view of customer behavior.

Fortunately, many vendors offer solutions to help SMBs capitalize on these trends. But given so many choices, SMBs must carefully evaluate and compare all the options in order to get the best fit for their requirements. Key areas to investigate include:

  • How vendors define “SMB” and position their offerings: Most focus on a particular slice of the SMB market because it’s difficult to satisfy the diverse requirements across the broader SMB market.
  • How many and what percentage of the vendor’s customers are from the SMB segment the vendor targets
  • How well the solution maps to a company’s needs and constraints: Some vendors focus on providing very in-depth marketing automation capabilities, while others combine marketing with CRM in a pre-integrated suite.
  • Internal marketing resources and skills, and whether to take more of a do-it-yourself versus a do-it-for-me approach
  • Pricing, including whether a vendor offers annual, monthly and/or yearly contracts
  • Integration of different marketing and sales activities to gain a unified view of customer and prospects: This is a key driver for marketing automation.
  • CRM tools that need to be integrated: Pure-play marketing automation vendors usually integrate with multiple CRM solutions, while others provide a pre-integrated suite that includes marketing and CRM.
  • How to feed the marketing funnel: Marketing automation without compelling content is like a car without gas. Content nurtures the buyer through the sales funnel. Although you can’t really automate content creation, you can streamline it. Some vendors offer education and even services to help.
  • Tools, services and support programs to help you get the most from the platform, both in the near term and in the future as needs evolve

Vendors have designed their solutions for different types of SMB requirements; there is no one-size-fits-all. In subsequent posts in this series, we examine these requirements and vendor (Act-On, HubSpot, Infusionsoft, IBM Silverpop, NetSuite, ReachLocal, Salesforce.com Pardot, SugarCRM) strategies for SMBs in more detail.

For more information about the full report, SMB Group Perspectives Report: Top Trends in Marketing Automation and How Vendors Are Helping SMBs to Capitalize on Them, please contact Lisa Lincoln, Director, Client Services & Business Development: 508.734.5658 or lisa.lincoln70@smb-gr.com. 

 

Discussing 2015 SMB Tech Trends, Part 5: SMBs Place a Premium on Protection

Recently, I had the pleasure of kicking off the new year as a guest on Act Local Marketing for Small Business with host Kalynn Amadio. Each week, Kalynn shares information and actionable tips to help inspire and motivate small and medium businesses (SMBs) reach their business goals.  On this episode, Kalynn and I discussed SMB Group’s 2015 Top Technology Trends for SMBs and what they mean to the marketing and running of your business. The last of a five-part series, this post summarizes our discussion of “SMBs place a premium on protection”

protectionKalynn: Okay, one more question for you. I really wanted to ask you about this particular trend in your report because of what happened with the Sony hack. We talked about the cloud, we’re talking about technology solutions and yet there’s going to be the other side of the fence where people say yeah but once you put everything in the cloud and once you’re connected there you’re leaving yourself open to hackers and any other kind of malicious things that are going on. How am I going to protect my business from them?

Laurie: Right. Buying security and backup solutions and protection from hackers, whatever kind of thing that comes under that data protection umbrella that you could think of. It’s kind of like insurance, until the disaster strikes we’re kind of like oh, do I really need that? Do I really want to spend x amount on that? Again, this is another area where many smaller companies may have bitten off one part of the problem. They may be using something for antivirus and anti-spyware and things like that, but maybe they’re not backing things up in a way that makes sense that’s going to protect them. Maybe they have a kind of spotty device control situation. Yeah, we’ve got all the right security measures in place for our desktops and our laptops, but we haven’t really thought about it for mobile yet, right?

Kalynn: There’s so many parts to the puzzle now.

Laurie: Yeah, exactly, so there’s way more moving parts, there’s the traditional apps and infrastructure, desktops and servers, there’s the cloud apps, social, mobile, and really the other big thing is that your own data and data you may need that is your own business data may reside in more places since it’s on all these devices. How do you control, manage, and protect that and I think some of these big hacks and data breaches and everything else like at Sony and Home Depot, eBay. I just went and Googled 2014 data breaches and it was crazy. You’re never going to prevent every kind of issue in your company but I think it’s something that I would hope at least that more small businesses are going to say hey, we need to at least do a health check on the basics here, on devices, on data loss prevention, on security which will get into spyware, the hacking and all that, and overall disaster recovery. If you do have your own servers what if your building gets flooded in a hurricane? Do you have that all backed up somewhere? I think with these really high-profile things obviously we’re all learning, there’s huge financial, and legal, and brand ramifications if your data isn’t protected. I think that more small businesses will say hey, I have to do a health check here and a sanity check, and make sure my business isn’t going to go down because something is hacked or data is lost or stolen, or it’s just an act of God.

Kalynn: Right. You know, it surprises me. I talk to a lot of IT people, IT digital marketing are good sources of referral for one another so I end up talking to a lot of IT people. It amazes me when they tell me stories about not just individual business owners, but rather significantly sized small businesses or mid-sized businesses that don’t have any kind of backup. They’ve got their own little server farm in a basement somewhere and they think that that’s good enough, that they have control over their data. You really have to stop and think.

Laurie: You have to. I don’t have the statistics off of the top of my head but if you Google any kind of disaster that’s happened, Hurricane Sandy, or anything really. If you take a look at any of these disasters you find an enormously high percentages of small businesses end up going out of business because of the disaster. A lot of times it’s because IT suffered so much damage in terms of losing records, losing customer information, everything you need, all that information you need to run your business.

Kalynn: And it’s all preventable, that doesn’t have to happen.

Laurie: Much of it is preventable. But it is overwhelming to think about, just like a lot of these technology areas but you don’t need to think of it all and do it all yourself because the important thing would be to engage with a local provider or a bigger company that would probably be online then who can help you kind of run through the basics and make sure you’ve covered at least 80%. It’s like the 80/20 rule, you’re not going to probably be able to account for everything but you can probably pretty easily get the most important stuff covered.

Kalynn: And that is very true, and I agree, the 80/20 rule is terrific. I wrote a blog post on it once. I’m such a big believer and there’s so many ways you can apply it. That’s a good way to look at it, rather than let this whole thing overwhelm you as you’re planning for 2015, even if you’ve already written your plan for 2015 go back and look at it and say did I really take into account protecting my data and protecting my customers, and my employees, and my business in general so that should something catastrophic, whether intentional or not, happen, then I’m prepared for that.

Laurie: Even if you’re a very small business and you’re a solo business and let’s say your revenues were around $80,000 but if you were to lose all the information about your customers, about billing, about whatever it is you have that might mean you don’t have any revenues the next year.

Kalynn: Yeah, could you come back from that? So think in terms of the worst case scenario and what would that do to your business?

Laurie: Right, or if you’re not protecting your customers’ information and that somehow gets compromised, your reputation is down the tubes. So in that case it’s not like you’ve lost it but it’s been hacked into and those customers no longer want to do business and don’t trust you.

You can listen to the complete podcast discussion here

Discussing 2015 SMB Tech Trends, Part 4: KPIs Trump ROI and TCO as the New “Show Me” Metric

Recently, I had the pleasure of kicking off the new year as a guest on Act Local Marketing for Small Business with host Kalynn Amadio. Each week, Kalynn shares information and actionable tips to help inspire and motivate small and medium businesses (SMBs) reach their business goals.  On this episode, Kalynn and I discussed SMB Group’s 2015 Top Technology Trends for SMBs and what they mean to the marketing and running of your business. The fourth of a five-part series, this post summarizes our discussion of “KPIs trump ROI and TCO as the new “show me” metric.”

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Kalynn: Now there’s a very interesting trend that I want you to talk about and that has to do with key performance indicator (KPIs), that versus return on investment, ROI, because in digital marketing the thing that small business has been saying all along about social media is, “but what’s the return on my investment? If I pay a company to do this how soon am I going to be on the front page of Google? Or how often is my phone going to ring?” Those are very hard things to determine and they’re very hard things to track quite often because a lot of what goes on in digital is similar to networking. What’s the ROI of networking? I don’t know. So talk to me about these key performance indicators versus return on investment.

Laurie: I think historically, the vendors anyway, in white papers and other kinds of educational collateral, have tended to focus on proving that their solutions can return value via these return on investment type of models and analysis, which honestly are kind of complex and very big picture. You have to factor in everything to an ROI. Likewise there’s another thing called a total cost of ownership calculation where you have to figure out all the money you invested for a solution and how much that solution is going to cost you over let’s say a five-year period. The assessments and metrics, while they can be a bit beneficial, they’re usually kind of vague and they’re very dependent on nuance measurements.Honestly, I’ve yet to run into very many small and medium businesses that every do any kind of ROI or TCO calculation at this big picture level because they’re very complicated to do, and time-consuming.

So what we’ve been seeing is there’s something that most companies have been measuring for years, whether or not they call it KPI, but key performance indicators. These are more discrete metrics. Some of them are general, for instance, what’s the time it takes to close your financial books, right? Probably most companies have that function because hopefully they’re making some money and they have to close the books. Are you doing that with a shoebox full of stuff or are you doing that with Excel, or are you doing that with QuickBooks, how are you doing that, what’s your process, and how much time it’s taking you is a key performance metric.

Then there are also metrics that are also very industry specific. For e-commerce we might want to measure things like conversion rates, what is our rate of visitors to the website that actually convert into paying customers? A nonprofit might want to measure the number and increase in donors and the average contribution per donor. There are a lot of different KPIs, the nice thing about KPIs is that they give small and medium businesses more specific very actionable insights on business performance so they can see where they’re doing well and kind of measure and monitor where they need improvement. What we’re seeing is a lot of vendors starting to kind of cater to this more specific measurement requirement and giving small and medium businesses more information about the kind of metrics and benefits that existing customers are getting for their key workflows and business processes.

I think if you’re contemplating any kind of new business solution it really makes sense to seek these out to really understand okay, what were the specific areas of the business solution impacted, and how, and by how much, how much time did it reduce? If it was a revenue metric how did it affect revenues? If it was a conversion rate what was the number or the percentage of new customers that are converting? How did that change that? Repeat customer sales, whatever it is, but I think this more discreet metric is a good way to go for small business because I think it will give you a lot more actionable information and the solution is going to give you the kind of results that you’re going to need.

Kalynn: They seem much more concrete for small businesses. If it’s the kind of thing that you can put on an Excel spreadsheet every month and track and see a trend line that’s either going up or going down then you feel that you have some sort of control over it. Was it Peter Drucker? Who said that if you’re not measuring it then you can’t do anything about it? One of those business gurus, right?

Laurie: Yeah. I remember that quote.

Kalynn: It was something like if you’re not measuring something then how do you ever expect to be able to change it because you don’t really know what’s happening, anecdotal stuff is not going to help you.

Laurie: As a matter of fact a lot of the vendors we’ve been talking about are using analytics to build in these reporting capabilities to help you see those metrics in your own business, more easily. They are kind of taking that oh I’ve got to be a data scientist out of the equation so the rest of us can understand what’s going on in our business. For instance, Intuit is providing a service where you can benchmark yourself against other companies in your industry on some of these KPIs. For instance if you’re a salon and spa owner in the northeast you can say this is kind of what my customer retention rate looks like, repeat business or up selling, selling product with the service, whatever you want to measure. Then you can also opt in to get aggregate information from people with similar businesses. So you can see am I ahead? Am I behind? Then focus on the areas that you need to improve.

You can listen to the complete podcast discussion here

Discussing 2015 SMB Tech Trends, Part 3: SMBs Reinvent Marketing for the New Buyer Journey

Recently, I had the pleasure of kicking off the new year as a guest on Act Local Marketing for Small Business with host Kalynn Amadio. Each week, Kalynn shares information and actionable tips to help inspire and motivate small and medium businesses (SMBs) reach their business goals.  On this episode, Kalynn and I discussed SMB Group’s 2015 Top Technology Trends for SMBs and what they mean to the marketing and running of your business. The third of a five-part series, this post summarizes our discussion of “SMBs reinvent marketing for the new buyer journey.”

business abstractKalynn: Talk to me a little bit about marketing, small, midsize businesses and marketing for the new buyer journey.

Laurie: I know this topic is near and dear to your heart. Basically this one came out, we just did a report, about a 50 something odd page report looking at about eight different marketing automation vendors and how they’re seeing marketing change, the techniques and tactics and strategies, what’s changing and why is it changing, what do SMBs need to be paying attention to so they stay ahead of the curve. A lot of things that go into this big bucket of what’s changing in marketing. I think to me the umbrella is really the way people buy stuff, whether it’s a B2B world, business to business buying, or B2C, business to consumer buying experience it’s really changing. I don’t have specific statistics in here but basically what is happening is between the internet and social media and mobile and everything else we are looking at and getting input from so many more sources along the way before we decide what to buy and where than every before.

Kalynn: The consumer is so far down the funnel before they ever actually talk to the business that they end up buying from.

Laurie: Exactly, so there’s all these touch points. What does that mean for small and medium business? Well it really means that by the time that buyer gets you, whether it’s a consumer or business buyer they’re already pretty well-educated, they have a lot more information and they’re coming in at different points. It’s very important for you to get them as a business the right information at the right time in that journey. For instance, originally for some customers you may have very low awareness with some of the customers you’re trying to target. You have to figure out how do I raise awareness and what channels do I need to be in to raise that awareness. For others they’re further along so what are the things you need to do for them and where and how do you need to market to them? Even when people are customers what should you be doing to make sure that they continue to see you as a place to buy whatever goods and services you offer and come back, and then hopefully eventually become customer advocates for your business.

Kalynn: All of that sounds overwhelming for a lot of small businesses, but there are methods that you can put in place to do some of the work for you so that you’re not physically having to stay on top of all that.

Laurie: Exactly. Traditionally each of us in small and medium businesses we’ve relied on point solutions, like maybe we have an email marketing solution, maybe we’re using a social dashboard like HootSuite. We’ve been doing probably a few things and trying to piece them together to address this, like what you said is a very complicated and more complicated every day kind of challenge. What we see is that SMBs that say gee, I need to take a more integrated approach to marketing and look at how they can move from the point solutions to the solutions that really help you monitor and manage and create content along every stage of the marketing funnel. Those companies are going to get tremendous benefit because they’ll be able to automate a lot of manual processes, have the information integrated so they can be smarter about the customer experience and how they may need to adjust. Basically be well positioned to take advantage of things as mobile and social and other kinds of technologies like analytics continue to be available to help them do a better job marketing.

Kalynn: Yes, and while it’ll be a lot of work upfront, and you won’t get it all right, you’ll get some of it right and you’ll get feedback, you’ll discover things along the way, but the more of that work you do upfront the more it’ll seem like magic for your customer. They’ll really appreciate that.

Laurie: Exactly, and I know most of your audience is small business, right?

Kalynn: Yes.

Laurie: One of the other things in this report, a lot of vendors say they focus on small and medium businesses, well that can run the gamut from companies that focus, they have marketing automation solutions and they try to focus on companies with under 25 employees, like an InfusionSoft or ReachLocal to companies like SMB and that can go up to companies with 2,500 employees. So you don’t get intimidated you really want to do a little homework and figure out which ones are really in my wheelhouse because SMB is used pretty indiscriminately by vendors, there’s no one standard definition.

Kalynn: Yeah, that’s true.

Laurie: Before you spend a lot of time investigating the solution, time is money for all of us, make sure the ones you are looking at are really designed for a true small business.

Kalynn: That’s a very good point.

You can listen to the complete podcast discussion here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can listen to the complete podcast discussion here.

 

 

Discussing 2015 SMB Top Tech Trends, Part 2: The Internet of Things (IoT) Comes Into Focus

Recently, I had the pleasure of kicking off the new year as a guest on Act Local Marketing for Small Business with host Kalynn Amadio. Each week, Kalynn shares information and actionable tips to help inspire and motivate small and medium businesses (SMBs) reach their business goals.  On this episode, Kalynn and I discussed SMB Group’s 2015 Top Technology Trends for SMBs and what they mean to the marketing and running of your business. The second of a five-part series, this post summarizes our discussion of “The Internet of Things (IoT) comes into focus.

the-internet-of-things-300x210Kalynn: Now I would like you to talk to me about the Internet of things. First of all not everyone will have heard that term so describe what that means and what it means to us as businesses.

Laurie: Exactly. Internet of things is really interesting, and you’re right, a lot of people have no idea what it means and even if they have some kind of glimmer of an idea that’s kind of where it stops. The IT vendors out there and the prognosticators have been forecasting very big growth, or intelligent connected devices of all types, so think anything from Apple Smart Watch or Google Glass to sensors and manufacturing equipment or maybe you’ve heard of these smart parking meters. The whole idea between internet of things is that you can have these devices kind of seamlessly connected, and you as a user, you don’t have to necessarily do anything but the device is doing something for you. An easy to understand example is something called Tile, which is a little thing you clip on or paste on to your keys or your glasses or something like that, and when you can’t find those things you can get a signal from that tile as to where they are.

Kalynn: Oh that’s brilliant. I hadn’t even heard of that.

Laurie: Kalynn, it’s probably a must for us Baby Boomers, right?

Kalynn: Wow. I have a husband and three sons. Of the four of them, three of them lose their stuff all the time.

Laurie: You know, I really think, obviously for Baby Boomers this is probably going to be a huge hit, right?

Kalynn: Yeah, I love that idea.

Laurie: They’re inexpensive. I’m trying to think, I think they’re like $24.99 or something, but it’s a great way to find your stuff.

Kalynn: Now you know what? I’m even thinking that you could attach this to your dog or cat’s collar or to a tag?

Laurie: I don’t know what the limits are, but it’s pretty much designed for the stuff that we misplace, but I guess our dogs kind of misplace themselves.

Kalynn: Especially cats, they like to hide and you don’t know where they are.

Laurie: This is just kind of just starting to really spark imagination in the consumer end of things. People are starting to get an idea of things like this and smart watches, and FitBits, those are another smart device, right? But I think a lot of small, medium business owners, they say well what does that have to do with my business? I don’t get the business case for me, right? We’re starting to see some use case scenarios come out that I think just like Tile or FitBit does in the consumer space bring this into better focus to have people start getting more ideas about how they could use internet of things.

For instance, a couple of the examples I mention in the report are RFID, Radio Frequency Identification, which has been used in logistics and packaging and all that kind of thing, distribution for a long time. It’s usually been used in kind of closed loop systems for more high value goods because it hasn’t been necessarily easier and cheap to implement. With internet of things technology it will really bring down the cost and make it more practical let’s say for a small retailer to use it so they could track everything with devices that would be in concept very similar to something like Tile with RFID capabilities that would give them better inventory accuracy, if something is purchased in the checkout it would deplete the supply by one, and also of course help them reduce theft. Another idea I like is this whole idea of beacons. Not only could you use beacons in stores, beacons are like indoor positioning systems that communicate directly with the smart phone or other computing devices via computer.

Somebody was telling me the other day about a trucking company that is installing beacons. They have a fleet of about 100 trucks and the beacons are set up to monitor all kinds of things like fuel, mileage, and when maintenance is due and inspections are due. This can really help this company reduce their vehicle downtime and cut costs. I think we’re still very early going but I do believe in 2015 we’re going to see a lot of examples of SMBs putting Internet of things to work and getting value. I think one of the neat things about it is that with the Internet of things you as a user, once you deploy the solution, you don’t have to do much. For instance in that trucking example, the trucker doesn’t do anything, this thing is just hooked under the dashboard and that’s that. You don’t have to worry about user adoption and will the user learn to use it and like it and all that. I think at the end of the day this could be a really great area for small businesses. The trick will be a lot of this will probably be industry specific, so you have to see what are other people in my industry doing and that might help a lot of small businesses get good ideas.

Kalynn: You’ve already got my brain sort of turning because the trucking example reminded me, I have a car for the first time that has OnStar. People have either owned that kind of car or they’ve seen commercials on TV but the OnStar system sends me emails when my oil life had reached a certain level in the car. It sent me an email and said you really need to change your oil and stuff like that. I’m realizing that there are certain kinds of small businesses like HVAC contractors and businesses of that nature. It helps them, not just when someone has an emergency and they need you to come in, or you get a big project and it’s one time construction, but it’s the maintenance of people’s systems.

Laurie: Maintenance of anything really, vending machines, whatever, it just holds huge potential to change the way you get information about devices so you can service them.

Kalynn: You can be proactive.

Laurie: Yes, keep them shipshape.

You can listen to the complete podcast discussion here

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