MARKETING: What's Hot and What's Not

Column by Susan Grattino

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By Susan Grattino
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It's the end of the year and time to reflect. Has this been a good business year for you or a not-so-good year? As 2011 comes to a close, it is very easy to make an assumption that business has been tough for everyone. But has it? Through my relationships with colleagues and other consultants, I have found that 2011 has run the gamut from "so busy my hair is on fire" to "the worst year ever." Why are some businesses going gangbusters while others are just waiting to be put to rest?

The answer may be in what you are selling and how it's positioned. Is your product, or service, a necessity of tomorrow or has that need seen a steady decline? Do your customers see your product in a beneficial light or is that your opinion? Are you positioned in a compelling manner? Are your messages clear, easy to understand and believable? Now is a good time to take a look at what you are selling and see how it measures up in today's environment.

While I can't begin to talk about all the business verticals that are actually doing well in these tough times, I talk about some companies that fall in the forefront of current trends, needs and technology. Where does your business fit?

Current Trends

I know of several firms that have been busier this year than ever before. Cloud computing is the newest thing since sliced bread, and companies want to take advantage of managed services and third-party hosting for a number of reasons: to help them downsize, to allow them to focus on their core business, and to take advantage of a knowledge base they may not have internally.

Web hosting companies offer to help businesses, large and small, have an online presence, even if they don't have an IT department to provide support. Companies offering these types of services have seen tremendous growth in 2011 because they are supporting the trend toward "all things online." Do your products fit in with current business or social trends?

Current Needs

Companies operating in and around the telecommunications space have also done well this year. Tablets, smartphones and mobile computing are huge and growing in popularity. The need for bandwidth increases with services offering downloadable entertainment such as iTunes, Netflix, Google, Hulu and Pandora. And that's mostly only talking about the social uses of these media. There is also a tremendous amount of bandwidth consumed by corporations and companies for work-related purposes. Companies that offer bandwidth, or access to it, have all been growing, working hard to prove users and consumers the connection they need. Is your product or service providing a current or future need?

Current Technology

Nonprofits have tapped into technology that allows donors to text a code to a certain phone number to donate money to a cause. During the Japan crisis, the Red Cross ran ads letting people know how to donate to the relief effort through their smart phones. This technology is quick, easy and effective. It allows people to donate money, where they may not take the time to call, use a credit card or write a check and it helps nonprofits get the badly needed funds to help out in a crisis.

Another popular technology, QR codes, are becoming more and more commonplace. From local restaurants to national auto dealers, the codes allow buyers to get more information on the quick, no more typing in web site addresses or searching for information, it will all show up when your smart phone scans the code. Mobile apps, too, are becoming ubiquitous. I have the Southwest Airlines app on my iPhone. I hear the ding daily, letting me know when a new deal has become available, and I can immediately check out flight times and costs. I also have a mobile triage app. It helps me understand any symptoms my kids may have, and provides guidance on whether I need to call a doctor or hit the nearest emergency room, and that information is in the app as well.

Companies are working very hard to let their customers buy anytime, anywhere. How easy is it for your customers to find you, and buy from you? How will you include new technologies in your business and marketing and sales mix?

We've all known of good products that flopped, not because the products were bad, but because of timing. While I'm not proposing that all businesses should change focus and work in telecom, or that everyone needs a mobile app, I am suggesting that you take time out now as we head into a new year and take stock of your products, services and relationships. If any of those are outdated, or don't service a purpose anymore, maybe it's time to retool and rethink about your company's direction.

We have to remember it's not just about the product or service we'll selling, it's about the economy, the needs and wants of our customers, and new ways of doing business that could put your product on the most wanted list, or leave your company gasping for air. Have a happy, happy New Year.

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