For the next couple of weeks we’ll be seeing many interesting predictions for 2013. Some we’ll just scan, some we’ll read and tweet, some we’ll just stare at and wonder what the author was thinking. Today I’ll look back at some past predictions and assess how good they were in seeing the future.
In 2006, my friend and former colleague Matt Booth and I presented seven predictions at The Kelsey Group’s Drilling Down on Local conference. Here’s my analysis of how our predictions turned out, and what we might learn from them as we turn the page on another year.
|What We Predicted||What Came to Pass||Implications for Tomorrow|
|More than 50 percent of SMBs will include vertical or specialized directories as part of their advertising mix.||SMBs are finding their listings placed on dozens of horizontal and vertical sites.||Vertical specialization is not just important for consumers – sales channels must take a vertical-centric approach if they want to be perceived as “authentic” and trustworthy.|
|SMBs with a web presence will have a disproportionate influence on the web.||The Boston Consulting Group noted that businesses with best-practice web presence outgrow those businesses that do not.||SMB DigitalScape data shows very clearly that millions of SMBs in the U.S. and around the world are falling behind in their digital presence and performance.|
|Video will be integrated into SMB websites.||Remarkably, the penetration of video in SMB websites is small, even five years later.||This is one more example of how a large segment of the SMB population is falling behind in terms of its digital presence. There’s significant opportunity to help SMBs build video into their sites.|
|Twenty percent of SMBs will advertise on mobile platforms.||Not only have few SMBs been drawn to advertise on mobile platforms, fewer than five percent have a web presence that is optimized for the mobile consumer.||With smartphone penetration passing the 50 percent mark and billions of dollars, the first step is to get SMBs to get their web presence “mobile” compliant.|
|SMBs will embrace consumer and expert feedback.||Consumers have certainly embraced and engaged in generating reviews and valuing expert feedback. Some SMBs have plugged into soliciting reviews, but this is a recent trend.||According to SMB DigitalScape, few SMBs have reviews incorporated in their web presence; reviews are key factor in how consumers make choices and SMBs will have to figure out a simple solution|
|SMBs will embrace bundled buys.||Selling “products” is clearly tough sledding; some evidence is emerging that bundled solutions are gaining traction.||Solutions that span acquisition media and customer retention and activation tools will appeal to SMBs who want a more simple digital strategy and are necessary to reduce churn.|
|Connected software services are growing in importance.||Only the most sophisticated SMBs can do this on their own – most SMBs are smothered under the dizzying number product offers from dozens of sellers and are still waiting for simple solutions.||Solutions which are vertical centric and are sold by reps who authentically understand the vertical are poised to see real growth and success.|
Looking back, I would say Matt and I had a pretty good view of the future. Analysts are often in front of the market since their core “value-add” is helping companies anticipate where the market is headed, not where it is. I am sure my analyst friends at BIAKelsey and Greg Sterling will be sharing their 2013 predictions. It is always worthwhile to look back and see how predictions reflect reality.
So what’s it all mean for tomorrow? There is a large and underserved market of SMBs who are eager to compete in the digital economy and yet the majority is still being inundated by sellers offering “one-off” digital products. To move the needle, sellers will have to begin “re-engaging” with the SMBs – by demonstrating real knowledge about their customer’s digital presence, by demonstrating authentic industry expertise and by offering solutions that serve the long-term value creation of their customers and not the short-term revenue of their owners.
This is a difficult path – riddled with hurdle after hurdle. But the value creation opportunity on the other side of the hurdle gauntlet is well worth the sweat.