2011 Business Trends for the Grand Traverse Region

As another year ends, it’s a good time to take stock of some of the new trends that will likely impact small business in the Grand Traverse Region in 2011.

Mobile Marketing: This would include mobile phone applications and new ways customers that choose your business over competitors. We’ve seen the shift in the past few years towards online marketing, but think of how a potential customer will find your business by means of a web search or through mobile phone application programs such as Yelp or Google.

If you haven’t looked at your business web site to see how it looks from the smaller screen of a mobile phone, it’s time to do so. Many (especially younger) consumers look for online recommendations before choosing a retail store, repair shop, or restaurant. Make sure that you are aware of online reviews consumers make of your business and offer feedback to refute any inaccuracies. Remember that with all of these changes, traditional marketing efforts that include solid branding, targeted advertising, and customer service are still essential to small business success.

Alternative Financing Options: For the past few months many small businesses in our region have been frustrated with the lack of money available for funding new business start-ups, equipment purchases, and business expansion. In response to this demand, look for several existing and new non-bank loan funds to help fill this gap. Economic development organizations in the region will in some cases be the connector for a business searching for these alternative lenders.

Job Growth from the Micro-businesses Sector: Smaller micro-businesses can be started with minimal investment. If the one model doesn’t work, an entrepreneur can move on to something new, without spending a fortune. This includes home-based businesses, part-time endeavors, tele-commuters who can now work from anywhere, and internet based endeavors. We already have plenty of examples of micro-businesses that have grown into larger employers. Expect the micro-business model to continue to provide additional jobs and incomes to the region in the coming year.

Move to Repel Michigan Business Tax: If fall campaign promises are lived up to, look for the Michigan Business Tax to be reduced or replaced in 2011. There is general agreement from business owners that the tax burden from the Michigan Business tax is too high and limits Michigan’s ability to compete both nationally and globally. The challenge will be to replace the lost revenue with a State budget already facing a $1.85 billion shortfall.

Savvy Consumers: Consumer spending will likely increase in 2011, but buyers of most goods and services will become savvier about looking for deals and enticements to purchase. Free shipping will become common place with internet sales and traditional bricks and mortar businesses will be pressed to compete.

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