We have a few problems on this planet, we will have a water shortage, we will even have a food shortage, Canada’s population is predicted to shrink, but why aren’t the masses paying attention to what’s coming? Many would claim we have an education problem, I beg to differ, we have a listening problem, not an education problem.

I have taught, spoken to, and even worked with many business people in different sectors, and I can tell you, listening is truely the challenge amung them. Now I don’t claim to know everything, infact, I don’t even predict the future, I do what’s called Foresight, I’m listening to what’s going on in the world. In a world that is moving from PC centric to a world completely mobile, it’s hard to keep up. We are regrouping on the fly, and regrouping people are impossible to control. That’s what big business is trying to figure out, don’t waste your time, you will never nail it down. Use your ears more than your mouth, let your ears keep your hat on.

The listening problem comes from an insecurity in my humble opinion, business owners don’t want to look stupid, or be seen as if they don’t know what’s happening in their business and or around them. I can only tell you this, it is impossible for any one person to know everything there is to know about everything, including your business. If you are a business owner, try to listen more, grow bigger ears, and then turn your business into a platform that people will find useful. People always return to what is useful. And become a likeable, lovable brand.

Tell your story and make it sound different, and mobilize everything. Just some thoughts and stuff from under my hat.

How are you listening to your customers?

Now that the Christmas & New Years Break are behind us, we all have to get back to work at some point this week, except for the financially free folks who can do what they want. I thought I would give you a snapshot of three things that will come to fruition this year. They are very easy to predict but I can tell you this, many people don’t understand why or how it will impact their future in business. It’s not what happens, it’s how you see the future of business before it happens.

Let me get into it. Firstly, you need to understand 60% of commerce is and has been shifting to the Internet, online commerce is already huge, but it’s morphing. This will happen over the next couple years.

1.) Affiliate Programs – This year we will see a shift to where everyone will be part of affiliate marketing, it will be based on your following, how much influence you have, and of course credibility. These are just a few of the indicators that will be looked at for you to be a part of company “A’s” Affiliate program, they want to know that you have influence, a big following of consumers that will buy. Look for these programs to grow up away from the typical Internet Marketer, but do your research if a company approaches you.

This shift to the Affiliate Model, it may get a better name, will be part of the 60% of commerce I mentioned above. Consider how much and what you purchase online, you are now being looked at as a business partner rather than a consumer in 2011.

If you are a business, you may want to start your own Affiliate Program, you will also want to take advantage of Apps for the mobile market, why, read item #2.

2.) Everything goes Mobile & Social – the landscape I talked about in #1 means most of this commerce will be done through smart phones. The big three as of this writing are Apples iPhone, Microsoft’s Windows 7 Phone, and of course Google’s Android Phone. Each of these three have App Stores, not too mention the hardware makers have their own App Stores, like Samsung, Nokia and so on. This is a huge untapped marketplace, why, not everyone has a smart-phone, but they will.

Even if you are just a Blogger, get your content into one of the App Store Channels, give your content away for FREE, or charge a dollar for it, this is a new place of business for the majority. This is the year Mobile changes how we communicate and how we purchase many products and services, start making your move now, if you don’t….you will become a statistic.

Almost all of this commerce I speak of will come through Social & Mobile means, it’s the way of the new world. We are connected now, which means we are social & on the fly.

3.) Strategic Alliances – This description of doing business is not new, but it will be paramount to survival in business. Most of us will partner with someone or a some business, it’s a resource and reach thing. The have nots will not be able to fly on their own, they will need help more than the haves. The truth is, we will ALL partner up at some point to succeed in business, going it alone will be an exception rather than the rule. Prepare to have others on your team, prepare to share your wealth as well, having smart people on your team is worth the investment.

What do strategic alliances look like, Wal-Mart & McDonald’s is a good example of the term. They share revenues to leverage the number of consumers each has to offer, refer to #1, your following, your FaceBook Credit Points, your Twitter Influence will matter, these numbers will be attractive to companies. You don’t have to be as big as Wal-Mart or McDonalds. It might be just two people with large followings that get together to do business as strategic alliances, why, because it makes good sense and good business. Get ready to partner in 2011.

I’m going to let you read me thinking out loud today, here’s a few things on my mind right now, and I’m laying it in front of you to ponder. Here’s the thing(s).

An interesting trend is taking place and it’s a problem for insurance companies, it means a loss of revenue, and possibly a declining customer base. I suspect it’s a problem for more than just Insurance Companies. I’m not saying insurance companies are on the endangered species list, but there is a need for innovation in that industry, one that will allow them to adjust to this trend.

Let’s say you are a Futurist, say like me, and you get that call from your insurance agency. They start to ask the regular questions and you keep saying no I don’t work that way, I don’t have tons of equipment, and people don’t come to my office and so on. For example, your business might look this way in more detail.

You are a sole proprietor, you only do workshops & public speaking 90% of the time, if you do work with clients it’s at their offices, and your equipment might be a $750 Laptop, and Internet Connection and a smart phone. Oh, and did I mention, you are most of the time mobile, on the move. You never have clients come to your home office or desk, your workshops are held at another site like a hotel or local school, because you are not a typical bricks & mortar business. How does an insurance business get that extra business out of your home insurance when your considered home-based business functions like it doesn’t exist?

Everyday, more & more people are starting businesses with little or no overhead, not like the old home-based businesses we are used to starting. You know, the one’s where you have to carry inventory, have customers do pick-up at your home, or you have expensive equipment on your premises. Don’t get me wrong, many still do this but they are somewhat short sighted I think.

It’s almost like this type of business is a loop-hole in the home insurance industry, these types of businesses have been around forever, and I’m certain existing policies don’t cover all facets of this type of business. You’ve read it here before, you probably heard me say it, a connected audience, or a connected consumer can not be forced or controlled, mostly because they are on the move at all times. As the population grows more than 9 billion over the next 15 years, much of what we know today will have been re-written, like insurance policies, they need to adopt the social and mobile trend. The new businesses of tomorrow are mostly digital, require virtually no traditional functionality, and will never see a customer come to an office.

If you were to ask me if I had a FAX machine, I would answer back with, what’s a fax? Imagine when your kids, kids have kids, they will never know what a FAX machine was, a Computer in a Tower, or maybe even a Laptop for that matter. That leaves one thing, hand-held devices, or, technology that is embedded into our eye-care / contact lenses, or maybe the RFID chip finally gets it’s day and be put into our bodies. RFID is actually already here, you carry it with you everyday, so the chip no longer needs to be in us, we have social accepted carrying it around in our pockets. I know, I know, I’m going down a rabbit trail.

I’m not saying the demise of insurance companies is imminent, I’m suggesting they need to observe a trend that would seem to impact their livelihood. I would also suggest, not unlike Real Estate, you & I will be able to handle / do what these agents do for us today.

If insurance companies are still cold calling existing clients to develop new revenue, in the home-based businesses sector, I would suggest finding another method, because we can do that ourselves. The insurance company rules will change as the shape of business takes place, the rules though, are currently being broken and by-passed because of this trend in business.It’s no ones fault, it’s evolving, it’s changing it’s look, you might call it a Chameleon.

The future of business is a social and mobile business, the details still need to be worked out, but if your business isn’t paying attention, then you won’t get the attention. So I ask you, do you market to convert, or do you market to get attention? If it’s the latter, you have increased your chances of conversion ten fold, attention is the new currency, and you will use it to convert your product & services into cash.

In the next 3 -5 years there three major things that will force how we think and how we do business on the Internet. You need to prepare today in order to adopt new ways of doing business online in the future. To adopt new ways of thinking, a paradigm shift unlike you have ever had to endure in the past. Giving customers what they want is paramount, if you don’t, word of mouth will work against you at a faster rate than you can ever recover from. The future is filled with change, how you embrace change matters more than ever today. The next 5 years will test your ability to make changes.

Questions to consider: 1.) Does the Technology you use today help fill your sales funnel? 2.) Does your current technology improve productivity? 3.) Do you have easy ways for your customers to connect with you or talk to you? 4.) Does your current technology help build your brand? 5.) Does your current technology match your business objectives? 6.) Is your company web-native, is the web your primary way of doing business? 7.) Does your current technology make paying for your product or service easy and in a seamless way? 8.) How easy is it to do business with your company online?

3 Things to pay attention to:

1.) The 3 Billion yet to come

In the next 5 years we will see the arrival of 3 Billion people, that’s 3 Billion more people online than there is to date. This will create a sound boom, an avalanche of new content and a serious need for filtering the noise. Filtering content will be more important than creating it, and you will need to be tagged to be heard. If you do business online, getting attention and converting will be much more difficult if you don’t prepare today. These new consumers will want more control and will not be forced into paying for something they can find elsewhere. Hence the phrase, Proudly Found Elsewhere. Your Ecosystem will need to harness the power of an open economy to survive.

2.) Web-Centric

In the next few years 30% of all commerce will be done online, do you have the right systems in place to adopt that 30%? It is expected that that number will eventually hit 60%, are you ready to serve them? Do you have a team working on creative ways to adopt to the web in a primary way? Are you still treating the Internet as an add-on to your business?

3.) Mobile & Social

The Internet is shifting from computers to mobile devices, eventually these devices will be embedded into eyecare and possibly bionic lenses. More text messages are being sent than actual vioce calls are being made in the USA today. Is your business channeling to mobile devices? Are designing systems to adopt mobile devices that integrate social networks? Each day new mobile devices are being developed, and each day more and more business is being funnelled through mobile social networks, is your business leveraging new technologies that maximize presence and attention?

The world is getting faster and very mobile, the web is central to everything being developed today, are you there, will you be ready? The world is coming like a tidal wave, will you ride it or be hit by it? It’s an exciting time, embrace the open economy and the open & free business model, adopt this new way of serving others and generate more revenue than the past.

RobertscobleI truly enjoy Robert’s perspective on Technology and Social Media, not too mention he is fun to follow on FriendFeed & Twitter too. Robert is very helpful if you approach him the right way, I find him to be respectful, approachable, a solid resource and entertaining. 🙂 In May of this year (2009) Robert Scoble posted an article on his Blog called Exploring The 2010 Web, he covers a number of points on what the 2010 Web is and or is going to be.

Here are the Attributes he listed for us,

Web 2010

1.) It’s Real-Time

2.) It’s Mobile

3.) It’s decentralized

4.) Pages now built out of pre-made blocks.

5.) It’s Social

6.) It’s Smart

7.) Hybrid Infrastructure

I linked to his article above so you can read his definitions in more detail.

Now I agree with Robert’s list for the most part with some additions, I know he knows what I’m adding is coming and he probably will be one of the first (early adopter’s) to play with the new toys. This is not an exhaustive list but you’ll get the picture of our where we are headed.

Here are my additions and I like to call,

Web 2012

1.) In 2012 you will be able to buy off the shelf a computer (device) that can compute faster than the human brain.

2.) Virtual Reality is where we will spend our leisure time

3.) We will not use keyboards, voice recognition will be our method of instructing our device’s what to do

4.) Tower’s will cease production

5.) Laptop production will be vastly reduced

6.) Wireless devices will be integrated into eye care (Glasses and Contact Lenses)

7.) iPHONE’S & BlackBerry type devices will also be greatly reduced in size

When it’s all said and done, you merge these two lists and you have considerable change ahead of us. We are entering an era where Nanotechnology and Virtual Reality will make exponential strides in development and growth, unlike anything we have ever seen. How we communicate will continue to change, communities will continue to grow as we the people take back big business.

I wonder what else might take place in the next 2 – 5 years?