Why the iPad and small business are made for each other

November 10, 2011

Apple has gone out of its way over the past few months to point out that currently 92% of Fortune 500 companies are testing or deploying iPad in their business. As impressive as that is, what I have been interested in as of late is how medium and small businesses are using iPads.

To investigate, my company, Creative Strategies, conducted a highly targeted nationwide survey of just over 30 small business owners all in different sectors. Interestingly so far in our study, over 85% of small business owners we surveyed are either using the iPad in some way or plan to purchase and use one within the next year.

This is a significant trend. It’s important to note that because the sales of these devices fall under general consumer sales, we wouldn’t necessarily be able to track them as specific sales to be used in small business like we can with enterprise adoption.

I talked to restaurant owners using them to take orders and send them automatically back to the kitchen. I talked to financial advice firms using them for notes, organization, and to walk clients through data. We have talked to consultancies, legal firms, small boutique-shop owners, automobile dealerships, photographers and a host of other types of small businesses. Nearly all of them are finding creative ways to integrate the iPad into their business.

The all-important bottom line

In my research I was looking to find a few examples where the iPad is tangibly helping companies grow their bottom line. So naturally I focused on implementations where iPad was being used in a sales capacity.

One such example I found was with an insurance and financial services company called The Standard.

I spoke with Joel Mee, the Director of Retirement Plan of Sales for The Standard. He shared with me several use cases where iPad is adding value to the company’s business.

One usage in particular occurred when the company would present to potential participants to help them enroll in 401k programs. In these instances, The Standard will bring anywhere from 10 to 30 iPads, and encourage participants to enroll in the company’s services right there on the spot.

In this case they are simply using the iPad's browser to take potential participants right to a website where they can sign up.

Prior to bringing iPads, these enrollment meetings consisted of handing out paper forms, which often got lost or neglected. Joel shared with me that they are seeing at a minimum 50% more enrollments in The Standard’s services within the first week of the presentation.

Another use case was in the sales process, where The Standard goes to meet with potential clients to pitch its services. In these meetings company representatives hand out iPads, loaded with all their sales material to all attendees in the meeting, and then walk people through their entire product offering.

This saved time, energy and money around printing, binding and carrying around stacks of paper and documents. Joel explained that going paperless and using cutting edge technology is a priority for The Standard and that the iPad is helping them become a more sustainable company.

Although my first sample size was rather small, it was highly targeted and diversified. That being said, what was perhaps the most eye opening finding was how the majority of those I spoke with mentioned how many of their friends or colleagues who own businesses were also using iPads. 

If you recall history, Apple's first strategy with the Macintosh was to go after business and education. The primary reason was that there was not a booming consumer market in those days. Where Apple lost to Microsoft in the early days with business and education, I believe it will succeed this time around with iPad.

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