Tablets, Social Media Making Businesses Mobile

More SMB mobile professionals are connected via their smartphones and tablets, according to a new study.

Seventy-one percent of small to medium-size businesses are "mobile businesses" adopting wireless technology to allow their employees to work effectively outside of the office, according to a study conducted by The Business Journals, which also revealed the business habits of the rising number of SMB mobile professionals-those who work outside of the office more than 30 percent of the time.

According to the study, the average mobile professional works outside of the office more than half the time, averaging 56 hours per week, and has an average net worth of $1.5 million, compared with total SMB owners at $1.2 million in average net worth. Geographically, mobile professionals are most prominent in the South (39 percent).

Fifty-nine percent of the survey respondents believe staying connected through wireless services and applications is critical to the success of their business. And higher sales figures for the well-connected validate this approach: Average sales at most mobile companies were $10.8 million in 2010, compared with $5.7 million for those companies that haven't embraced mobility.

The study also reveals that 88 percent of mobile professionals use social networks, with 60 percent of them leveraging social media platforms to market their businesses. Many mobile professionals, 80 percent of them, feel it is critical to have access to information while outside of the office. Devices and services that help them stay connected while away from their desk include WiFi, text messages, smartphones, apps, notebook/netbook, iPad and cloud computing.

In addition, 43 percent of mobile professionals polled in the study are familiar with cloud computing, with 14 percent having used cloud computing in the past year, while 64 percent of SMB owners who are considered mobile professionals spend more than 8 hours connected to their businesses via computer, smartphone or iPad; 38 percent spend 11 hours and more on their devices.

"As our study indicates that more SMB mobile professionals are connected via their smartphones and tablets, this enables them to work outside of the office more seamlessly, and encourages mobile professionals to nurture a connection with their local communities. In fact, 74 percent of SMB owners believe that it's crucial to be actively involved," said Godfrey Phillips, vice president for research at The Business Journals. "In addition, they're adopting emerging technology and incorporating social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter into their marketing plans and business models to help them stay connected."

When it comes to travel, the study found that 45 percent of SMB mobile professionals make business trips at least once a month and average almost 15 trips a year for their companies-more than any other SMB group. However, mobile professionals are spending fewer dollars on business trips. Average expenses for flights fell to $2,642 in 2011 from $5,039 in 2007 per firm, while hotel expenses dropped from $5,380 to $2,796 per firm over the past five years. As a result, these SMB mobile professionals are staying more connected to their local communities and sourcing a majority of their sales locally (71 percent).