Guest Post by Due.
Do you know what 2017 has in store for your small business? If not, then it’s time to start preparing for the new year by knowing the upcoming trends that are going to impact your business on a daily basis. From how you can reach your customers to the type of employees to hire, here are the 10 important trends for small businesses in 2017.
In 2016, we saw mobile usage surpass desktop usage for the first time in history – don’t expect that trend to end anytime soon.
While it’s been advised for years now that you should have a mobile-responsive website, it’s becoming more evident that you have to be more than just mobile-friendly. You have to become mobile-centric.
Launching a mobile-centric strategy starts with knowing what exactly your customers are searching for on their smartphones and tablets, such as “coffee shops near me.” Google has put together a handy guide to get started with building a mobile-centric search strategy.
Besides a mobile-centric search strategy, you also have to think about:
- Accepting mobile payments.
- Placing a “Buy” button on your social channels and website that is large enough for customers to click when on their mobile devices.
- Increasing engagement by creating your mobile app.
- Incorporating mobile-only social channels, such as Snapchat, Periscope, and Instagram, into your online marketing campaign.
2. Social selling
Social selling, in a nutshell, is using social channels to cultivate relationships. The benefits of social selling are that you have a faster sales cycle, increase your credibility, and build long-lasting relationships with customers.
Keep in mind that social selling isn’t about having the largest social network and closing a social sale. It’s about cultivating one-on-one relationships through valuable content, working with influencers, answering questions in real-time, and actually getting to know your audience.
If you haven’t started to pay attention to millennials, then it’s time to start like yesterday. They’re the fastest growing consumer base. They’re hyper-connected, educated, and disrupting a wide-range of industries like banking and financial institutions.
They want to support, and work, for small businesses that are authentic, charitable, leadership-driven, and who embrace technology. When looking for jobs, millennials prefer freedom and flexibility over corporate policies.
Between the rise of minimum wage costs, increasing competition, and changes to overtime labor laws, small businesses have to learn to become leaner — without jeopardizing service or productivity. That’s where automation, specifically Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions, come into the picture. It reduces costs and improves efficiency since it allows you to install and maintain software online. This means that you no longer have to deal with complex software and hardware.
SaaS has been around for years, but it’s becoming more accessible, affordable, and necessary for small business owners.
5. Freelancers and virtual workers
The freelancer generation is 53 million strong in the U.S. alone. Don’t expect that trend to change direction anytime soon. Technology has made it easier than ever for employees to work wherever and whenever they like. In fact, Fortune 500 companies are beginning to outsource jobs to freelancers and virtual employees because it can save them money and allows them to hire specialists from anywhere in the world. Freelancers are also more productive and easier to retain.
6. Hyper-local marketing
One of the most popular trends in 2016 was Pokémon Go. While the game has cooled off a bit, it did demonstrate the power of beacon technology. Small businesses can use beacon technology to launch location-targeted mobile marketing campaigns that are personalized in order to connect with customers. Remember, like any other marketing campaign these days, it’s about addressing the needs of your customer and how you can help them, such as how easy your business is to find, reviews, or a coupon for happy hour specials if you’re in the bar or restaurant industry.
To get started, here are the basics of a solid hyper-local strategy:
- Make sure that your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) is listed, verified, and matching across as many services as possible like Google, Yelp, and Yellow Pages.
- Focus on the needs of the individual and what you can do to address those pain points.
- Become a local authority in your niche or industry by writing blog posts, being active on social media and online forums, and speaking at local business events.
- Geo-target your local community by leveraging paid social media.
- Ask your customers to write positive reviews for your business on review sites.
- Respond to negative reviews.
- Give your customers a great experience both online and in-store.
7. Live video streaming
Live video streaming isn’t a fad, and here are some stats to verify the power of live video streaming. Facebook users comment 10 times more on live videos than they do on regular videos. And, according to Twitter, 15% of the “top brands” are already using Periscope to reach audiences, Furthermore, 60% of people prefer to watch a video than read text.
In other words, live video content will continue to dominate in 2017.
If you want to successfully use live video to reach and engage customers, small businesses should set aside a budget and plan on creating visual content like webinars, “How to” videos, Q&A clips, testimonials, product launches, and personalized storytelling.
8. Business intelligence
Business intelligence (BI) software simply collects fragmented data sets and then translates that data into information so that your business can become better, faster, and stronger. While this is nothing new, BI has predominantly been used by larger businesses in what’s commonly known as big data. Thanks to quickly advancing technology, big data solutions are more attainable and can be used by small businesses to discover information, like what your customers are purchasing and their shopping behavior so that you can become more customer-centric and even predict their next move
9. Digital storefronts
Customers don’t expect you to just have a website that is professional and works on their mobile devices, it should also rival websites of enterprise-level businesses by being easy-to-navigate, containing high-quality content, and having features like a virtual shopping cart that offers flexible and secure payment options, including the ability to use a digital wallet. Thanks to powerful and affordable content management systems like WordPress, Wix, and WooCommerce, there’s no excuse for not having an amazing digital storefront.
10. Permission marketing
“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them,” Seth Godin wrote back in 2008. As the years have gone on, this is becoming more commonplace. For example, there was a significant rise in ad-blocking software in 2016. In fact, there are already 420 million mobile users who are blocking ads. That’s a problem for businesses when it comes to reaching customers and those who rely on advertising revenue.
The good news is that you can use channels customers who have either subscribed or agreed to receive your content. These can include blogs, syndicated content, newsletter subscriptions, push notifications, podcasts, webcasts, streaming video, direct mail, live events, and influencer marketing.
About the Author
John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor, online marketing guru, and startup enthusiast. He is the founder of the online invoicing company Due. John is best-known as an entrepreneur and connector. He was recently named #2 on Top 50 Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine and a Blogging Expert by Time. He currently advises several companies in the San Francisco Bay area.