Alexander Graham Bell once said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.
Since we’ve already entered a new year, I hope that you’ve been making your goals in preparing for 2017. Sure, you may not finish or complete every goal but your goal will put you in a better position to handle any uncertainty that is thrown your way. But, what exactly are the type of goals you should start planning for this year?
Here 12 small business trend predictions that deserve your undivided attention.
Small businesses will go global.
Globalization is a hot topic — especially following Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. While it may do damage to some industries and sectors, there’s no denying that it’s also going to present new opportunities for small and medium businesses. “Exports by small, micro and even solopreneur businesses will continue to expand in 2017,” predicts Emergent Research.
The reason, according to Emergent, “Digital, global platforms such as Amazon, eBay and others will continue to drive down the costs of goods and services, knowledge and effort associated with exporting. Powered and enabled by these platforms, growing numbers of SMBs will access and serve buyers of goods and services around the globe.”
We would also like to add the numerous global payment options, are making it affordable and convenient to transfer funds across the world. For example, Due charges a flat 2.8 percent transaction rate for credit card processing, both domestic and international, with funds being available in 1-2 days.
Hyperlocal marketing is here to stay.
Hyperlocal marketing, which is marketing to your local community, was a buzzword in 2016, despite being around for years. For 2017, don’t expect this trend to disappear.
If you haven’t already, here’s the basics for an effective hyperlocal marketing strategy:
- Be easy to find online and have your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) listed, verified, and matching across services like Google, Yelp, YP, and Dexknows.
- Know the needs of your individual customers and determine how you can solve their pain points.
- Become a local authority by writing blog posts, responding to comments, and attending local business events in your community.
- If you have the money, use social media to geo target your audience.
- Encourage customers to write reviews.
- Respond to your customers online.
- Offer your customers a great experience, like providing top notch customer service.
Niche companies will thrive.
“Business success will come from further focusing on smaller, very specific audiences,” says Kyle Golding, chief strategic idealist at The Golding Group. “Going extremely deep with customized messages and specialized platforms to a highly receptive and loyal audience will replace wide approach ‘shot gun’ marketing.”
In the upcoming year, expect to see “more soft or no ask/call to action marketing focused on community building, experiences and lifestyle over product-specific messaging.”
Adapting to the IoT ‘Internet of Things.’
“The IoT essentially turns everyday devices—cars, watches, tools, appliances—into ‘smart’ devices by embedding software, sensors and network connectivity that allow these devices to collect and exchange data. Small businesses have been adopting IoT to reduce operating costs and increase productivity,” explains the team over at SpectrumBusiness Insights.
“For example, businesses can save money by installing smart sensors to control thermostats and lighting to maximize energy efficiency and usage.”
Additionally, these devices can will be able to “monitor and maintain inventory by automatically submitting orders for necessary products or supplies once the quantity dips below a specified amount.”
Mobile and video will reign supreme.
“It’s no secret that people love their mobile devices, with American consumers now spending three hours per day on their mobile devices, according to eMarketer.
In fact, shopping on mobile reached record highs in the 2016 holiday season, with Black Friday becoming the first day in retail history to drive more than $1 billion in mobile revenue at $1.2 billion, up 33 percent over last year,” says Instagram’s Jim Squires.
“Customers are increasingly turning to mobile, so small businesses need to, as well. The good news is that reaching customers via mobile is becoming simpler than ever. If SMBs have a smartphone and an Instagram business profile, they have all the tools they need,” adds Squires.
On top of being mobile friendly, you should also embrace mobile payments, such as a mobile wallet or mobile card carder, so that your customers can pay you through their smartphone. If you’re upgraded to a terminal that supports EMV, then it should also be able to handle contactless payments since it come equipped with NFC technology.
Squires also says that, “In the shift to visual communication, video is becoming the medium of choice for marketers. Third-party research predicts that 75 percent of all data will be video by 2020. With new features like live video on Instagram Stories, businesses can connect with customers in real-time and take viewers behind the scenes of their business.”
With easy-to-use tools like Hyperlapse and Boomerang anyone should be able to create “engaging and relevant videos in just a few minutes.”
More SaaS, please.
“As minimum wage costs rise, overtime labor laws change, and more competition crops up, small businesses desperately need a way to run leaner without losing productivity,” writes Ramon Ray, Marketing & Technology Evangelist, Smallbiztechnology.com & Infusionsoft.
“Automation is the key to cost savings and improved efficiency, and this is why affordable and easily scalable Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions will play a bigger role in the small business landscape.”
Millennials will dominate.
Despite the misconceptions, Millennials are not lazy, materialistic, narrow-minded, and selfish. They’re the largest age demographic and are completely disrupting the world. Unlike Baby Boomers, Millennials would rather have flexible hours and work for a company that has a purpose — than a high salary.
“Millennials want to work for companies they can be proud of, and buy products from companies that give a damn about the things that matter most to them.” says Brad Szollose, author of Liquid Leadership. “The reason companies must start embracing Millennials instead of rejecting them is simple; Boomers will be forced to retire soon. This leadership exodus will leave a leadership gap like we’ve never seen before. Since Generation X is much smaller demographically than Millennials, who do you think will be the dominant force competing for those positions? Millennials.”
Kim Cole, co-founder of TheSalesZone.com, adds, “Millennials need to see a clear vision of their growth and future role in the organization. They might have aspirations that go beyond their current skills. If you share how you help your employees develop skills to advance in their careers, you might attract quality talent — and they will often help you attract other like-minded individuals.”
Ultimately, because of Millennials, your small business must be mobile-friendly and prepared to hire a flexible and remote workforce.
Focus on lifetime customers.
According to Ellie Martin, Founder of Startup Change Group, “Every prospect has an LCV that represents how much money he or she will spend with your business. LCV is the backbone of any product-driven business.”
If you want focus on on your lifetime customers, Martin suggests that you ask the followingl questions:
- What is your customer’s LCV?
- Do you know where that number stops? It is in your direct database, in retail or online?
- When do you give up on that customer?
- How can you increase LCV?
“It’s cheaper to keep a customer than to acquire a new one,” reminds Martin.
When creating your budget, make sure that know “how much money that customer is going to generate for you 18 months from now,” and work your LCV into your cash-flow models.” After that, “determine the most profitable advertising channels based on LCV,” as opposed tot Day-One revenue.
Passwords will finally grow up.
“I used to do a party trick where I’d go to someone’s house and hack their router. There are so many purpose-built, ‘dumb’ devices out there like the routers used to facilitate the DDoS attack a few months ago, that it’s making hackers’ jobs easy,” Matt Dircks, CEO of secure access software company Bomgar, told CIO. Because of instances like the DDoS attack in 2016, password management services will become popular in the upcoming year.
Even if you have taken all of the other security precautions, such as installing malware and not falling for phishing scams, a weak password would put your business in jeopardy. It’s suggested to mitigate insider threats, there’s need to be better password management. One way to achieve this would be implementing “a solution that securely stores passwords that remain unknown to users, and then regularly validates and rotates those passwords to ensure safety and security.”
“What we’re talking about is credential vaults. In an ideal world, a user would never actually know what their password was — it would be automatically populated by the vault, and rotated and changed every week. Look — hackers are intrinsically lazy, and they have time on their side. If you make it harder for them, they’ll go elsewhere rather than invest the energy to chip away,” Dircks says.
Small businesses should also consider using multiple-factor authentication, like your iPhone does with Touch ID. Instead of just entering a password, another type of authentication, like a fingerprint, would be needed to complete any type of transaction or request.
Mobile threats to include ransomware, RATs, compromised app markets.
Besides weak passwords, McAfee Labs predicts “mobile malware continuing its growth in 2017, with ransomware, banking Trojans, and remote access tools among the leading threats.” One example that McAfee witnessed in 2016 was Android/Jisut.
“This ransomware changes a mobile device’s lock PIN and demands payment via Bitcoins or prepaid card. In 2017, we expect that mobile ransomware will continue to grow but the focus of mobile malware authors will change,” writes Fernando Ruiz. “Because mobile devices are usually backed up to the cloud, the success of direct ransom payments to unlock devices is often limited. Because of that, mobile malware authors will combine mobile device locks with other forms of attack such as credential theft.”
“We believe the 2017 banking Trojans will reappear and they will come from ransomware authors,” which “will combine mobile device locks and other ransomware features with traditional man-in-the-middle attacks to steal primary and secondary authentication factors, allowing attackers to access banks accounts and credit cards.”
McAfee is also urging its “users in 2017 to raise their awareness of app reviews—before installing apps even from trusted markets. This awareness, combined with an effective antimalware app, is essential to prevent infections in smartphones.”
Time to implement social selling.
“There’s a lot of hype around social selling right now — and for good reason. In a nutshell, social selling is the act of salespeople using social media to interact directly with prospects and provide value to them,” writes Martin Jones, a Senior Marketing Manager with the corporate Cox Communications social media team.
The benefits of social selling include:
- A faster sales cycle
- New opportunities for revenue
- An increase in your brand’s credibility and trustworthiness
Back on the blockchain.
“Blockchain transactions are secure, personalized, and have vast potential for verifying information and even bringing business closer to home,” writes Due’s Miranda Marquit.
Blockchain technology presents the following benefits for businesses:
- Cutting out third-parties when making financial transactions, which will ultimately save your business money.
- Protecting intellectual property.
- Creating “smart contracts” that ensures that both parties are satisfied.
- Cryptographic signatures that can be use sending and receiving shipments and managing shift changes.
- Create and track coupons and other promotions.
“The blockchain isn’t just about Bitcoin,” adds Marquit. “There are a number of secure transactions that take place in a business that can be accomplished with the help of this technology.”
What small business trends are you predicting for 2017?
This article was originally published on Due.com.