Each year I write an article focused on trend for the coming year. I am writing this one a little earlier this year, September vs. December, so we as small business owners have some time to adapt these trends into your strategic planning for next year.
#1 Trend – Value Proposition Must Be Bigger Than Ever.
Consumers are much smarter, better informed and more discerning than ever before. The internet has given them the inside edge. You now have to be able to quantify your value to them. If you don’t, your competitors will. One example of a way to add value instantly is to sit down together prior to the sale. This personal touch creates the opportunity to add value.
#2 Trend – Listening to Customers in New and Creative Ways.
There are many more opportunities to listen to your customer today. We must learn to use these new avenues of communication. Face to face feedback, surveys, emails, online surveys, Facebook online conversations, tweets, company websites, online watchdog groups, are an example of a few of the communication opportunities that we have. If you have not been paying attention to it, you need to start. Each year that goes by our younger generation is getting older. This means that they are savvier and used to getting all their info online.
#3 Trend – Aggressively Identifying and Pursuing New Opportunities for Growth.
This isn’t different from what every business does all the time, is it? Actually it is. Why? During a slow economic time there is a greater opportunity for both growth of geographic footprint and customer acquisition. Savvy SBO’s realize that our recovery is slower than expected and in order to increase revenue and profitability pursuing new opportunities for expansion is of great importance.
#4 Trend – Creating Stronger Stakeholder Relationships.
Remember if your business is hurting so is theirs. This is the time to sit down with your key customers, suppliers and channel partnerships to discuss price negotiations, payment options, other products available. They know what is happening in the industry. Meaning, they know what your competitors are selling the most of. Ask them what they would recommend you focus on. I wouldn’t follow what they say blindly, but it is good info to have. If your business increases so does theirs. They want you to be successful.
#5 Trend – Capitalize on Emerging Markets
Is it possible for you to do business outside of your local area? Nationally? Internationally? Don’t discount growth outside of your current footprint. With the internet you never know where your next big customer can come from
#6 Trend – Segmentation for Profitability
By segmenting your customer base you can focus more efforts on what you consider the most profitable target market. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Too many companies decided this was their best strategy during the recession and ended up losing even more money.
#7 Trend – Creating Quality Content Online
Creating quality content for your customer base and prospect base is becoming more and more important to win online attention. Don’t sell. Inform. Help your consumers understand how to use your products and services more effectively. Get them excited about being in touch. Help them to spread good word of mouth about you. This will happen when you have meaningful “conversations” with them online.
#8 Trend – Increasing the Online Marketing Budget.
Data is showing that more and more small businesses are moving away from traditional marketing budgets and investing more in the social online venues. Good news: People are getting that online marketing works…..especially social media. Bad news: They think this can totally take the place of traditional marketing. Increase your online budget but don’t have it replace your traditional budget. Move your traditional budget around a little and be smart about it.
#9 Trend – Mobile Marketing
Do you have an App for that? Mobile marketing is the growth industry. Although it is in its infancy it will grow quickly. I already have an App for the Entrepreneurial Excellence Radio Show. How cool is that? And….it was free! A great word for SBO’s. Speak with your local marketing expert and see how you can become part of this growing market.
#10 – Geo Target Marketing
Creating targeted, local marketing campaigns using tools like Yelp, GroupOn and the like will become more powerful this year. The internet is becoming what you want it to be. Local, regional, national or international…maybe soon Galaxical! Is that a word? Anyway, you know what I mean. Get up to date on these things and take advantage.
#11 – Co-Marketing
Create greater perceived value by co-marketing with businesses that complement your services. For years we have seen things like, “Bring your movie stub and receive 15% off a dinner here at Joe’s Pizza.” Same idea. Who can you partner with to create greater perceived value for your customer base? Alliances are a very powerful way to make the most of every dollar. Don’t go it alone.
Are you seeing a thread of commonality through these trends? Yes, the internet. A year or two ago it wasn’t as powerful as it is becoming today for small business owners. There are more tools and affordable opportunities out there. Use them. Be smart. Get yourself educated or have your Chief Internet Marketing and New Technology Officer put together a plan. This is great news and we need to take advantage of it.