At the end or beginning of each year, small business prognosticators look into their crystal balls and try to discern trends for the upcoming year. Some are right on target and make it look like the seers really can look into the future, but others have so far failed to materialize.
As a small business entrepreneur, it can be helpful to take a break around the middle of the year and look back at some of these predictions. The plans you made to grow your business in 2019 might be right on track, but perhaps some of these ideas will cause you to think about making a mid-year course correction. Here are some predictions from Business News Daily that can provide challenges, solutions and inspiration for your small business:
• Small businesses need to adapt to modern-day customer service needs: While most small businesses take pride in providing good old-fashioned customer service in person, it might need a few tweaks to bring it into the modern-day environment. Most consumers now are mobile device-dependent. They want to quickly find everything they need to know on their phones. That means you need to make sure your website is mobile- and voice-friendly, it must be easy to find through search engines, and your directions and contact information are readily available. If possible, they want to be able to order online for home delivery, or order online and have their purchase ready for pickup.
• Relationships are still key: The one big advantage that every small business has is the ability to get to know the customer base better than the cold, impersonal behemoths. That means you need to get to know your customers better, maybe even invite them to your location for free seminars or product demonstrations. Make liberal use of social media and email to keep in contact, but add that personal touch whenever possible.
• Keep up with those reviews: In doing their research when considering a new business relationship, the first place most prospects will look is for online reviews. If they are not readily available in the traditional review sites, they might reach out to their online social circle for input, but no reviews quickly becomes a red flag. That is why you really need to press the idea of asking satisfied customers to complete reviews for you. Guide them to the traditional online review sites and also ask them to post their impressions on their own social media. Or, you can go the extra distance and ask for a video clip that you can post to your company’s website.
• Privacy matters: Consumers are becoming more concerned about the privacy of their data. If you do collect information, make sure you have safeguards in place to protect it and your business from hackers and cyber criminals.
• New employee incentives: If your business has grown large enough to have employees, you might have to think in terms of a different relationship with them. You might want to have an employee who is strictly in charge of managing your online presence, searching for what consumers are saying about you, and responding quickly to any requests for information. In the new “instant response” society, prospects don’t want to wait too long to get an answer to any questions they have. You may also have to work with employees on different scheduling to provide easier access to customers at different times of day – the old nine to five routine just doesn’t work any longer. Or, you might need to have someone handling online purchases or putting together orders for customers who just want to stop by and pick up everything at their convenience. Some employees might even be able to perform their work outside of your location using their digital devices.
So how does your small business measure up to the latest trends? You should have a few thoughts you can still implement in 2019 to keep up with the current ideas, and also start laying the foundation for the next slew of marketing trends and opportunities that are sure to arise in 2020.