It’s vital to be on top of what’s happening in the industry and the world beyond. You never know when the right thing will come along. It might be a piece of technology, a new way of reaching customers, or a new way of thinking about engagement. Sometimes something comes along to make everything click.
With that in mind, here are four small business trends that you should keep your eye on as a business owner.
1. Hyper-local marketing
Hyper-local marketing is a new way of thinking about an old concept. The problem hyper-local is trying to solve is one of the oldest in the book: how do you get someone walking down the street to come through your door? How do you get someone who lives around the corner to pick you out of all their options?
Local SEO experts point out that 82% of local searchers follow up, either on the phone, by visiting the store, or through making a purchase. The trick is to make sure that your business is one of the ones that shows up on the top of the list.
The first thing to double check is that you’re listed on as many services as possible. It takes a little bit of time, but it’s free to get listed and it makes a big difference. The most popular beyond Google include Yelp, YP, Dexknows, Yellowbook, and TripAdvisor.
Once you’re listed, make sure that your NAP is in agreement everywhere. NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone number. You’d be surprised that for many businesses this information doesn’t match up, which can hurt your ranking and confuse your customers.
Reviews are also a major part of the local marketing game. In BrightLocal’s Consumer Review Survey, 88% of consumers responded that they trust local reviews just as much as they do in-person recommendations. It’s important to figure out ways to encourage customers to give you reviews: rewards, discounts, or even pushing it through your digital POS system.
For even more tips, take a look at CoxBlue’s guide to hyper-local marketing.
2. Video small business trends
When Facebook bought Oculus Rift in 2014, Mark Zuckerburg made a strong statement about why he thought it was worth 2 billion dollars: “Mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow. Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate.”
Oculus and other new video technologies are exciting not simply because they’re fun to play with, but because creating content is becoming easier and easier. For 360 video there are options from YouTube, HumanEyes, Samsung, and Ricoh Theta, ranging from $250-800. You can use 360 video to stream events, or put viewers behind the scenes to show the people and the craftsmanship that goes into making your product.
Another technology that is quickly gaining steam is streaming video. Technologies like Periscope, Meerkat, Blab, and Facebook Live let you broadcast directly from your mobile device. Livestreaming is a great way to offer a unique perspective into yourself and your business that can pay off in credibility down the line. Each technology has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, so try a few and see what best fits your business.
3. Social Selling
It’s an old maxim in fundraising that people give money to people. The same is true in business: sales are built on relationships, and the better you get to know someone, the easier it is to do business with them. The key thing that’s changed is that it’s easier than ever to get to know someone, thanks to social media.
At the same time, there are more and more people to know. As Mike Derezin, vice president of LinkedIn Sales Solutions, puts it in his interview about social selling with Inc: “The days of having a single buyer are over. Today there are, on average, 5 buyers in the B2B sales process. And when you include the key influencers, there are probably closer to 10 people influencing the overall purchase decision.” The trick is to use social media to analyze people’s’ connections and figure out who those influencers are, using tools like LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator to help.
Another key insight of social selling is that you can use social media as a tool to build credibility and trust. If you consistently engage about particular topics, people will go to you when they need advice, and when they’re looking to make a purchase.
For more advice, you can take a look at our recent guide to the dos and don’ts of social selling.
4. Online Lending
“A lot has changed in 80 years,” President Obama proclaimed in April 2012 when he signed the JOBS Act into law, “and it’s time our laws did as well.” A major component of the legislation, Title III, which was just recently approved by the SEC, creates some big changes to how small businesses can raise money.
While at this point we’re all familiar with crowdfunding and what that’s done to the startup scene, Title III changes the game because it allows for the sale of small-scale private equity through intermediary websites like SeedInvest, RocketHub, and IndieGoGo. This gives you access to up to $1 million in small-scale funders with a lot less regulation than would typically be required to raise that kind of money.
While Title III is still new and there’s a lot to work out, it promises to be a game changer for small businesses that figure out a way to leverage it to raise money and grow.
What You Can Do Right Now
Getting out in front of small business trends before they become standard is how you stay ahead and stand out.
Use hyper-local marketing techniques to get people through your door.
Use video technology to offer unique content that can build your brand.
Do research and engage with potential customers with social selling.
- Tap into the power of crowdfunding with online lending.