You don’t have to be “trendy” to take advantage of emerging trends to help your business grow. Smart small business owners know they need to keep up with social and technological changes to succeed and survive over time.
Which trends can your small business benefit from in 2018?
- Local. The term “local” is hot. Consumers increasingly recognize that if they want healthy communities, they need to shop local and support local businesses. Make sure you inform customers and prospects of everything you do that supports local companies and individuals, whether you buy produce from local farmers for your restaurant, stock locally-made merchandise in your retail store, or hire local contractors in your service business.
- Pictures and videos; Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat. Have you noticed that your social media feed is filled with photos and videos and not a whole lot of words? There’s a reason for that. Millennial and younger customers particularly respond to visually-oriented messages and picture-heavy social media posts. Small businesses are learning they get more engagement when they emphasize visual assets in all their marketing, not just social media.
- Loyalty. Customers increasingly want a sense of attachment to the companies they patronize, and you certainly want deeper relationships with your customers. After all, you’ve got to fend off online discounters whatever you’re selling, and having very loyal customers is the way to do that. But loyalty is a two-way street, so spend time in 2018 on building and maintaining meaningful relationships with your best customers, whether through business lunches or other entertainment, regular communication, special discounts. And, of course, through always providing excellent customer service.
- Social responsibility. An increasingly important aspect of creating and maintaining a deep relationship with customers is to have and articulate a sense of purpose for your company, in addition to providing an outstanding product or service. Customers want to feel like their purchases are helping to promote an important social goal, such as helping people in need, improving the environment, saving animals. Can your company meaningfully embrace a worthwhile social purpose? If so, let your customers know.
- Mobile accounting. Cloud-based accounting apps have taken a big leap forward in the last few years, making it possible for you to get away from your office and still stay on top of your finances. In 2018, there’s a whole array of great mobile tools to help you keep track of all your expenses and income, whether you run a manufacturing company, a winery, or sell stuff from your basement. QBO—QuickbooksOnline—has an entire ecosystem of apps, and you’ll also find great mobile accounting and invoicing solutions from Xero, FreshBooks, and many other providers.
- Work/life balance. Whether it’s 2018 or any other year, an important trend is to make sure you are taking care of yourself and those you love as well as your business. Often, this starts by unplugging (have times every day when your phone is off). And take that vacation already.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2018
This article originally ran in The Costco Connection on February 1, 2018