As we countdown the days until 2017 transforms into 2018 you’ve most likely given some thought to what the new year will bring for your business. What do you need to be prepared for so your company is ready for success in the coming year? While my crystal ball isn’t perfect, these five small business trends have been brewing and will most certainly come into their own in 2018. While some of these trends sound like issues only the big guys need to worry about, this isn’t the case. The beauty of our ever-shrinking global community and technology is that all businesses, small or large, are now on equal playing ground when it comes to both opportunities and risk. Read on to find out how to make 2018 your best year to date!
Your Customers and Workforce are Shifting
It used to be typical for employees to work for companies for a long time, stay loyal, and build careers to stay in until retirement. It’s about to be 2018, and is no longer the case. The main change here is that the Millennial and Gen. Z generations have become the new labor pool and they’ve created the new Gig Economy that will forever change the face of the American workforce. Here’s the thing: the younger generation likes money, but they work best when it’s something they’re truly passionate about. To combat this conflicting perspective, Millennials have been crusaders in creating a dual work-life balance. They work to live, are not terribly interested in a long-term career, and want to have lots of flexibility to do the things they really love. What does that mean to employers? Workers with far less loyalty that are easily discontent and can lack motivation. How can you establish a competent team with this trend? Don’t hire full-time employees, go with non-employees instead.
Today 53 million Americans or 34% of the workforce are freelancing as their main income source; by 2020 this number is expected to reach 40%. Of the rest of the workers, 25% are contingent, or temporary when needed, another form of non-employee. When added together, only 41% of the labor force is now in a full-time capacity. This works for the next generation because this is how they want it. Flexibility and variety are the keys to keeping them productive so instead of hiring “employees” consider a freelancer or contractor for the same role. Among other perks, non-employees don’t require benefits, can be used on a short-term contract basis, and you’ll have no major HR headaches to deal with.
Now let’s turn to the impact the next generation will have as your client; what’s important to them and how best to attract their attention. It’s no surprise that Millennials and Gen Z are incredible social media aficionados and to bond with them you must be there too. The top social spaces now are Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and Buzzfeed, but don’t get comfortable because this group is always looking for the next new trend to follow. Keep it interesting, tell stories, and above all don’t do typical marketing because it is tuned out in a nano-second. Learn more about 5 social media trends with maximum impact in 2018 to turn your next customer base into a group of loyal followers.
Generate Predictable Cash Flow with a Subscription Revenue Model
It’s time to appraise your current revenue model to determine if it can be converted into a subscription model instead. From an earnings perspective, the subscription model can be summed up in one word: predictable. While attracting members may take time, once you get into the groove, cash flow and expense management are fixed and predictable. This predictability is music to any business owner’s ears. Auto-billing each month offers a steady revenue stream and, in some cases, memberships offer discounts to pay for the full year at once meaning you collect all the cash prior to any fulfillment. This is a very popular pricing schema in the software world, otherwise known as Software as a Service or SaaS model.
Not only does this model simplify internal business processes, it also makes the purchase decision easier for your buyers. Reducing the number of decisions and confusing price points for your buyer removes lots of obstacles that may have previously stopped them from saying yes. A flat rate service they can choose to upgrade later is simple, offering auto-bill options means they don’t have to worry about making the buying decision every month, it’s just quietly deducted from their account, no muss or fuss.
As we’ve written about, the subscription box business is booming and a great option to consider or recommend to current clients. Be creative and think about how your product/service can be presented as a subscription that’s easy for your customers to buy and stick with. I promise that it will increase efficiency and improve cash flow to your bottom line.
Big Data and Delivering Personalized Customer Engagement
Customers today don’t just want to buy from you, they want to feel courted and that you really know what makes them tick. It’s sort of like dating lots of people at once, trying to remember their favorite restaurant, music, and hobbies. While digital marketing is hands down the most popular form of customer engagement, it’s important to do it well. Throwing the same mass emails out to your audience will not win you a fan base among your clientele. This is where Big Data comes in. Big Data is anything collected on behalf of your customer that tells the story of what they’re all about. This can include buying patterns, average spend, promotions responded to, complaints, social media engagement, survey responses, and just about anything else companies can study to learn how to better serve their patrons.
Integrated marketing, meaning a mix of traditional, digital and social media platforms has proven to be incredibly effective at staying connected to your clients. Ensure all efforts, including your website, are mobile-friendly . Make sure that no matter which device the reader uses, the content looks and acts the same and loads quickly. According to a recent survey, the average adult spends 5.6 hours per day on their phone which means digital media time spent on phones is higher at 51% as compared to desktop browsing which stands at 42%. Remember: no matter what your marketing plans are for 2018, make them meaningful and personalized to meet your customers’ desire to feel important and special.
The Digital Transformation of Business is Forging Ahead
If you thought things moved fast in 2017 you ain’t seen nothing yet. Futuristic technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and analytics for virtually everything have evolved to become completely mainstream. Simple AI and automation like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa have made us humans comfortable with talking to robots. It no longer feels weird to ask an inanimate object for help. On the business side, automation brings efficiency and time savings to high dollar functions like customer service, marketing, data analysis, scheduling and more. Routine tasks can be taught to an AI robot within days and they keep getting smarter with each request handled, progressing from kindergarten to high school level knowledge in no time. Gartner predicts that by 2018 30% of our conversations will be assisted by robots.
You may have heard of the Internet of Things (IoT), but what does that mean? It’s not so much a thing at all, but instead how tools can be connected via the internet to supply us with intelligence. Think smart homes, cloud-based programs, Bluetooth/GPS tracking apps, social media and web analytics. You can see how the IoT can be heavily integrated with automation to collect, interpret, and act without lifting a finger. Rounding out this digital trifecta is the massive amount of analytics available via your website and other IoT tools. Analytics help organizations focus on business insights, not just financial numbers. Combining different data sets about your company when studied together creates a picture that was impossible to see in the past. For example, what if a company merged their power service invoices with employee computer use data and studied it by the time of year? Just by sharing the story, it might spur ideas for cost savings or productivity that would not have been considered in the past.
Cyber Security and Protecting Your Data Against Hackers
Even if you’re not in a hi-tech industry this matters to you – a lot. Hackers are brilliant at capitalizing on our vulnerabilities. They are stalkers from afar who are constantly perfecting their craft. You may be asking what exactly are cyber-criminals after? Great question, the more you understand their motivation the better to protect yourself and the organization from costly incidents. The simple answer is any morsel of data to make them money by any means. These include employee and customer records which could include emails, financial accounts, passwords, or other helpful data to assist with identity theft. They also go for banking and financial data from your company including banks, account numbers, authorized account holders, and passwords. Gaining access to lock network files which they can then charge the company a ransom to unlock is another of their specialties.
The most popular infiltration techniques used by these hackers include email phishing with virus-filled links, malware downloads from legitimate looking websites, and hijacking email addresses of superiors to gain network access to money-making data files. The silver lining of this dreary cloud is that 90% of attacks are preventable. To ensure your company isn’t the next victim, follow these simple steps. Keep your network operating system and software up-to-date, conduct weak password audits and change them, train your employees on common hacker practices, and backup critical files away from your main network daily to prevent cyber-criminals from locking your files and demanding thousands of dollars to unlock them.
Feel safe, secure and sit back and enjoy these 2017 holidays . As you contemplate your New Year’s resolution, take action on these small business trends and get ready for a year of prosperity and innovation. Cheers to 2018!
Need a partner to help get prepared for 2018? Let us assist you with integrated marketing, personalized customer engagement, or designing your subscription revenue model. Remember, at Three Dog Logistics we take the bite out of postage and freight. Contact us at threedoglogistics.com or call 410-284-5494 to schedule a complimentary consultation today.