Where does the time go? The beginning of Q4 2016 has just begun, which means 2017 is right around the corner. If you're a small business and haven't started planning for the upcoming year, it's time you do so.
To help you get started, we've put together a list of five small business trends you should be preparing for in 2017.
1. Implementing Social Selling
There's a lot of hype around social selling right now - and for good reason. In a nutshell, social selling is the act of salespeople using social media to interact directly with prospects and provide value to them.
There are a plethora of benefits to social selling including:
A Faster Sales Cycle and New Opportunities for Revenue
When consumers are researching online during the pre-purchase phase of the sales cycle, they'll often engage in online communities in search of answers about the product or service. Salespeople should be in a position to monitor what's being said and respond with helpful responses. If salespeople can connect with potential customers during this phase, they can reduce the length of their sales cycle.
By engaging with potential customers online, salespeople can build rapport with them and turn these interactions into lead generation opportunities that they wouldn't have without a social selling plan.
Brand Reputation Management and Customer Rapport
People trust online reviews and discussions about products and services. Salespeople should be monitoring and engaging in these conversations to troubleshoot any complaints and give thanks for positive comments. Showing a human connection - and that you care about what people say - will increase your brand's credibility and trustworthiness, making people more likely to buy from you.
2. Hiring Freelance or Virtual Employees
Gone are the days that a business needs a standard brick and mortar location in order to be successful. Many companies are turning to a virtual employee model or are hiring freelancers due to the numerous perks it provides the business.
Hiring freelancers or virtual employees can help your business to:
Expenses are often top of mind for small businesses. By hiring a remote workforce, you'll save money on office space, supplies, and equipment (to name a few).
Expand Your Pool of Applicants
By not having to focus on a certain location, you can attract talent from all over the world, allowing you to truly have the best employees for your company (not just the best in your neighborhood).
Did you know that virtual employees and freelancers are actually more productive than those who work in an office setting? It's true. By removing the office distractions (and morning commute), people are generally more focused and dedicated to getting their work done.
Improve Employee Retention
When you give employees the flexibility to balance their personal and professional lives, they become grateful to your company. Employees feel empowered by flexible schedules and feel the trust the company has in them. This freedom creates a great sense of loyalty. Not only will there be less turnover, but employees will be more productive because they feel appreciated.
3. Transitioning to EMV Payments
"Should I swipe my credit card or insert the chip?"
This is a common question many had in 2016, but one that should start to clear up in 2017.
EMV chip payments are now the global standard for credit card and debit card payments. Chip card security trumps the magnetic stripe because chip cards create a single-use, unique transaction code that makes it impossible to transfer copied card data onto a new card. Switching to EMV payments will eliminate card-present card fraud caused by lost, stolen, or counterfeit cards. The last thing a small business wants to do is fall victim to fraudulent charges that could have been prevented by just transitioning to EMV payments.
Additionally, EMV supports numerous mobile transaction types and can operate in offline mode, making the transition to EMV ideal for businesses in a variety of different environments and circumstances.
4. Focusing on Generation Y
Gen Y (also known as Millennials) not only love supporting small businesses, they prefer to work for them as well.
Millennials aren't interested in working for "the man", they'd rather work for companies with fewer than 100 employees who can provide them with careers that have meaning. Small businesses are also more apt to provide the types of work-life balance Millennials are looking for (flexible hours and work-from-anywhere opportunities).
Millennials as a whole have shown themselves as an asset to the workforce as leadership-driven, early tech adopters with an entrepreneurial spirit that makes them hungry to achieve results for your company.
5. Cloud-Based Solutions Becoming the Norm
Cloud-based solutions - or solutions provided to users on demand through the Internet from cloud computing providers - are becoming standard across businesses of all shapes and sizes. Small businesses who utilize these solutions experience significant benefits:
Increased Security and Reliability
Have you ever lost a bunch of files that were saved to your computer when your computer crashed? It's the worst. By using cloud-based solutions, you can save files and important information in the cloud, preventing data loss from broken or stolen computers.
Accessibility to Files Anytime, Anywhere
As mentioned previously, businesses no longer need a brick and mortar shop to exist. For businesses with a distributed team, or for businesses that offer a flexible working environment, cloud-based solutions enable employees to easily access data and information when and where they need to.
With cloud-based solutions, teams can easily share and collaborate on files. As a result, companies can communicate as if they were in the same room through video conferencing solutions.
There you have it - while there are countless additional trends coming our way in 2017, understanding these five will help to better prepare you for the year to come.