Every new year brings about optimism for a brighter future. Even the staunchest pessimist can’t help but to feel inspired as a potentially better tomorrow shows itself as the yesteryear fades in the rearview mirror.

2018 is definitely a year to look forward to. Small business trends show greater success across the board, with some worries and rumors being mitigated. As we continue into the new year, here are the top 9 trends small business owners should be aware of that make this the year for entrepreneurs:

1. The Market Looks Great

If you’ve been in business for 10 or more years, you probably have a lot of reservations about being optimistic about the market. After all, the economy was booming just before the Great Recession of 2007.

But since then, the market has been recovering at a slow and steady pace, instead of rapidly expanding to create a new bubble. In the last eight years, unemployment has slowly crept to the lowest it’s been in nearly 20 years. Housing prices are up, an indication of a strong market. Plus, the stock market is consistently hitting historic highs. Altogether, our economy grew by 3.2 percent in 2017.

Some of this growth can be attributed to confidence in President Trump, while some of it can also be attributed to lasting policies enacted by his predecessor. Regardless of the source, 2018 looks to be a great year to be in business.

 

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2. Don’t Believe the Doomsday Hype

Amazon, Walmart and other massive retailers seem to be looking for ways to completely eradicate the brick-and-mortar store. And if you believe the hype, you may already be writing your eulogy for your retail location while you’re trying to figure out how to make your small business completely digital.

Don’t buy into the doomsday scenario.

While Amazon and other online shops do offer a certain level of convenience in their variety of products and ability to order while you’re still in bed. But what they don’t offer is face-to-face customer service. Sure, you may not be able to match some online prices, but customers will keep coming back for the experience.

With that in mind, it may not be too surprising that 85 percent of retail sales are still made in brick-and-mortar shops!

3. Social Media Marketing Is Key

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently made an announcement that newsfeeds will be undergoing yet another change soon. Now, the site will focus on showing more posts from actual friends and family members, and fewer from businesses and publishers. As a result, Zuckerberg believes people will spend less time on the site than ever before.

Adjusting to this change is a two-fold answer. One, you will need to buy ads to make sure you are seen on Facebook. Since your organic posts will likely not be seen nearly as often by users, being a paid part of their newsfeed is crucial.

Two, your ads have to be eye-catching and click-worthy. If predictions are correct, you will have less time than ever to capture your audience. Having a bland, boring ad is a quick way to get ignored. Even if your business doesn’t seem like it’s an “exciting” one, you and your team should be able to find a way to make your ads worth their price.

4. Live Video Is All the Rage

Staying on the topic of social media, live video has become a powerful marketing tool for those who use it properly. Facebook is perhaps the most viable way to do this, but there are other tools out there you can use across a variety of platforms.

By hosting live video events, you are essentially holding a town hall for potential customers. They can learn all about your business and see how much of an expert you are in your industry. Plus, many people would rather watch a video than read a blog these days. There are a variety of ways you can use live streaming videos, including:

  • Question-and-answer sessions
  • Sales and other events
  • Webinars
  • Parties
  • Product reviews

5. Now Is the Time for Personalized Marketing

Ever since the 1994 invention of “cookies” that track internet users’ habits, personalized marketing has been on the rise. At first, these bits of tracking code were seen as invasive and a way for the government to see every move you make online. While that attitude certainly still exists, more and more users are wanting a more personalized experience online.

Moreover, more customers (especially Millennials and Gen Zers) are expecting a high level of customer service. As we mentioned before, many shoppers will pay a premium in a physical store if it means they are treated better. Creating a personalized connection with your customers, but in-person and online, is a great way to keep them coming back.

Not sure where or how to even start? Don’t worry. There are a variety of tools you can use to make sure your customers feel like they’re being treated like humans, not just another number on a spreadsheet in this year for entrepreneurs.

6. Cyber Security Is More Important Than Ever

No matter how strong your online defenses are, 2018 is the year to realize: Getting hacked isn’t a matter of “if,” but “when.” Let’s just look at recent breaches that made the headlines:

  • The Equifax hack exposed 150 million people
  • Yahoo! Recently said every account was hacked — all 3 billion of them
  • Nearly 200 million voter records were hacked
  • NSA tools were leaked
  • Countless ransomware and other malware attacks

If you think you won’t get hacked because you’re a small business, you’re sorely mistaken. Small businesses are hacked more than any other kind of company. So, be sure to back up your data regularly in a remote location, make sure you have the best cyber security available, and be ready to act after a breach.

7. Bitcoin Is a Toss Up, but Blockchain Is for Real

The hottest commodity right now is cryptocurrency. While Bitcoin is the most well-known, there are others on the market that could become tough competition. At the time of writing this blog, Bitcoin was valued at $14,185… no, $14,270… no, $13,587… the market fluctuates by the second, making it a risk for sure.

While many experts believe investing in cryptocurrency is a bust, and that it’s a bubble waiting to burst, there has been a great technology to come from it: Blockchain. Blockchain is how sales and ownership of Bitcoin is tracked, and it’s shown itself to be one of the best tools for both small business accounting and cyber security. While you may not want to jump headfirst into cryptocurrency, adopting blockchain is a must.

8. Your Target Audience Is Shifting

For nearly all industries, focusing your marketing on Gen X and older customers is leaving money on the table. Millennials are the biggest generation to ever live, and they are the ones spending the money now. As much as you may want to remain focused on the older demographics, it’s simply not as profitable anymore.

The even-younger Gen Z buyers are perhaps the most promising demographic to target. Remember the points about personalized marketing and top-notch customer service? It applies to Gen Zers more than nearly any other demographic.

You may need to change up your marketing tactics to make sure you’re reaching them. For example, if your business doesn’t have an active Instagram account, you need one immediately.

9. Robots Are Coming! (Sort Of)

For the past few years, we’ve all heard how robots and artificial intelligence are coming to steal everyone’s jobs. Well, the technology still isn’t at a point that it can replace every member of your team, it can help you eliminate some resource wasting in your small business.

For example, robots can now be used to answer phones, field questions online, vacuum your office, and more. Of course, when it comes to actually working with customers, you definitely need an experienced human to handle these tasks.

Make 2018 the Year for Entrepreneurs with Company.com

At Company.com, we know how tough running a small business can be. If you’ve been struggling recently, now is the time to finally get ahead. We offer hiring, accounting and other software to streamline your processes and move forward with confidence in 2018. Contact us today to learn more about the services we offer.