Every New Year I sit down with my laptop and brainstorm topics for new list posts. As we know they’re an accessible and digestible, if a bit “plaid out” method for getting eyeballs on the Internet. Lately I’ve sought to flesh out more about the latest in small business trends. This is because small businesses are usually the first to feel the effects of changes in the economy and in popular culture at large. So, being familiar with trends and predictions is a must for any entrepreneur looking to stay ahead of the game (or just keep up). As the second month of the year marches on, here are some of the main trends that are picking up steam, so you know what you need to be on top of.
This tends to be one of the key points in all the stories you see these days about targeting millennials, on-demand services, or video. As human beings continue to acclimate ourselves to the daily tsunami of information, direct messages, sponsored content, news, and alternate facts, authenticity (at least perceived authenticity) remains a highly relevant way to separate what’s worth looking at from everything else.
Authenticity inspires connection, which is what brands large and small now hope to achieve with consumers. These kinds of relationships are the new marketing. They make people feel less like they’re being marketed to and more like they share values with the brand in question. Social media channels like Instagram, video, as well as offline experiences can be effective conveyors of authenticity. Embrace these tactics.
Also, demonstrate your business’s stake in its community. Host events, workshops, and co-market with nonprofits.
Video, Video, Everywhere
Video has been on trend lists for years now. But video is now easily and visibly within the reach of small businesses. You don’t even need to have a YouTube channel. You are literally a few seconds away from going live on Facebook and other platforms at this moment. What will you talk about?
Go live during a workshop you’re hosting or record a customer testimonial for your website. Just a few weeks ago I gave an Instagram testimonial for my chiropractor. It got dozens of likes that day! If your business is a retail shop, you can shoot short videos in your store and make a Snapchat story. All this can be done with your smartphone, and uploading a video to Facebook or your website is now as easy as attaching a document to an email.
Collaboration & Collaborative Tools
Partnering with other businesses not only increases your marketing reach; it can also be a way of boosting your authenticity. Locally-based efforts signal to consumers that you’re invested in the community, and banding together with neighboring businesses is a simple way of doing that. Collaborative tools such as video conferencing, Google docs, Slack, and project management apps like Trello can help busy business owners make such partnerships happen.
Benefits for Small Business Employees
Minimum wage increases and paid leave were two of last year’s biggest headlines for business owners. As those wage increases go into effect and the Trump administration looks to undo the Affordable Care Act, the subject of employee benefits at small businesses looks just as relevant as ever. Businesses continue to search and compete for qualified candidates, so benefits like paid family leave and 401ks will likely be options more and more businesses consider.
New Government Policies
Small business owners are hoping that the new President will be great for the economy, and thus for their business. It’s still hard to know what to expect from Trump, and even if he follows through on campaign promises, it’s harder still to know what the real effect of those might be.
Perhaps the most recent version of these unknowns is Trump’s suggestion that a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports would pay for his border wall. If the tax being considered turns out to be a border adjustment tax (BAT), the American people would be footing the bill, not Mexico–or any of the other countries to whom such a tax would apply. The BAT would be paid first by companies selling goods in the U.S., but it’s a near-certainty that those companies would pass that cost on to their consumers–that is, us.
It’s still too early to know how these trends will affect small businesses this year, but having them on your radar means you can start preparing for them now, and lay the groundwork for a successful 2017.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.