Ten Small Business Trends You Need to Embrace in 2015

This week we will say goodbye to 2014 and welcome a new year.  As a business owner there are a few trends that experts say will be important for success in 2015.  The top 10 terms to be concerned about for the coming year are: CLOUD, CONTENT, USER EXPERIENCE, CONNECTED, ANALYTICS, TRANSPARENCY, UNIQUE, HUMAN, PERSONAL and SOCIAL.  Now let’s break them down and explain why they are important to the success of your business in 2015.:

1. Adopting the CLOUD If you’ve been dragging your heels about adopting cloud technology for your business, now is the time to lift those heels and take a giant step forward. You can no longer deny the benefits of cloud services like document storage, subscription based cloud software services and virtual office space with shared project management. They make any business more efficient and allows employees the mobility to work remotely without missing a beat. Adopting the cloud for your business is just good business sense for 2015 and beyond.

2. CONTENT Will Be King…Again. So called experts claimed that blogging had died several years ago when Twitter and Facebook exploded in popularity.  Those experts were wrong.  Blogs and other content marketing methods take their rightful place as king again in 2015.

Forbes recent article entitled 6 Small Business Trends To Watch Out For In 2015  had the following to say about content marketing:

“ Content marketing isn’t a new concept, but it will be more important than ever in 2015, particularly for small businesses with limited resources to spend on advertising and media relations. More small businesses will work with journalists, writers and editors as they move from a product-focused to a customer-focused message, says Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, which is launching a platform aimed at helping entrepreneurs and startups with content marketing needs.”

3. USER EXPERIENCE is key. The words user experience might immediately make you think that it only applies to businesses who provide product, but you’d be wrong.  Today when we talk about user experience it refers to things like your website and services.  With a quarter of the world expected to be smartphone users by 2016 and tablet sales in 2015 expected to outnumber PC sales, it is going to be crucial to be aware that visitors to your website, customers, clients and users of your services are very likely accessing the Internet from a mobile device. Making sure that mobile users get the same quality experience as those using a PC is vital for your business.  That means responsive websites, cloud storage of shared documents and ease of communicating via email and social media.

4. Being CONNECTED. The Internet of Things continues to grow, which means businesses who still think that they can do without adopting technology are putting their businesses at risk.  No matter how big of a technophobe you may be, you can no longer ignore the internet and the need for your business to make any changes needed to embrace it. If people are expecting their televisions, cars, homes and other everyday devices to be ‘connected’ they are most definitely going to expect businesses to be as well.  The time for playing ostrich with your head in the sand is over.

5. ANALYTICS Matter In the same vein, it’s time you got familiar with analytics.  It’s more important than ever to know who is accessing your website and what device they are accessing it from.  If you don’t realize the majority of your visitors are stopping by on their smart phones, you may not be offering them a responsive design in order to give them the best experience.

What about marketing in 2015?

6. It pays to be TRANSPARENT. According to the experts it’s going to pay to be transparent. And by transparent I mean that you’re being real with your clients about what it is you’re doing for them. Pretending what you do is a deep dark magical secret is hogwash.

7. Be You, Be UNIQUE. I’ll take it a step further and say that they also want real content on your blog or in your newsletters. The days of generic, regurgitated, white labeled content are gone. In fact, that type of content can seriously hurt you if you’re still publishing it on your website.  Psst…Google really hates it. Hiring a company to write content for you or to cull content from other places and rework it slightly for your purposes just doesn’t cut it anymore, and don’t you dare let anyone tell you that it does.  When people read something from you, whether its a blog post, newsletter or even a social media post they expect it to be from you  or at least someone within your company. And it should be fresh and relevant to them. This is something I’ve been preaching for years that people just didn’t want to believe.  It was so much easier to purchase content or re-post someone else’s content with scant changes.  Easier yes, but lousy for user experience.  In 2015 it will be all about working with experts to create unique  content for their specific niche(s).

8. We all need the HUMAN touch. The sell, sell, sell method won’t work in 2015. The days of shoving the sales pitch down everyone’s throat is dead. While marketing used to be a numbers game, meaning the more people you pitched to, the more chances of having a few respond, that’s no longer the case. With so many people talking on social media, blogs and other digital platforms, people as a whole are consistently tuning out those who do nothing but try to sell their wares.  In 2015 you’ll need to make it about connecting, answering questions, sharing information and experiences. In other words, be human, not a sales pitch robot.

9. Marketing gets PERSONAL. Hello Marketing, meet Public Relations. That’s right, marketing is going to become more about human interaction than numbers.  Well, sort of.  It’s not that numbers won’t matter at all, it’s just that numbers won’t be the only thing that matters.  As a business it will be even more important to make connections and understand the people you are marketing too.  That means listening to those people and learning how to make them happy.  You’re marketing needs to give those people the feeling that you care and that they are important to you.  And by the way, you truly should care and they honestly should be important to you. It’s PERSONAL.

10. Customer Service Goes SOCIAL. Any customer with access to social media now has an audience of millions to share their gripes about your business with.  That means that if you don’t have an active presence, monitor social media sites for mentions of your business and actively respond to complaints in the right way you just may be setting yourself up for failure.  A wise business owner will know just how important social media can be for their business and will use it as a way to deliver stellar customer service for all those millions to see.

Do all of these terms give you a sense of deja vu?  They should. Most of them were business trends for 2014 as well.  Some were there in 2013 too.  Yet there are still many businesses who are still ignoring them, something that just may prove to hinder their success in 2015.

How familiar with these terms is your business?  How many have you actively adopted?  Which ones do you still need to implement? Your answers, questions or even arguments over the importance of one or all of them are welcome in the comments below.