Today's trends for tomorrow's business
Small Business Opportunities for Growth
November 8, 2018
Boom year tactics
As recently as September, the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index showed the third highest reading in the survey’s 45-year history, continuing a historic 23-month upward trend. During this time, U.S. small businesses saw record highs for job openings, hiring plans, actual job creation, compensation increases, profit growth and inventory investment.
Economists, politicians and business people will debate what led to such strong economic results, but nearly everyone can agree 2018 was a pretty positive year for many SMBs.
So, how can SMBs continue their momentum? Where are the big opportunities, and what can owner-operators seize upon to take their businesses to new heights?
Here are 5 top opportunities you should consider pursuing soon:
1. Get to know Generation Z
“Wait,” you say. “Didn’t we just start marketing to millennials?”
Yes, you did. And you should continue engaging with people born between 1981 and 1996. After all, they are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, so presumably they have money to spend.
But millennials are also aging (some are as old as 37 now) just as Generation Z, those born between 1996 and 2010, are just starting to take jobs. At 61 million strong, this generation outnumbers millennials by 1 million. Yet, few companies are marketing to them.
This means opportunity for you. Get to know this generation. Figure out what makes them tick. Then integrate them into your marketing plans. If you start early, you can build and nurture long-term relationships that will benefit your business growth over time.
2. Advance your brand through “Micro-influencers”
As you market to millennials and Gen Zers in the New Year, it will be important to find ways of really grabbing their attention in fresh ways.
That’s because younger consumers today don’t much care for traditional ads, even if they’re posted in social media. They’ve grown weary of the constant feed of messages coming their way on television, radio and their favorite Web sites. Instead, younger consumers are more influenced by what they hear from people they know - or feel like they know - because they see them are more credible.
As a result, many marketers in large organizations are focusing their energy on campaigns aimed at reaching so-called “micro-influencers” who are social media regulars with somewhere between 1,000 and 100,000 followers. The thinking goes that if you conduct a marketing campaign or “activation” at an event, you’re more likely to move the needle with target audiences if micro-influencers write about you than if celebrities like Selena Gomez - with their millions of followers - do the same. Indeed, a 2016 Markerly study of more than 800,000 Instagram users concluded the engagement rate of influencers decreases as the number of followers increases.
If you aren’t already, learn more about micro-influencers and plan to spend considerable time recruiting them as your brand ambassadors. They can be one of the more cost-effective opportunities for authentically and effectively marketing yourself.
3. Jump into experiential marketing
This is the Age of Experience, a period of time when marketing products isn’t good enough anymore. Today’s consumers, especially millennials, are all about experiences. So, you have to market to that.
Larger companies like HP are already doing it by driving campaigns, or “activations,” at festivals like Coachella and South by Southwest. The idea is to reach young people where they tend to go for fun, get them engaged with the brand and encourage them to share their experiences on Instagram and other social sites.
The approach is proving highly effective for many companies, and there is absolutely no reasons SMBs can’t do the same thing, albeit on smaller budgets. The key in 2019 will be to drive activations that somehow align to what your brand is about. You cannot succeed by simply hosting an exhibit, as you might at a trade show, or sponsoring a photo booth with your name on it. You must be creative.
A few years ago, for example, VEEV Spirits wanted to market an alternative to vodka that included Brazilian Acai berries, which many consider a “super-food.” To get people interested in its products, it launched its popular “Cheat on Vodka” campaign at a cocktail event in New Orleans. Attendees could try VEEV by tweeting #CheatonVodka to a vending machine stocked with tiny sample bottles. Bartenders, meanwhile, poured the libation with live music playing in the background and company reps handing out swag with the #CheatonVodka hashtag.
In 2019, try coming up with two or three ideas such as this. Pick the most promising one and go for it. With minimal investment, experiential marketing can help significantly raise your brand awareness.
4. Limit costs with DaaS
Most small businesses struggle to limit costs, and one of the biggest tends to be equipment. That’s why many SMBs are still running on Windows XP - even though it hasn’t been supported in four years.
It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it shouldn’t be that way when you stop to consider that many digitally minded millennials and Gen Zers may not choose your brand or come to work for you if they believe you’re behind the technological times.
That’s why the Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) trend could find more traction in 2019. With DaaS, you basically outsource all your computing and printing needs to a qualified third party. They ensure you have the latest machines and software at all times, monitoring and servicing them to avoid breakdowns. This lets you focus on more important matters - like finding customers and making money.
More than 40 percent of SMBs consider “as a service” critical to their organization, according to research from Mavenlink and Gigaom. In 2019, you should consider its merits as well.
5. Differentiate with custom packaging
You’ve probably seen those Coke bottles with more than 1,000 different first names on them. Part of the “Share a Coke” campaign, the custom labels show up every year to renew buzz around the brand.
Many small business owners would look at such efforts and immediately conclude that, while interesting, they would never fit into their budgets. And a few years ago, they would have been right. But recent advances in digital printing technology now make it possible to produce short runs of printed items very quickly and more affordably.
This doesn’t mean small business owners can now run out and buy digital presses. They can still cost more than $100,000. But there is an opportunity here because costs have dropped enough for Print Service Providers (PSPs) to afford them. And many are using these presses to help smaller brands produce custom labels and packages to differentiate themselves from competitors and big brands.
This is a rare time for most SMBs. You can look at the economy and recognize there is more potential for growth now than there has been in many years. Make the most of your year and pursue some or all of these 5 opportunities with commitment, passion and determination.