20 Dec The Year Ahead: Business Trends
Business Trends That May Shape Your Company in 2017
Business Trends for 2017 are from using chatbots on your website to partnering with social media influencers, the trends of today may be the must-haves of tomorrow. Here’s what just might be in store for technology, marketing and leadership, and how it may affect your business.
Technology: Get an app and consider chatbots.
Apps for businesses don’t need to be complicated. While the technology can assist with e-commerce transactions for product-based companies, even the corner mom-and-pop shop can benefit from having an app, if only for turn-by-turn directions or as a one-touch call button. “Next year, apps will be the new business card,” says Girdhar.
Be compassionate, empathetic and give people room to breathe. Treat your people like you’d hope someone would treat your son or daughter and you will likely have very happy employees in 2017.
—Roberta Matuson, owner, Matuson Consulting
Chatbots (pop-up boxes that appear on company home pages that allow customers to ask questions) may also be bigger in 2017. There are multiple DIY chatbot companies (Pandorabots, BOT Libre and Api.ai are a few). These, says Girdhar, can help with a company’s customer service without too much employee time, adding that Appy Pie will also provide chatbot options next year.
“It can help you get new business and it is nice because you don’t need a physical person waiting to answer questions,” he says. “When someone asks something and there is a 70 to 80 percent match, it sends back the best response. We are seeing a lot of these—like Amazon’s Alexa product—and I think bots are only going to become more popular.”
Marketing: Start using video and working with influencers.
Forget your lengthy blog and Facebook posts; try shooting a short video in 2017 instead—your engagement numbers may skyrocket, says Samantha R. Strazanac, CEO and founder of Strazanac Solutions, a marketing consulting firm in Raleigh, N.C. You don’t need expensive video equipment or an on-staff video production to help produce high-quality clips that customers will love. Just use your smartphone or camera.
“I love to use the iWatermark+ app because it allows you to put your watermark on a video or image,” says Strazanac. “That way, you can have your company logo in the video, visible to everyone who shares and watches the video.”
The destination of your video (Facebook Live, YouTube or on your website) depends on its content. Facebook Live is best for short (five minutes or less) videos that are one-offs. “If you own a boutique clothing store, you could do a Facebook Live of one of your employees opening a new shipment of products,” she says. “The big thing with this platform is that you don’t want to ramble because you will lose people. Have an agenda and stick to it.”
YouTube is best suited for videos your customers may return to again and again, like how-tos. Anything you put on your website, she says, should be edited and look professional. You can always link out to your Facebook Live feed and YouTube channel for additional content.
Companies that partner with influencers (social media users with large followings) will also do well in 2017, predicts Strazanac. “You’d be surprised how much clout these influencers have with their followers,” she says. “These aren’t traditionally famous people, but they may still have 100,000 people following their Instagram page and if they post about your product or service, you could benefit from a ton of new customers.”
How do you find an influencer with which to partner? Strazanac recommends checking out sites like Bloggers Required, a community of influencers who you can filter based on interest. Group High is another similar community. “Every blogger and influencer is different,” she says. “Some will charge for a sponsored post and others you can give a discount to your salon in exchange for photos on their page.”
Human resources: Dazzle your staff.
Favorable unemployment statistics (4.6 percent as of November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) are spelling a unique problem for business owners: staffers—many of them senior staffers—are flying the coop. “I’m seeing a lot of C-level managers getting poached by other businesses with better offers,” says Roberta Matuson, owner of talent management firm Matuson Consulting and author of the upcoming book The Magnetic Leader
: How Irresistible Leaders Attract Employees, Customers and Profits. “They are fed up with people not paying attention to them and are exhausted and sick of not be recognized. When someone calls them and offers something better, they go for it. Unfortunately, though, the loss of a key employee can spell death for a small business.”
There are several things business owners can do to stem the tide of fleeing employees. Matuson recommends asking each person in your company if they would recommend your place of work to a friend or family member. “If there is any hesitation or any, ‘Yeah, but…’ that tells you there is room for improvement,” she says.
Start by regularly acknowledging your team, congratulating them on everyday accomplishments and not being skimpy on salary, bonuses and benefits like free lunches once a week. Make sure you give at least three weeks paid time off (Matuson says two weeks is no longer the norm), and if you can’t afford big pay increases, consider offering more paid time off and other personal gifts. “If one of your employees loves a specific band, get him or her tickets, it will mean a ton to them,” she says.
Above all, focus on being as authentic a leader as possible. “Be the kind of leader that you’d like to work for,” she says. “Be compassionate, empathetic and give people room to breathe. Treat your people like you’d hope someone would treat your son or daughter and you will likely have very happy employees in 2017.”