2018 Business Predictions: 11 Trends Experts Say You Should Expect

2018 small business predictions
by Ryan Alleman     Monday, November 27th, 2017.

The future, today: 2018 small business predictions.

At Jive, we’ve peered into our crystal ball to make some 2018 small business predictions. And by crystal ball, we mean we’ve asked leaders in business, technology, and marketing to share some insights for 2018. Here’s what they had to say:

#1. Social media marketing

Social media has sent shockwaves throughout the business world for the past few years. In 2017, over three-quarters of small business owners said they’d incorporated social media into their overall marketing efforts. In 2018, social media is expected to be more vital than ever, especially to small businesses trying to compete on equal footing with enterprise-level players.

Mordecai Holtz predictions

Facebook ads. It’s time to understand that this behemoth has the granular data to target anyone. Start paying for promotion. It’s the new media buying that is trackable in real time.

—Mordecai Holtz, Blue Thread Marketing

Adam Stoker 2018 predictions

More and more small businesses will continue to adopt social media platforms like Facebook to target local communities. That entails diverting spend from local, traditional media channels. The low cost, limited waste, and ability to target at a granular level will lure these businesses into social platforms.

—Adam Stoker, Relic

Facebook is the definite heavyweight when it comes to social media marketing. But our experts also pointed out other, underutilized platforms that could become a force in the future.

 

Instagram Direct Message automation and conversation isn’t a new feature, but it’s been severely underutilized. It’s now starting to pick up because of the affordability for businesses that fly under the radar, like Target New Friends. Small business owners can:Nathan Garlock 2018 predictions

  • Send a direct message that gives a new follower a product promo code
  • Source/prospect leads for B2C markets
  • Start a conversation
  • Build a network

—Nathan Garlock, The Provo Living Room

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#2. Software and the Cloud

Small businesses have tackled the virtual divide in increasing numbers. Over 90 percent of them currently use one or more cloud-based solutions. Business owners have swiftly noticed the difference between those who use the Cloud and those who have fallen behind.

Logan Mallory small business predictionsIt’s clear SMBs that close the digital gap will succeed. Every day, the distance between massive organizations (Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon) and SMBs increases. This is because large companies continue to develop their technologies, which increases the advantages available to them. SMBs that can get technology to do some of their heavy lifting will stand a better chance of success. One of the best ways to do this is to leverage the Cloud in as many areas as possible.

—Logan Mallory, Jive Communications, Inc.

Cloud-based business solutions (CRM, etc.) allow Andreas Jaeger 2018 small business predictionsSMBs to manage their businesses with minimal equipment, which saves their company loads of money and time. Furthermore, it allows them to truly claim to be a “green” business, which is vital nowadays. Not only for the environmental factors, but also because of the amount of money one single business could save. The budget you’d save by not having to buy paper, printer, ink—office supplies in general—is staggering.

—Andreas Jaeger, Business Process Consult

#3. Automation

Automation and artificial intelligence no longer lives solely in science fiction. These days, AI plays a critical role in a business’s operations. But rather than eliminating jobs, they’re actually freeing up employees and resources to provide better service. According to a Salesforce report, thriving small businesses were 1.6 times likelier than their failing competitors to use technology to automate their processes.

Mordecai predictions

Chatbots and automation of business intelligence and big data is a great way to have clients’ digital marketing efforts scaled at a relatively low cost. Automating content and marketing also enables brands to simplify the customer experience. That said, it shouldn’t replace a human interaction and an opportunity to impress customers.

—Mordecai Holtz, Blue Thread Marketing

Automation efforts will also include reaching out to third-party service providers with access to specialized resources and tools.

Danny Allen small business predictionsSolutions available in 2018 are going to change the way marketing budgets are allocated. Outsourced help is easier to find than ever through platforms like UpWork, Freelancer.com, and LinkedIn’s new tool—ProFinder. Not only will these tools provide hefty lists of people to work with, they’ll also grant the ability to sort through them based on criteria you care about. The moment business owners and their marketers master these tools is the moment they’ll begin saving their company money as they can accomplish important tasks (from site development to social media posting) at a fraction of the cost of doing everything “in house.”

—Danny Allen, 97th Floor

#4. Millennial marketing and workforce

Millennials came of age in 2015 when they became the largest generation occupying the workforce. Within two years, they’re poised to own 75 percent of the workforce and become a formidable target demographic worth an estimated $1.4 trillion. Engaging Millennials as both employees and customers will become a focus for small businesses.

Adam Stoker 2018 predictions

Small businesses will complain less about millennials and instead build programs within their businesses that are more conducive to today’s millennial workforce. Enterprise companies will no longer be the only companies that structure their culture around the millennial workforce.

—Adam Stoker, Relic

Logan Mallory small business predictionsSuccessful SMBs will need to have a marketing strategy that engages Millennials. According to HubSpot, 84 percent of Millennials don’t trust traditional advertising mediums, so if you want to succeed there, you’ll have to speak to them using channels where they spend the most time. Looking for some examples? Not that these are SMBs anymore, but you can learn from businesses like Airbnb, Netflix, and Starbucks.

—Logan Mallory, Jive Communications, Inc.

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#5. Remote work

More workers than ever (over 40 percent) work—at least in part—remotely. The business office probably isn’t going anywhere soon, but our experts said to look out, because this trend is going to spread.

Andreas Jaeger 2018 small business predictionsWatch for a dramatic increase in the number of people who work from home. More and more people are realizing they can indeed run a business from their homes without needing to go to a 9–5 job in an office. This trend will grow considerably in the next year due to the amount, and variety, of tools becoming available and the different mechanisms (sales and marketing) that are coming to the forefront online.

—Andreas Jaeger, Business Process Consult

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#6. Digital advertising and marketing

Marketing is constantly evolving to meet changing technological and generational needs. Our experts outline areas where we’ll see changes in 2018:

Danny Allen small business predictionsDigital advertising in 2018 will be more sophisticated than ever. A few years ago, remarketing/retargeting was all the buzz, but now you have geo-fencing, contextual search targeting, and improved social ad platforms like Snapchat’s newly announced audience targeting capabilities. While some of these sophisticated strategies have only previously been accessible to large enterprises with insane budgets and resources, advertising platforms (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) are looking to take a piece of the small- and medium-sized business pie by providing easier-to-use platforms, free-trial promotions, and extensive training resources.

—Danny Allen, 97th Floor

Unfortunately, small to medium business as a whole haven’t prioritized marketing. In part, Mike Hanselman small business predictionsthis is because of cost and because marketing is a foreign language that many business leaders simply don’t understand. In the coming year, SMBs will begin to lean more towards their company’s story both in origin and the people inside their organization. At the end of the day—people buy you and your story before they buy your product or service. SMBs will grow louder when it comes to talking about their identities and the solutions they provide.

—Mike Hanselman, Pith Works

The rise of marketing automation tools have Matt Shealy small business predictionsgiven businesses the ability to integrate disparate systems in order to deliver content that is personalized on an individual one-on-one basis. Big business has been taking advantage of their data in this way for years, but now SMBs have the same ability. Having email automation, CRM and ecommerce platforms all communicating data back and forth, for example, gives businesses the ability to deliver personalized content based on a customer’s behavior. This could include transactional history, age, gender, geolocation and more.

—Matt Shealy, SwayyEm

#7. The mobile user experience

Business must cater to mobile customers, especially when 96 percent of customers use their smartphones to conduct research. This requires a change in the way many business owners’ approach their customers’ online experience.

Mordecai predictions

 

Think mobile user experience first, not desktop. As customers’ preference becomes mobile-first, sites and brands need to shift the content to fit the medium.

-Mordecai Holtz, Blue Thread Marketing

 

I expect markets to shift to have only a handful of successful businesses dominating while the rest suffer. Consumers are getting impatient and entitled. If your Johnny Wenzel small business predictionsbusiness can’t offer a near-perfect experience, there will be little room for forgiveness. The digital world is dominated by mobile, which only shows one or two businesses above the fold for a search. I see a day coming where a consumer tells Google or Alexa: “Book a dental appointment for Thursday morning,” or, “Buy my textbooks,” and expect it to all be done for them—which means your business is either getting automatically chosen or it’s not.


What can be done? My number one suggestion is to advertise with Google AdWords (or Amazon Ads, if you sell there). Any budget can be profitable with a well-built campaign that guarantees you get above the fold. Other tips include creating a loyalty program, find ways to get personal with customers, and stay up to date with the best technology your industry has to offer.
—Johnny Wenzel, POD Marketing Inc.

#8. Live marketing

A major shift in marketing is the demand for live experiences. A majority of audiences (80 percent) would rather watch a video than read a blog. And 74 percent of customers have a positive opinion about a business after brand-driven event.

Mordecai predictions

 

Here’s what I see really taking off: live marketing with livestream, interviews, live blogging. All of this engages audiences. No event should miss an opportunity to share live content and interactions with customers, or participants during the event.

—Mordecai Holtz, Blue Thread Marketing

#9. Small-team specialization

The small business that can do more with less is in a better position to come out on top. That’s why our experts predict that smaller, more agile teams will become the standard for most companies.

Travis Pitcher small business predictionsOne of the most influential things that has happened to us this year is small-team specialization. What I mean by that is having clients that have widely different needs, and having to attend to those needs with our limited resources. That is where we help build small teams of employees and contractors with specialized skills that do really amazing work. It’s quick, unbureaucratic, and enables very high-quality work to be done in less time and with less money. It’s also scalable, collaborative, fiscally sound, and encourages both clients and the workers.

—Travis Pitcher, The Good Line

#10. Online reputation management

There’s no question that a bad review online can seriously hurt a business. It doesn’t help that 90 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations and only 33 percent trust traditional advertising. That’s why online reputation and influencer marketing will dominate 2018.

Johnny Wenzel small business predictionsConsumers are leaning more heavily on customer-driven feedback when it comes to purchasing decisions. What do you do? First, make sure your customer service is top notch. The best way to do this is to acquire customer feedback and adapt. Second, implement an online review strategy. Send post-purchase surveys. Offer an incentive for people who leave reviews (for example, 10 percent off their next purchase). Here’s a bonus hack: respond to every review you receive online. Best case scenario, a negative review gets taken down or a positive reviewer becomes more loyal. Worst case, potential customers see that you care about your customers enough to listen and respond to them.

—Johnny Wenzel, POD Marketing Inc.

 

Small businesses have been dipping their toes into the proverbial influencer-marketing pool Matt Shealy small business predictionsover the last couple years with various levels of success. As the influencer space grows up, SMBs should take the learnings from others to deploy strategies that drive actual bottom-line results. Local micro-influencers on Instagram is one area that SMBs need to utilize. As a tactic, SMBs can use Instagram search filters to identify niche influencers in their area and DM them to connect and share on their behalf. This is a huge growth opportunity in the social space for 2018 . . . until Instagram closes the DM hole forever.

—Matt Shealy, SwayyEm

 

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#11. Personal interactions and community investment

The news is full of tragedies. Businesses have the chance to combat the depressing news by finding opportunities to engage the surrounding community. They’ll also seek out opportunities to move beyond social media and interact with customers on a personal level.

 

Mike Hanselman small business predictionsSmall to medium business leaders and owners (especially those with younger employees like Millennials) are beginning to understand the importance of investing in the community where they live and work. Let’s be honest in saying that, although this is for a good cause, I’ve chosen the word “investment” very deliberately. All businesses give back to their community for two reasons: One, because it’s the right thing to do, and two, because they ultimately want their good faith to come back in the form of business.

—Mike Hanselman, Pith Works

Travis Pitcher small business predictions

SMBs will look to develop personas outside of traditional social media and seek out more personal interactions with each other. Social media is more impersonal and superfluous than it has been in the past. I think it’s ultimately toxic to a degree. Finding meaningful, sincere ways to interact, network, and exchange value will become essential to SMBs. Developing experiences and interactions with customers and collaborators will be incredibly important down the road.

—Travis Pitcher, The Good Line

Blink and you’ll miss 2018.

That’s your glimpse into the future, and it’s a lot to prepare for in the final weeks of 2017, so act fast. Evaluate social media platforms and automate your process. But don’t lose sight of the personal touch that makes businesses attractive to Millennial employees and customers. Community outreach, online reputation management, workforce specialization—along with remote work—will also affect your bottom line in the future.

And before you know it, these 2018 small business predictions will be in the rearview mirror. Then you’ll have to worry about what’s coming down the pike in 2019.

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