Technology continues to transform how small businesses work, from increasing efficiencies and automating processes, to broadening customer bases and showcasing competitive advantages. For 2017, Excelsior Growth Fund has identified leading digital-based opportunities and challenges – and staying on top of these trends can help your small business thrive in today’s ever-changing business landscape.
While e-commerce isn’t new, it continues to grow. eMarketer’s report “Worldwide Retail Ecommerce Sales: The eMarketer Forecast for 2016” indicates that double-digit growth will continue through 2020, when online sales will top $4 trillion.
Are you ready to capture a slice of that with an e-commerce platform that attracts and retains customers through easy-to-use tools and transaction systems?
Is your website mobile-friendly? Where and how often do you engage existing and potential customers? Are you taking advantage of optimization tools to showcase your brand across multiple platforms? If you haven’t already embraced the latest technology – websites, software and apps – to build your online presence and sales funnel, now is the time. Offer real-time customer service and easy, automated return systems. Responsive and engaging customer service creates experiences that build brand loyalty, and hassle-free returns ensure new customers that your business is both legitimate and user-friendly.
The social media landscape continues to dominate as a place for frequent news and information updates. Facebook reached 1.79 billion monthly active users in the third quarter of 2016, followed by YouTube at 1.3 billion users.
Why not harness its power to grow your business in 2017?
To start, learn about the different social media platforms to determine which works best for your target audience and type of business, and meet your customers where they are on social media. Do you have a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter business page? Consider setting these up if your existing and potential clients interact through them.
Small businesses can also use video to increase engagement with target audiences. From product demonstrations to client testimonials, videos are a powerful tool when executed well. Keep them brief: video engagement and views plummet if they’re too long, and a good rule of thumb is to keep videos between 15 seconds and two minutes. Production doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, either, as long as your videos support and enhance your business’s brand.
Finally, review the results of your efforts on social media. Does your Facebook business page result in leads or meeting requests? Has your YouTube video translated to more sales inquiries? With a strong social media marketing campaign in place, leads should come your way.
Gone are the days when strong keywords, meta-tags and links were enough to reach existing and potential customers. To gain and keep the attention of your audience, deliver content that speaks to their interests, wants and needs through interactive storytelling and targeted messaging. Content marketing continues to play a major role in the overall marketing mix in 2017, so ensure that your content is engaging and relevant.
Cybersecurity and Data Privacy
Businesses across nearly all industries have been compromised by online attacks, resulting in devastating consequences on bottom lines and brands – and cybersecurity professionals indicate that 2017 is the year that cybersecurity and data privacy will take center stage. And although cyberattacks on large companies make the headlines, small businesses are often prime targets: U.S. Congress’s House Small Business Committee notes that 71 percent of cyberattacks occur at businesses with fewer than 100 employees.
Cybersecurity and data privacy measures must be put in place as part of your business’s risk management plans, no matter the size of your operation. While it’s important to tailor your security solution to meet your business’s needs, you can protect it from basic threats by taking the following steps:
- Understand your vulnerabilities to cyberattacks. Learn about different types of threats including malware, phishing, system-hacking, and spoofing scams, to name a few.
- Put protocols in place for you and your employees, and ensure that everyone follows them to protect your business infrastructure and data.
- Keep your antivirus software up-to-date and consider implementing firewalls to help protect against threats.
- Consider investing in data-backup solutions, encryption software and two-step authentication software.
Be prepared with an action plan in the event of a security breach. Define what steps should be taken and practice them with employees to build accountability and knowledge about what to do when an actual breach takes place.
Leveraging these digital trends can be a low-cost way to optimize your business’s reach to an unlimited pool of potential customers, stay in touch with existing clients, and ensure that everyone you do business with feels confident and secure in 2017.
About Excelsior Growth Fund
Excelsior Growth Fund (EGF) helps businesses in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania grow by providing streamlined access to business loans and advisory services. EGF’s signature product, the EGF SmartLoan™, provides up to $100,000 in fast, transparent, and affordable financing through a secure online platform. Larger loans up to $500,000 are also available. EGF is a nonprofit organization and is certified by U.S. Department of Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). Learn more atwww.excelsiorgrowthfund.org.