As we move into a brand new year, brand new opportunities to grow and develop your business will appear. Here are some of our top opportunities to create a step-change in your business in the year ahead.
Move from sales people to subject specialists
The growth of e-commerce shows that people don’t always need that push from a salesperson to buy, they’re more interested in gathering as much information as possible to make an informed decision. If your staff become more focussed on providing useful information rather than pushing for a sale, for example, instead of a sales team, they are product/subject specialists, you may in fact see your sales soar.
Providing your subject specialists with support from others in the company to manage proposals and invoices, track details and provide after sales support is essential, so that your subject specialists can concentrate on answering questions and providing valuable information.
Use crowdfunding for valuable market insight and validation
Once viewed as an ‘alternative’ funding stream, crowdfunding is now a realistic option for a wide variety of businesses, from start ups and SMEs to big businesses like games company Hasbro and beverage company Anheuser-Busch (the business behind Budweiser). While crowdfunding provides valuable funds when you need them, it can also provide useful validation for your business ideas.
Testing the market via crowdfunding before embarking on costly product development can help you to decide where to focus your efforts. Enhancements and new products can be prioritised depending on the success and speed of crowdfunding projects.
Video becomes essential
In a recent Forbes study, 80% of senior executives said that they are watching more online video today than they were a year ago.
The same survey found that senior executives like information in a mix of text and video, with many willing to engage with longer videos.
It’s important to distinguish between purely promotional and information videos. Using video to produce advertisements today won’t give as much return as producing a piece of valuable informative content that addresses customer issues and answers important questions.
Personalisation is key
It’s human nature to want to feel special and not just part of a crowd. Customer service works perfectly when you feel looked after and that someone cares about you. Businesses are now recognising that personalising all communications, not just one-to-one but in a group environment, can help them to connect with customers.
Think about how companies like Amazon will suggest what else you might like based on what you’ve looked at or bought in the past. Or when Netflix recommends new programmes and films for you because of your interest in watching a certain movie. Yes, both of those companies use complicated algorithms to do those things, but 2017 will show that personalisation isn’t beyond the reach of small businesses.
Marketing automation systems can help you to ‘tag’ your data, find out more about your customers and segment them based on their various interests, previous purchases and their stage in the buying journey. You can then send them communications based on what you know about them and their priorities, making them feel valued and more likely to take action.
Regular revenue streams
The rise in popularity of subscription services in the UK is huge. Everything from healthy snacks (like Graze boxes) to razors (like Friction Free Shaving) to beauty products (like Birchbox) can now arrive on a regular basis through your letterbox.
Couple these physical deliveries with subscription services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Now TV and you’ll start to realise the sheer scale of products and services that are regularly purchased and the opportunities that could be tapped into.
Most subscription offers are billed as flexible and with the possibility to cancel at any time. This freedom gives customers confidence that they’re not being tied into a big commitment, but in reality they could end up spending more over a longer period of small amounts than they would in one large purchase.
Think about how your products or services could be sold as a regular purchase – it doesn’t need to be an obvious consumer product, as more and more services for businesses are moving towards subscriptions or renewed licences for a large proportion of their customers.
Retraining and reskilling
As more jobs become automated, it’s important that you make the most of the staff you have by ensuring they’re trained in areas that will be of most value to you as your business processes move forward.
Ensuring that all of your staff become more tech-savvy, even at a most basic level, will pay off as more of every role becomes more technologically reliant. Remember, a computer can only do what a person programs it to do.
‘Human’ skills like creativity and quality assurance that require thought and feeling will be difficult for a computer to ever replicate, and so concentrating on retraining your staff to perform jobs that only humans can accomplish will ensure that your workforce continues to add value to your business and feel valued themselves. Hundreds of online courses like those offered by providers like FutureLearn are available free of charge, so upskilling doesn’t necessarily need to cost a fortune.