Top 10 Trends in Small Business for 2014 – Part Two

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2014 biz trends

(Continuing my annual look at the top trends in small business.)

One of the best things about being in business today (or worst, I suppose, depending upon your point of view) is that it is always changing; not only do you need to be a savvy entrepreneur now, but you better be a life-long learner as well if you are going to stay in business.

Back in the day, a businessperson could be just that. Know your products and customers, be good at marketing and have a few other tricks up your sleeve and you were good to go. Not so now. In today’s world you have to be a jack-of-all-trades, and then some. Business, technology, social media, marketing, SEO, outsourcing – it all comes into play now.

And so it is with today’s trends. These are the things that are likely going to be important for you to know or learn going forward.

Today, the top five:

5. Content is Emperor: Whenever I give a speech about business growth or small business marketing, a question I inevitably goes something like this: “How do I get on Page One of a Google or Bing result?”

SEO (search engine optimization) is a tricky business. With, our search traffic increased almost ten-fold over the past year. How did we do that? Good, old-fashioned hard work. We post a lot of quality content, share it via social media, and get people to share it as well.

There is no magic potion. Search engines like Google and Bing are increasingly rewarding sites that post great content that people like and share. For instance, in this past year Google has made some significant changes to its search algorithm.

It’s all very technical of course, and secretive, but the upshot is that Google is working to increase the rankings of sites and pages with high quality content and decrease the visibility of pages with “low quality content.” What is considered “high quality?” Essentially it is content that is original, shared, contains links that provide value, and which avoid SEO tricks. Longer, more in-depth articles also seem to be getting more SEO love lately too.

It used to be said that “content is king.” That is truer today than ever. As Rupert Murdoch observed, content is now emperor.

4. You will be paying more attention to healthcare than you want to: You bet, we are all sick (ha!) of hearing about healthcare.

Too bad.

Unfortunately, healthcare – it’s costs, delivery, and so forth – isn’t going away anytime soon. Delays in the business mandate and the small business online exchanges (SHOPs) mean that we will continue to be plagued by the Obamacare “debate” and its effects on small business.

If there is any good news here, it is that healthcare costs have begun to slow down significantly in the past year.

3. Social loses some luster: Social media! You have to be involved in social media! You have to increase the time you spend on social media!

Yes, the drumbeat continues for small businesses to spend ever more time on social media, and many small businesses are hearing the siren call. But guess what? Most still don’t see a return. According to a Manta survey issued last year, while small businesses continue to increase the time and money they spend on social media, only 39% see a return on their investment.

That means that more than 60% of small business owners do not get great value out of social media, even though a whopping 81% either have increased the amount of time they are investing in social media or stayed the same.

2. Mobile matters more: A recent Harris survey found that 63% of women and 73% of men check their cell phones at least hourly. People are shopping more on their mobile and searching way more on their mobile phone.

  • According to Yelp, almost 60% of its searches on done on mobile
  • According to comScore, 40% of the time spent on the Internet is done via mobile phones
  • More than half of all Facebook users are on mobile.

And, according to Google, 61% of mobile searches end up in a phone call being made, with 30 million click-to-calls now being made per month.

And, the Number 1 small business trend of 2014:

1. Have it your way: Business used to be a top-down endeavor: The owner, boss or manager would say the way it was and that’s the way it would be. 9 to 5. Business casual only on Fridays Company issues BlackBerrys. How quaint.

In 2014, what we are seeing is the advent of a new era where business is becoming far more individualistic. Take, for example, the phenomenon of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). Rather than fight the current, businesses are now allowing, nay encouraging, employees to bring and use their own personal gadgets and devices to work. It’s easier and cheaper than buying new for everyone.

Or what about the cloud? Now that people can access company info and documents from anywhere, they work everywhere. The mobile phenomenon above equally means that people work how, when, and where they want. Watch a Ted talk and you know that corporate dress may also be a thing of the past.

Welcome to the future.