I don’t know about you, but the last two years have left me aching to throw off the stagnation and depleted energy that has plagued so much of the small business community.
Of course, that’s easier said than done, am I right?
Back in ye olde “precedented” times, running a small business and staying on top of small business trends was hard enough. Today, as life and global events continue to throw curveballs, it’s more challenging than ever to rise above burnout. You’re trying to feed your family, keep the lights on, and pay your employees (if you have them). All the while, you’re potentially wrestling with questions like:
“Will this be the last year I call myself a business owner?”
“Can I keep doing this?”
“How the hell am I going to keep up with everything?”
This narrative gets lost in a lot of the “inspirational” small business rhetoric we see on social media. It’s almost insulting how much of it completely glosses over how emotional business ownership can be.
That’s exactly why I created this small business trends round-up for you. You’re incredibly busy. So busy, in fact, it’s likely impossible to think about how you can research everything you need to know. What’s changing in the world of small business, and what does it mean for you? Those are questions you likely don’t have time to answer.
As a small business owner, you need to know what’s on the horizon — even if only at an abstract or subconscious level. That way, when those larger, seismic shifts finally arrive to rock our collective worlds, it’s far less jarring and frustrating.
For example, a year from now, you don’t want to be scrambling thousands of miles behind the proverbial eight-ball, exploring ChatGPT and AI for the first time. (BTW, we’re going to unpack this topic separately soon. No one is about to lose their job to ChatGPT, no matter what the fear-mongers say. Still, mark my words! It’s an innovation on par with what the iPhone did for photography.)
But if you learn about these subjects now, it will be easier for you to level up later on.
That’s why my goal here is to increase your awareness around the small business trends that matter most. By the end of this, you should feel equipped to look at your business through a new lens, so you can make smarter decisions faster over the next 12 months.
Even if AI tools like ChatGPT seem completely foreign to you, they’re already being integrated into platforms you’re currently using, and that’s only going to continue. Moreover, depending on what products or services you sell, your competitors may already be experimenting with using AI.
So, at the very least, your first homework assignment is to learn about AI and how it may work for you. Don’t worry at first about trying to use it in your business. Experiment, watch what others are doing, and absorb everything you can. From there, you can decide if and how you can integrate AI tools into your current workflows and processes. Again, we’re going to dig DEEP into AI and ChatGPT soon, so I’m going to put a pin in this discussion for now.
For years, video has risen in the ranks as a powerful marketing and sales tool for small businesses. But the meteoric rise of TikTok (as well as Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts in its wake) has paved the way for short-form video to become a dominating force. Our love — nay, addiction! — to short-form videos has led social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube to prioritize this type of content in feeds because the data shows we’ll scroll longer.
If you don’t believe me, I’ll let the numbers do the talking. For example, 73% of buyers say they prefer watching short-form videos to learn about products or services they’re considering. Written content still matters, of course. But month over month, year over year, video continues to underscore in Sharpie how critical it is for brands on social media.
There was a moment in time when everyone was grasping at over-saturated Instagram filters in a desperate bid to become an influencer. Back then, being an influencer was the only pathway to earn partnerships with brands. Today, that is no longer the case.
In fact, you don’t need a single follower in order to be a content creator. You can create user-generated content (UGC) for brands. User-generated content is exactly what it sounds like. A brand contracts a creator to develop unique social media content featuring its products and services. Instead of the content being promoted to followers on the creator’s channels, however, the content is published by the brand.
What does this mean for you, the small business owner? Well, one of two things. First, if you’re highly creative, UGC is a potential new revenue stream for you through brand partnerships.
Second, if you’re not interested in being a content creator, creators who specialize in UGC may be a great option for you. You’ll open up a new channel to create authentic, trust-building content that will improve how you market your brand. You could also find organic spaces in your clientflow to make it easy for your clients to make short-form video testimonials you can share with your audience.
We now live in a world where, anything we want, we want it yesterday. (Thanks, Amazon.) So, when it comes to brands we buy from or vendors we partner with, we want them to give us what we need before we even know what our needs are. We want full visibility into everything at all times.
We’re also much less tolerant of lapses in communication, no matter how reasonable the reasons for them are. We have to know where everything stands, on our terms, on our schedule. That means, as business owners and entrepreneurs, we need to be mindful of this shift. Our clients value immediacy, transparency, and communication more than ever.
This presents a distinct challenge though, right?
We’re already struggling with boundaries and saying “no!” to being available 24/7 whenever our clients come calling. We also can’t ignore this trend or pretend like it’s going to reverse itself — it won’t. (In some industries, agencies are struggling to escape the chopping block due to clients having much higher expectations.)
Instead, you need to get honest with yourself about what parts of your business processes are broken. Specifically, what parts of your clientflow need to be overhauled, optimized, or completely reimagined with technology and marketing automation?
For example, if you’re still manually sending out follow-ups, invoices, or reminders, you’ve got a problem. If you’ve sent any emails in the past month that started with “Thank you for your patience!” — because we’re not saying, “I’m sorry for the delay!” anymore — you’ve got a problem.
The experience you provide your clients now extends beyond the products and services you sell; every touchpoint matters. Act and adjust accordingly, you can no longer afford not to.
Depending on who you ask, we have been, are on the edge of, or are looking ahead to a recession … or, at the very least, an incredibly rocky economic period. That means you need to get comfortable with the idea of pivoting. If you run a business established prior to the pandemic, and you’re still standing, you know exactly what I’m talking about. When times get tough, your resiliency and agility will be leading indicators of your success.
Think about your business like a canoe. If you only have one product or service, you’re rowing with a single paddle. If you lose your grip on that paddle, you’ll have no way to navigate safely through choppy waters. If, however, you have a spare paddle or three you can reach for in an emergency (i.e., backup products or services), you’ll still be OK!
Yes, times like these are scary, but recessions are a breeding ground for innovation. It’s kind of like an orange. What happens when you put an orange under pressure? You get the juice, the best part of the orange!
So, ask yourself:
Your goal right now is to face this inflection point head-on. This is your chance to embrace innovation for your business, where risk mitigation meets inspiration and creativity. If you’re a photographer, you could bundle and sell presets to individuals as a passive source of income. If you’re a skilled creative, UGC may hold a lot of promise.
OK, you may be feeling more confused than energized by some (or all) of these small business trends. But my challenge to you is to start dreaming like a real CEO. More simply, stop being a Chief Everything Officer and be the Chief Executive Officer of your own company.
AI technology and clientflow automation platforms like Honeybook are designed to help you, not defeat you. Be open to change. Lean into technology. Let go of the manual tasks that are holding you back from doing more of the meaningful work that lights you up.
Yes, you may be the magic that makes your business unique and special, but you are not the business. You can hire, you can outsource, you can automate, and you can reimagine how you do business. You don’t have to do everything by yourself, nor should you.
Now is your chance to start running your business, instead of your business running you.
© 2023 Natalie Franke