The business landscape is continually changing and as we creep even closer to the end of 2016, now’s the perfect time to consider some of the trends that will really come to the forefront of 2017.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Machine-learning and artificial intelligence were major buzzwords in 2016. Computing with the power to think like we do, only smarter, is at the forefront of a movement which promises to completely change the way we look at work. We’ve already seen a rise in consumer products that harness this intelligence like Amazon’s Echo. Other big players like Facebook and Google are also entering the mix with their respective projects. Clearly AI is being taken extremely seriously in the business world, but what does it mean for SMEs?
There are already a wealth of tools available which continue to evolve. For example, AI powered personal assistants that manage your schedule for you have already hit the market and customer relationship management (CRM) tools are beginning to automatically anticipate and input useful data to save time on manual tasks. There are even tools that continually learn through wide scale trend analysis in order to help managers write better job ads.
Whatever the application, AI is about streamlining your workload and giving you more time to do what you’re good at.
We’ve all heard of cloud technology. Though it isn’t a new concept, the cloud will continue to power on into 2017. A whole host of Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms are embracing the cloud to provide powerful and affordable solutions. Mass market products like Google Drive, MailChimp and SurveyMonkey are amongst a never ending list of cloud service providers that help SMEs to challenge bigger players in the market. Software is no longer a luxury for large enterprise business and in 2017 we’ll continue to see smaller companies disrupt the market by harnessing the latest technology.
Whether investing in finance software, marketing tools, CRMs or anything else for that matter, the ability to manage them over the Internet gives small businesses more agility than ever before. All you need is an active Internet connection and you’re good to do business. Perfect, right?
Yahoo recently announced that it was the victim of the world’s biggest hack, with 1 billion users’ data being stolen. Protecting your data isn’t a practice reserved for the big companies anymore…everybody is at risk. There has been a significant a rise in the use of ransomware – when hackers seize control of your data, encrypt it and hold it ransom (refusing to decrypt it until payment has been made) – which means your data is at risk.
Crime rings are becoming more and more sophisticated, making ransomware a viable threat in 2017. What better reason to keep all of your software and hardware up-to-date and your passwords hyper-secure?
The good news is we’ll start to see smarter security products in 2017 that’ll help battle the threat to our increasingly cloud-based infrastructure. These systems will be better equipped to deal with the threats more efficiently, helping businesses of all sizes anticipate breaches better than ever before.
Remember, these threats are constantly changing. So is the technology used to protect against them. Make 2017 the year you take data security seriously – Getting it wrong could be a costly mistake.
Sales and marketing become one
B2B and B2C customers do more online research than ever before. The most successful businesses are the ones that marry sales and marketing the most effectively. According to Hubspot, sales and marketing teams that work together see 36% high customer retention and 38% higher sales win rates.
Think about your target customer – What’s their struggle? What would make them nervous about investing? What’s involved in implementing your product or service? Use your marketing to answer these questions so that any sales work you do is constantly supported by credible content and vice versa.
We’ve seen marketing and sales becoming closer and closer together in the last few years and that’ll continue deep into 2017. The greater the synergy between your sales and marketing efforts, the faster you’ll be able to scale your business. Don’t worry though, just because your business isn’t ready for separate sales and marketing functions yet doesn’t mean you can’t still employ these best practices at a smaller scale.
The core message for 2017 is that everything in your business should be working together. No single component, whether finance, IT and security, marketing, sales…or anything else for that matter…should be working in isolation from another. The most successful businesses realise that no matter the size of the business, each of these components plays an important role in success.
Sure, as a small business owner you might have multiple areas of responsibility, but if you can get the balance right, you’ll certainly see your business grow. Use 2017 as the year for efficiency. Drive down time taken on administration and maximise your time on doing what you set your business up to do.