Small Business Trends: Top 5 predictions for 2015 [and how to prepare]

This article was originally published on Anchor Advisors.

Based on the broad economic indicators 2015 is shaping up to be a terrific year for the US economy. The question is, for most business owners, “What will that mean for my business?” A robust economy generally means that our customers have more money to spend, so our sales pipelines might start to really move again. But all that demand can also drive up our costs; and that can mean that we end up working harder to make the same money.

Business predictions

While I don’t have a crystal ball, I do have an opportunity to see inside a number of real businesses. Working from that angle, I’ve drawn some conclusions about where I see businesses going in 2015. Here they are: My small business trends for 2015:

1. More clients will come to you through your website in 2015

I know, I know. People have been saying for years that this is the small business trend to look out for — that “all your business” is going to come through your website, and for many of us that just hasn’t happened. There are businesses that get a bigger share of their leads through their website. These folks invest in their website as an important marketing channel: they are developing content to attract buyers, making relevant offers to capture contact information and following up to qualify and convert those leads.

If you aren’t using your website to strategically capture new business, you need to get started. 2015 has the makings of a perfect storm that will drive buyers to the web for purchasing decisions. If the economy does grow significantly in 2015, your prospects are going to need your help — but they are going to be time starved. They are going to want to do most of the purchasing research themselves. These buyers are getting younger every year; they are more comfortable with using the web to support their purchasing decisions, and they rely on search engines to guide them along the way.

What to do now:

  • Start now with some SEO help. If you are on page two (or beyond) for your key search terms, you just don’t exist!
  • Begin using your website to answer the pre-sales questions that you routinely answer with prospects.
  • Develop a strategy to capture leads on your website through the use of relevant offers.

2. As the talent market continues to tighten, salaries will rise significantly

Unemployment is currently at 5.8%; but new unemployment claims are down significantly the last few months. Folks who had stopped searching for jobs are looking again (and they are finding work). The pattern we’ve seen in our recruiting work is that candidates are accepting jobs before we can get them through the interview process.

There’s a particular shortage of candidates with 3 – 5 years of experience; you know, those really valuable, young, (relatively cheap) candidates who are so precious when you are growing your staff. The last 3 – 5 years have been tough, and many of the folks who graduated in that time frame didn’t get the experience that they needed — so these candidates are just not there!

If the economy heats up, we are going to see younger team members start to jump ship, and get significant raises when they do. If your competitors’ businesses are growing, they are going to need to staff up, and their only answer is going to be to steal your good people.

What to do now:

  • Proactively review the salaries of your “up-and-comers”– those folks that it would really hurt to lose. You might need to make some raises even before their review dates to make sure that you are in sync with the market.
  • Start to build your bench talent, either by hiring some younger, inexperienced folks that you can start to train, or by meeting and building relationships with talented folks who might be working elsewhere. Hit your industry events and meet the competition in case you’re the one growing and you need to do some raiding!

3. There will be more virtual employees

If the talent market does get tight, it may not be easy to find good talent close to home. We may be forced to look far afield to find the talent we need. That means thinking about hiring folks who can’t, or won’t, come into the office on a regular basis.

Again, I am seeing a few businesses that are doing this already — with some success. There are those that have gone completely virtual — the “big office” is gone. The team uses online collaboration tools, Skype (or some other video conferencing system) and periodic face-to-face meetings to keep everyone in sync. Others have kept the big office, but have a few “remote” employees with experience or skills that can’t be found locally. One client of ours has found that the discipline and process that they created to manage their remote team members has made their whole company more efficient.

What to do now:

  • You need to start experimenting with what tools might work for your team. Offer to let some of your high performers work from home (if they have a suitable space) one or two days a week, and try out some different ways to stay connected.
  • Review your processes and identify places where there’s a lot of ambiguity that usually gets solved by a hallway discussion or an impromptu meeting. How might you clear that stuff up if folks aren’t face-to-face?

4. There will be more creative pricing strategies

The SAAS model has revolutionized the software industry; and it’s coming for your business, too. More and more buyers are comfortable with the simplicity and predictability of a flat monthly fee. How can you adapt — or adopt — that model for your business?

If 2015 is going to get moving at a faster pace, we can’t be going back and forth with proposals and statements-of-work. We need to get clients started now; and flat rate pricing will help you do that.

Maybe for you it’s not flat rate pricing. Maybe it’s a fixed fee with a success bonus, or maybe it’s a percentage of savings. No matter how you slice it, the truth is that your competitors are getting more creative with pricing strategies — is it time for you to join them?

What to do now:

  • Understand how others in your industry are approaching pricing; what’s being un-bundled? What can be done flat-fee? How can we make our services easier to buy?
  • Experiment. Try something different. It might not work the first time, but be patient. Allow yourself a learning curve. If you never try, you’ll never figure it out!

5. Online learning will continue growing

College isn’t getting any cheaper, and college graduates still don’t have the skills we need them to have to be useful in our organizations. How do we improve their skills faster? I see more and more organizations choosing on-line classes to gain the skills and experience they need in their staff. The world is changing. Where can you get good training in marketing automation, or how to lead virtual teams, or that newest software tool you’ve been looking into (but no one knows how to use)?

Online classes are popping up everywhere, from big marketplaces like Lynda.com to niche offerings like Marketing Profs University. There’s some terrific offerings out there that can quickly, and (relatively) inexpensively, help your team get the training they need.

What to do now:

  • Buy a Lynda.com subscription and get your staff using it.
  • Investigate niche offerings in your industry.
  • Start thinking about what your team knows about that might be helpful to others. Could you sell an online class?

That’s my list, I’d love to hear what small business trends you see coming in 2015.

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Devan Perine

Devan Perine works with small business owners on their marketing and multimedia efforts. She's passionate about helping businesses build their presence online, and giving Gen Y a voice in the workplace. When she's not working, she loves to make a mess in the kitchen, and play with her band around Chicago. She loves to chat! Give her a shout on Google+, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Comments

  1. Marta Stelmaszak says:

    These are very good, thank you! I will certainly use them in my action plan for 2015.

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