Small Business Trends You Shouldn’t Overlook in 2014

by Townes Haas
3/25/2014 2:21:27 PM

Some small business trends are obvious, but less common trends are equally noteworthy
Each year, news outlets and small business blogs rush to discuss trends for the coming 12 months. The Huffington Post pointed to increased mobile use, continued paid marketing and social marketing, more e-commerce, and a surge in local searches as trends that will see businesses through 2014. Other outlets predict a surge in entrepreneurship and small business that will continue through the year.

These trends are well known and often discussed, but what about the often-overlooked small business trends? There are a few points that people might miss when it comes to small business, but these trends appear to be lasting.

Coworking spaces remain popular
Coworking was all the rage last year, but don’t expect this trend to go away. Nine out of ten coworking spaces are expected to increase their membership this year. It’s clear that there is a continued demand for the benefits that coworking provides, and the popularity of coworking is one trend that should continue throughout 2014.

Coworking has widespread positive feedback amongst freelancers, small business owners, and telecommuters, and is worth looking into.

Email still converts better than social media
Social media has been coveted as the “it” thing to catapult small businesses into the spotlight for quite some time. But is the return on investment as great as it seems?

Nope. When it comes to customer acquisition, a recent survey by McKinsey and Co. shows that email marketing is 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined.

Small business should still cultivate online relationships with their customers using social media, but the trusted email newsletter is far from dead.

The rise of Software as a Service (SaaS)
Cloud computing is an extremely popular business trend these days, but there’s another level that’s often overlooked: Software as a Service, or SaaS.

SaaS is often called “on-demand software,” and is a software delivery mechanism, where the software and data are hosted on a data center owned by the company providing the software. Salesforce, Basecamp, QuickBooks, and GoToMeeting are all examples of SaaS solutions.

SaaS is great because of it’s low cost and scalability. Now, a one-person firm can compete with larger firms, using the same software and keeping costs in check.

Online reputation management will continue to grow in importance
It’s estimated that 90% of consumers read online reviews before deciding to make a purchase, and that probably doesn’t come as a surprise. Many small businesses actively claim their accounts on review sites, but that’s not enough. Businesses must be proactive to garner the benefits of online reputation management.

Negative reviews on Yelp or Google can severely damage a business, so it’s important that companies observe and respond to negative customer feedback.

Conversely, small businesses should also pay attention to their positive reviews. Customer praise can be displayed on a company’s website and social media accounts, for example.

Trends will come and go every year. Some will be around for the long haul, and others will dwindle. Small business owners should remain aware of the common, newsworthy crazes, but shouldn’t forget to dig deeper to unveil some of the lesser-known business developments that are just as helpful.

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