G2 Crowd is releasing its third quarterly research report: Crowd Views. The first two focused on “Solving the Talent Crisis” and “Solving Common Enterprise Problems.” This edition is about small business and the technology they use to solve their problems. The goal of this edition of Crowd Views is to help other small businesses understand what their peers are using to solve business problems. This is the final blog in our 10-part series about these small-business insights.
With 2017 drawing to a close, it’s time to look back on what goals we’ve accomplished this year and what lessons they’ve helped us learn. From the small-business edition of Crowd Views, we heard a lot about small business trends and how small business growth is occurring using software.
Throughout the blog series examining these small-business trends, we discussed tools that are crucial to small-business growth like AI marketing, B2B e-commerce, social media and the importance of online reviews. We examined small-business software trends, and tried to make sense of why small businesses are choosing to roll out the solutions they implemented in 2016. We also discussed the ways small businesses are making their money, and what possible factors are influencing those decisions.
B2B Technology Small-Business 2017 trends
- AI Marketing
- Social AI
- Expanding E-Commerce
- Direct Sales
- Content Automation
- Online Reviews
In the spirit of reflection, let’s take a look back at everything we learned in 2017 that can boost your small-business growth throughout 2018.
Marketing! It gets people past your door and onto your website. People can’t do business with you if they don’t know you exist, so you need to get the word out! Social media marketing, AI marketing and email marketing are all methods to consider for your small business.
Cloud computing is also a great way to scale quickly, easily and, most importantly, inexpensively:
Susan Ward, a writer on the financial advisory website The Balance, advises cloud
computing software for small businesses because, “Cloud computing lets you start up or grow your small business quickly. It’s a lot easier and faster to sign up for a cloud computing application than to buy a server, get it up and running and install software on it.
Finding the right software solution for your business can be difficult, but the more you know about your options, the easier it can be. Many small businesses already have payroll software, email marketing software and/or accounting software, but the most popular platforms small businesses are looking to deploy are accounting, HR and recruiting and/or email marketing.
Lots of businesses are also looking to replace their existing software — especially CRM and payroll software. One pitfall may be using software not meant for small businesses, which can make all the difference. We at G2 Crowd recognize this, and that’s why our grids can be filtered by the size of the company the software is intended for. We want to help you find software that best fits your needs. Although we haven’t measured exactly why businesses are replacing their software, we can try to help them find better solutions.
In today’s modern world, traditional retail sales are no longer king. Instead, salespeople are primarily selling intangibles such as skills, services or software. According to the above blog, “Software and services salespeople have an upper hand in their industry in that it’s a customer journey, as opposed to a one-click stop and shop.”
While e-commerce is definitely big business, when it comes to bringing in revenue, nothing can beat an old-fashioned, customer-satisfaction-driven expert who can guide you through the process.
E-commerce was the main revenue driver for small businesses in 2016, and setting up an online store was incredibly easy for some:
Managers and store owners can implement an online store either with or without an existing website. If they have an existing website, turning it into an online store can be as easy as purchasing a compatible plugin or API. For example, WordPress users can easily integrate WooCommerce in order to begin seeing online order placement and revenue.
If you don’t have a website, however, a website builder often will already have a template or widget for an online store. These plugins can often pull double duty by tracking inventory and gathering customer information for more targeted marketing.
Online reviews are crucial for growing your business. As part of a marketing strategy, online reviews absolutely cannot be overlooked. Even negative reviews can be helpful for your business:
Bad reviews can give invaluable insight into the places where your business needs to improve and, if handled correctly, can actually win people over. By responding quickly, publicly and sympathetically, customers can see that you care about both the quality of service provided and the customers themselves.
While it may feel like customers are out to get you, public online reviews can actually do some of your marketing work for you. In many ways, they’re the modern word-of-mouth. Here at G2 Crowd, we recognize the importance of online reviews in making purchasing decisions, and we’re dedicated to providing software buyers with accurate and unbiased information. Moreover, many software vendors recognize this, and are willing to work closely with us to provide the best possible information for software purchasers.
Many small businesses seem to be moving away from traditional advertising like TV and radio and moving these efforts online. Some benefits of moving advertisements to the web include:
- Driving traffic to your website
- Finding your target market
- Reaching millennials (as a millennial, I can confirm this is true)
- Saving money on advertising
- Tracking your results
Tools like AI marketing, marketing automation and email marketing can all play a big role in this, and while it may seem intimidating, it can be a lot easier to break into than you might think. If your business has a social media presence, you’ve already taken the first step!
Everyone and their mother is on Facebook these days. Literally, everyone. According to our Crowd Views survey, 39 percent of respondents said Facebook was their most successful marketing tool, and 29 percent said it was their least successful.
The truth is that it can be both.
To make sense of this, we have to understand the variables marketers and other employees consider when determining a channel’s “success.” One of these variables is audience size. Advertisers want to be sure their campaigns can reach a wide scope of consumers. With an average active user base of 1.32 billion people, it’s easy to understand why Facebook would be a natural choice.
If you are not using your market research effectively (or not doing any at all), it’s understandable that you might not be reaching your target audience. However, if you are targeting the right audience, Facebook can make a huge difference in your marketing strategy.
Tools like marketing automation and digital marketing can help you take your marketing strategy to the next level, but there are even more ways that you can punch up your online presence using AI tools.
- Website design: Some website builders have AI that can speed up the design process and create content.
- Content creation: While robots won’t be writing articles anytime in the near future (whew), they can help with optimizing content for SEO and other marketing purposes.
- Social media: Social media sites like Facebook are using AI to deliver targeted content with less spam and obnoxious ads.
While every small business is different and each has their own needs, there are a few ways to help your small business grow. Marketing is key, and so is driving revenue. One universal truth is that your business needs software to help you function. Whether that is a marketing tool, CRM for your sales force or simply an accounting platform, there’s a program that will fit your needs.
Hopefully our Crowd Views blog series gave you a place to get a head start on 2018. Keep your eyes peeled for Crowd Views IV.