Crowd Views III: How Does a Small Business Grow

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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 second blog in our 10-part series about these small-business insights.

Small businesses aren’t finding as much success in avenues they formerly relied on. Billboard, newspaper and radio advertising are no match for social media marketing software and email newsletters. Manual tasks and record keeping prove much more laborious than digital options. We are learning quickly that if mom-and-pop shops hope to make it in the modern era, they’d best begin looking into modern practices.

For our latest Crowd Views research report, we surveyed 301 small-business owners and managers about the problems they face. Part of the report examines what small businesses are doing to grow in the digital age. What we found was that small businesses that desired growth in 2016 put 20 percent of all investments toward software, cloud software and other IT systems. Additional sales headcount came next with 19 percent, while marketing and advertising followed just below at 18 percent.

Cloud computing is a general trend in various business segments and has been for a while. Microsoft Azure lists a few benefits of cloud computing tools such as reduced cost, scalability according to business size and reliability. Examples of cloud computing tools on G2 Crowd are CloudStack, which functions as infrastructure as a service, and Rackspace Managed Cloud, which helps users create scalable websites and applications.

These tools can automate and/or digitize processes previously performed manually, like creating unique templates or generating a login for guest users. They can send alerts and notifications for interactions or necessary next steps, ensuring teams remain ahead of their deadlines — just to name a few examples.

Advertising strategies consist of fewer billboard designs and more attempts to get on the screens people already frequent. This includes, but is not limited to, email inboxes, social media, search ads and display ads.

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.”

Alternately, growth businesses in 2017 allocated their resources differently. While investments toward software, cloud software and other IT systems were reduced to 11 percent, investment in marketing/advertising increased to 26 percent, and additional sales headcount increased to 21 percent.

“In the size segmentation, the smallest businesses (1-25 employees) are planning on investing heavily in marketing/advertising at 33%, but drop off the average quite a bit for sales headcount at 15%,” reads page 15 of Crowd Views.

However, an increased investment in marketing does not necessarily mean an altogether decreased use of software. As previously mentioned, advertising strategies consist of fewer billboard designs and more attempts to get on the screens people already frequent. This includes, but is not limited to, email inboxes, social media, search ads and display ads. With this change comes the necessitation of email marketing, display advertising, search marketing and marketing automation software — again, just to name a few.

“The next channel projected to drive digital marketing spend in 2017 is mobile marketing (50%) — either app or web-based — followed by email marketing (42%),” reads a article. “The other important digital channels include video production, search marketing, content creation, data analysis and website maintenance.”

A larger focus on sales headcount opens the conversation to what sales software should accompany this emphasis. Sales teams that are increasing in size could consider sales coaching and onboarding software, or a hefty CRM tool that would reduce errors in the maintenance of consumer data.

“Some companies start using CRM because they want to track sales right from the start; others do it for the insights into customer interactions or to automate certain processes as they grow,” Natalie Gagliordi said in an article for CNET.

The key to small-business growth isn’t excessive investment in every one of these strategies; rather investment in what a business knows it can devote its full effort to. For a company with a minimal sales team, it wouldn’t make sense to spend thousands on a yearly CRM subscription. Small businesses should invest according to their individual company goals and consider the corresponding software to help make business efficient.

Crowd Views Report

Click here to download Crowd Views: Small Business report in full for free.