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Top 5 Small Business Trends of the Decade

Small Business Trends That We Can Profit From Today

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If I were to pick one word to encapsulate the last decade, that word would be change. Just like everyone else, small businesses have gone through a lot of it in the last ten years. Looking back, these are what I think are the five most important small business trends of the last decade, the most important because they are trends that small businesses today can continue to profit from.

Small Business Trend # 1: Having (and managing) an online presence.

At the beginning of the decade, there were online businesses and offline businesses. The number of online businesses has grown steadily since 2000 as more consumers got Internet services and became more comfortable with purchasing things online – and quite a few of these online businesses weren't new businesses but retail brick-and-mortar types that figured it would be profitable to be where the eyeballs were.

Small businesses were not as quick to get online but did (and are) following the business trend, to the point that it seems strange to find a small business that doesn't at least have a website of its own. The latest small business trend is to have a social media presence, using social media such as Twitter and Facebook to find out what customers are saying about their small businesses and promote their products and services.

Your Action Plan to Profit From the Trend

  • If you don't have one, create a website and/or a blog for your small business.
  • If you haven't, start exploring social media, finding out about the different channels available and doing a bit of dabbling to see which social media might be the best fit for you in terms of time and usefulness. If you’re just starting, I recommend Twitter, because I find it one of the most accessible and easiest to use. See How to Twitter: A Get Started Guide.
  • If you're already using social media, review your goals for being there and evaluate your social media efforts to date.
  • If you're not satisfied with your results so far, create a plan to refocus your social media efforts.

Small Business Trend #2: The greening of products and services.

This past decade there has been a notable interest shift in environmental interest. Environmental issues are no longer only the concern of the fringe few but of the bulk of the population. Enough people are concerned enough about issues such as climate change, global warning, flora and fauna preservation (such as preventing polar bears from becoming extinct or saving forests) and pollution prevention, for instance, to demand action – and be willing to spend money on actions that they see as making a difference.

In response, businesses have invested in greening their products and services in the hopes of capitalizing on consumers' environmental concerns. This involves both greening existing products, such as cutting down on packaging or changing a process to make a product or service more environmentally friendly, and creating new products that claim to do little or no environmental damage.

Your Action Plan to Profit From the Trend

  • Review your products and services from an environmentally friendly point of view. Do your products or services have green benefits that you could be playing up? If so, create a marketing campaign that will target the "green dollar". (See 3 Keys to Green Marketing.)
  • If your products don't have any discernable environmental benefits, review your product or service offerings and see what green products or services you might add, or if there is a process change you might make that will give your product or service some green weight. For instance, you might find a closer supplier that will cut down on the environmental impact of producing your product, or be able to change the packaging to make it recyclable.

Small Business Trend #3: Focusing on customer service as differentiation.

The big box and the chain have been dominant business forces this past decade and small businesses have been forced to sidestep into niches or get run over. For many small businesses, good customer service has been the competitive shield that's allowed them to survive.

Small businesses generally can't compete with big box or chain stores on price as they just can't match the buying power or supply chains of the bigger players. But they can compete by offering something that big box stores don't or can't and good customer service is an obvious target.

Your Action Plan to Profit From the Trend

  • Research your competition's customer service and consider how you can offer better customer service than they do. See 4 Ways To Provide Customer Service That Outshines Your Competitors. Prepare and implement a plan to use good customer service to differentiate your small business from all the other players in your market. This plan may include training staff and creating a new marketing campaign, for example.

There are two more business trends of the past decade that can increase the profits of businesses today on the next page. Click to continue reading...

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