No entrepreneur has a crystal ball. But as Dwight Eisenhower once said, “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
In other words, the very act of preparing your small business for 2017 will give you enough of a head start to tackle the unpredictable with confidence. And — who knows? — when we predict the marketing and business trends to come, some of them might even be right:
Trend #1: The Domination of Millennials
The first millennials were born in 1980, and the generation is starting to come into its own. Even the youngest millennials are turning 18 in 2017, which means the hottest demographic of all is finally going to be an adult.
On the flip side, those born in the middle of the Baby Boom are now set to collect social security. They might have a considerable portion of the wealth thanks to their mature accounts, but more and more of them are entering retirement.
What does the domination of millennials mean to your small business?
Mobile: Everyone and their grandmother will expect some sort of mobile phone access to goods and services in 2017. This isn’t an upcoming trend so much as an observation of what already exists.
Flexible working: Millennials love working remotely, and for good reason—modern technology makes it all possible. That means more movement in remote services, telecommuting, and VoIP.
Hiring might get competitive: According to Ian Altman of Forbes, millennial employees will expect a clear vision of where they can progress in your company if they’re going to work for you. This is especially true of millennials in their thirties with experience under their belt and an eye on building a long-term career.
As millennials mature, expect the trends driven by them to expand. That means the trends you saw in 2016 may not only be here to stay, but can intensify into 2017 and beyond.
Trend #2: Customer-Centric Marketing
Isn’t all marketing “customer-centric”? Not in the world of analytics and aggregated data. These days, companies of all sizes are looking to make the most of the data they have on hand in order to hone their message to specific audiences.
We see this already in targeted online ads that match up with your browsing history. Just looked at some oven mitts for grandma’s Hanukkah gift? Now you’ll see about a dozen ads telling you about those other oven mitts you should consider.
But customer-centric marketing goes beyond mere cookies and into the world of sophisticated analytics. These days, over 80% of marketers say that data is important to the way they think.
Gone are the days of simple attention-based marketing. In 2017, expect marketing to get very specific — both in your experience as a consumer and as an entrepreneur.
Trend #3: Big Numbers in Social and Alternative Media
If the election of 2016 revealed anything about Americans, it’s that we’re more split than ever in how we get our news.
But it’s not just news. Alternative media is coming up in a big way, including mega hits for…
Periscope: Pick out the exact live broadcast you want — generally ad-free — and you realize that if the Internet were a cable provider, you would have about 20 million channel options. Periscope is making broadcasting personal, which means marketers are going to find a way to use that.
Twitch: Speaking of personal broadcasting, the art of showing yourself off while you play games has officially moved into “science” mode with the rise of Twitch. There’s no reason to expect that it will get anything but bigger in 2017.
Facebook and Twitter have expanded their efforts, as well. You can now watch NFL games live on Twitter or subscribe to user feeds on Facebook. In 2017, expect TV-like services to become more mobile and accessible than ever… and for new advertising opportunities along the way.
Trend #4: Counter-Trends in the World of Ad Blocking
Today’s Internet experience isn’t complete without a good ad-blocker. Some sites learn runarounds to these ad-blockers; users develop runarounds to the runarounds. It’s an arms race between advertisers and advertise-ees.
If you’re still marketing on platforms that can be easily blocked by today’s average Internet user — such as ad banners — it may be time to rethink your strategies for 2017. The best way to prepare for this is to create advertisements that people will want to see. Recently, and at what was likely great expense, H&M worked with renowned filmmaker Wes Anderson for what was essentially a short film.
Make no mistake: this short film was an ad for H&M. Yet in becoming the content instead of the ad, H&M made the brilliant move of drawing people in. Expect that trend to continue in 2017. You’ll have to be competitive and understand that good advertising isn’t just effective, but it’s engaging enough to draw its own audience.
Trend #5: Embracing the Existing Customer
It’s no secret amongst entrepreneurs that existing customers are much more inexpensive to retain. With intense competition for new customers, expect 2017 to bring renewed interest in the existing customer.
Why? Think of all of the trends you’ve seen written thus far. Existing customers are more likely to view your content even with ad-blockers, for starters. Existing customers already have given you some of their data, so they’re easy to cater to as data aggregation becomes more sophisticated. Existing customers are, increasingly, of millennial age — after all, millennials are starting to earn more money.
In 2017, good companies won’t just market to new customers, they’ll place a renewed priority on existing customers who might be interested in what they have to sell. Millennials are interested in quality and reputation as verified by the online experience, and once they give that interest to you, there’s no reason you should let go of it. That means email marketing (with plenty of offers to keep customers engaged), social media, and the time-tested art of customer service.
Some trends, after all, aren’t even remotely new, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be around in 2017 and beyond. These are the must-plan-for changes to include in your marketing strategy for the coming year.