The new year will bring increased economic confidence and usher in a return to traditional marketing methods for small businesses, but this renaissance will be armed with new digital tools, a 2013 small business forecast suggests. Technology will increasingly enable small businesses to establish and nurture client relationships, while automating and streamlining essential business functions.
Leading the return to fundamentals, old-fashioned customer service will once again be in vogue, said Jerry Nettuno, founder of CEO of Schedulicity, which provides appointment-setting solutions for small businesses.
Last year, Nettuno and Schedulicity correctly predicted that 2012 would see an extreme contraction in the daily deal space, social media would win a seat at the marketing table and mobile functionality would fundamentally change the way small business owners conduct business.
Partnering with daily deal companies in an attempt to win new clients was one of a number of untested marketing methods that didn't play out as promised last year, Nettuno said. It also forced customer service to take a back seat to customer acquisition.
The overall economic growth experienced during 2012 has brought with it a shift in confidence among business owners, however, and in 2013, there will be a steady return to traditional, "old-fashioned" client service empowered with new digital tools, the forecast claims. Mobile scheduling and coupons, online sentiment tracking and mobile credit card processing are just a few of the tools that will expedite noncore business functions and allow service professionals to focus 100 percent on delivering great client service.
Keeping up the relentless pressure of technology on small businesses, tablet- and mobile-friendly websites will become a must-have for small business owners, Nettuno said. And the explosion of mobile payment services will lead to lower costs and more options.
As SMBs become savvier in using social media tools, the focus will shift from execution to ROI, Nettuno said. Small business owners, particularly those in service-based industries, are already wise to the benefits of using social media to attract new business, engage with current customers and build brand recognition and equity. In 2013, the conversation around social media's ROI will heat up and small business owners will increasingly focus on leveraging new tools to measure the value of their social media efforts.
The explosion of hyphenated commerce permutations will also be unabated, Nettuno said. He predicts that "A-commerce" — appointment-based commerce — will become the new e-commerce in 2013 as more and more small business owners turn to service-based businesses over product-based ones.