The 5 biggest challenges for small businesses in 2018 - and how to overcome them


January 25, 2018 | by Nick Rowan

2018 is just getting underway, and there is no better time to set goals for the new year and reevaluate your business strategy. When you’re a small team (or a one-man-band) it can be hard to find time to identify, let alone address some of the challenges that the new year will bring.

With that in mind, we’ve gone ahead and compiled a list of 5 challenges that small businesses are likely to face in 2018, and how you can overcome them.

1. Expanding social media presence (with changing social media platforms)

Maintaining a strong social media presence is crucial to gaining leads and sales in today’s market. But that isn’t new.

For small businesses (or small budgets), this can present a big problem though. Even if you’re one of the 42% that knows how to measure social media marketing success, understanding how to move forward can be challenging, especially when algorithms and tendencies are constantly changing.

In 2018, Facebook continues to dominate the social media market, with 72% of all adult internet users active on Facebook. But last year we were let in on a little secret: they seem to be losing engagement numbers to more visual platforms. It seems like the younger generations are preferring Instagram and Snapchat. Of course, Instagram is owned by Facebook, but the style of advertising and generating leads is quite different.

Not only that, Facebook has made changes to their news feed to show less content from businesses! This means your ad dollars may not be wisely spent on the traditional ads provided by Facebook. You could moan and groan about the consequences, or rise to the challenge of creating shareable content and encouraging user-generated content.

A new strategy for 2018 is the use of micro-influencers. The industry of influencers has been around for a while now, and it can be hard to resist going for the most well known celebrities with the highest follower counts. However, research has shown that a carefully chosen micro-influencer (someone with less than 100k followers) can provide a higher engagement rate at nearly a third of the price.

2. Mobile traffic more important than ever (no this isn’t old news)

Yes, you might see this on every list, every single year, but that is because we are only in the beginning of mobile technology.

Mobile traffic now accounts for more than half of all website visits, so you’d better be prepared. Responsive design is fairly ubiquitous on website builders and content management systems, but there are a few things you can do to make the experience even more positive.

The first thing you should do is make sure your website loads quickly. Mobile visitors are much less patient than their desktop counterparts, and slow load times can turn away as much as 90% of mobile traffic. But really, that is where things start to get more strategic.

Since omnichannel experiences are essential in nurturing customers through the sales cycle, you need to stay on top of which channels your customers make their searches, comparisons, decisions, and purchases. The growth of voice search, for example, is a mobile phenomenon and requires a whole new look at how people browse for things. People ask “Hey Google, Where can I buy Nike Air Max near me?”  instead of “nike air max stores santa fe”. Broken search terms have become natural language phrases like questions.  This means you’ll need to optimize your content differently to stay on top.

Creating the right content for the right platform will be key in maintaining a 360º strategy,which brings us to our next point...

3. The increasing dominance and variety of video content

By all predictions, 2018 will be the year when video content reigns supreme. With a full third of all time spent online dedicated to watching videos, it’s no wonder that everyone wants in on the action.

As a small business owner, committing to video production can be a tough decision, so here are a few more stats to sway your opinion:

If you’re looking for a silver bullet for your marketing strategy, video content might be it. Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Live streaming
  • Snapchat or Instagram stories
  • Product demonstrations and “unboxings”
  • Interviews with clients or experts
  • Animated infographics
  • Asking the public for opinions (street reporting)

Need more ideas? Here are 50 Delightfully Simple Video Content Ideas For Your Online Business from Business to Community.

4. Keeping up with new technologies

New technologies used to be a big problem for small companies. While big companies leapfrogged ahead with huge R&D budgets, small companies were often left in the dust.

But today that’s all in the past, and the majority of new technologies can be easily incorporated into the daily operation of your small business.

Some technologies that have been around for a while now, like cloud services such as Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive, can be used by companies of any size and any level of sophistication. More cutting edge tech, such as artificial intelligence, will also become within reach of small companies in 2018.

One of the most useful implementations of AI is chatbots. With 2.5 billion people worldwide using chat based apps, a simple chatbot could assist your business with everything from customer service to lead generation. Even the smallest of brands can use chatbots on Facebook Messenger or directly on your website to respond to the most commonly asked questions. They can also be improved by seeing which questions customers are asking that aren’t being answered.

Sound intimidating? Don’t worry, there are several companies that will do the hard part for you. Many of them require no previous knowledge of programming, and some of them can be tried free of charge. The days of manually responding to each customer inquiry are over.

5. Adapting to Millennials as customers and employees

Ah, millennials. Despite being the butt of constant criticism from older generations, millennials now represent the largest generation of Americans. Love them or hate them, it’s now a necessity to adapt both your marketing efforts and workplace culture to the first generation to grow up with the internet and social media.

If you’re thinking of marketing to millennials, forget about traditional marketing. Being bombarded with advertisements for their entire lives, they aren’t likely to trust or pay attention to ads they cannot personally connect with. They do, however, consume lots of online media. Blogs, videos, and other quality, authentic content is your best bet to retaining their attention.

As employees, they also represent a significant change from older generations. Rather than pursuing high salaries, millennials are more interested in purpose and a good work/life balance. In fact, a recent study showed that on average they’d be willing to take a $7,600 pay cut to work in a place that provides a better ‘quality of work life’. If you want your workforce to thrive going forward, consider making a few changes to your workplace.

Do you have an interesting take on how to tackle these challenges? Let us know in the comments!



Nick Rowan
Written by Nick Rowan

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