Photo credit: Looking Forward by Val Wroblewski

Here at Camilyo, we are developing a marketing and customer engagement platform for small businesses. We do not sell it directly to the businesses, though - we sell it to local providers of digital services: yellow pages, media companies and marketing agencies. They, in turn, offer the platform to small businesses as part of their service packages. We believe that, at the end of the day, what can really affect a small business’ bottom line is not a point technological solution or a product but a package that addresses the entire marketing and sales funnel and emphasizes the service component. Specifically, there is a dedicated professional who helps their small business client to market and manage their business on a regular basis. Today’s digital environment has become so confusing that we believe the DIY approach can no longer be effective for small businesses.

Throughout 2016, we’ve closely monitored the relationship between small businesses and their service providers. Based on our observations and conversations, we’ve made some assumptions regarding the focus for 2017.

Instant availability and engagement across all channels

“I rely on networking and referrals for client-getting. It's in my best interest to be as available as possible and respond to inquiries quickly,״ - admits Shana Tibi, Co-Founder of the First Page Advantage marketing agency. ״Recently, our local Chamber of Commerce referred us to a prospective customer needing to drive traffic to his site. I reached out to him right away. He was thrilled to receive personal attention and signed with us the next day! It's always important to follow up, especially for a warm introduction. Even if I wasn't available for a full conversation, [then] just to say, “[I] got your message... let's connect and set a date.“

In 2016, consumers made it clear they wanted businesses to be more readily available to answer their queries, confirm their bookings and make sales. It appears that business owners will have to make themselves available and engage with customers around the clock across all digital channels if they want to successfully compete with other local businesses in 2017 and provide a positive user experience. That includes communication over the phone, via chat, email, messaging and social network comments - especially after hours.

Localized targeted reach via social media

2016 was a big year for social media. Small businesses and service providers increasingly found that, in taking advantage of the highly popular social media channels used daily by their customers, they foster a digital following that leads to increased visibility, reach and leads. Almost every conference we went to last year had sessions dedicated to Facebook and how it can help small businesses grow. We anticipate that, in 2017, the trend will continue and the service providers who emphasize social media will get their clients more tangible results.

Online listings and reputation management

The more online exposure a small business gets, the harder it become to manage. Each online company profile necessitates constant updating accuracy, complete with testimonials, ratings and other relevant information that would drive a customer to select their business over the competition. This is no longer something small businesses can really do by themselves as changes to business pages occur several times a year.

“As customers became more reliant on social networks for buying advice, only the most progressive SMBs paid attention to their social sentiment scores and actively managed their digital reputation,” explains Lorren Elkins, Head of US sales at Camilyo. “I predict online reputation management will become much bigger in 2017 and vendors who serve this need will do quite well.”

Even better customer service

Interestingly enough, we learned that the same people who consume a lot online still desire an “old-school,” personal consumer experience. We believe that adhering to the fundamentals of running a successful business will remain of utmost importance in 2017. This means taking the time to study your SMB’s target market at regular intervals, using the knowledge acquired to develop your company’s digital presence, so that customers will understand the nature of your business and be compelled to engage and convert.

Studying your SMB’s target market isn’t enough, however. You must train your clients about the importance of stellar customer service and stress its importance: good customer support is the link between the Attract and Convert stages of the marketing and sales funnel, but it is also the key link between the Convert and Retain stages. Without this personalized service, the funnel leaks and customers will move on to the next company that is able to offer better support.

“I think personal recommendations and referrals go a long way in beating competition. Once you have loyal clients who keep coming back and sending other people to you, you can build your own steady client base and not worry about competition,” concludes Sarah Mageni, translator at Sarah Mageni Translations.

It’s not about having a website anymore

“Small businesses will realize that they are losing digitally to national marketers who are targeting customers in local markets. They will begin asking for better digital marketing solutions as they realize that even a responsive website is no longer a critical asset. Advertising solutions, inbound programs, loyalty programs, and promotions will become critical tools for small businesses to compete against the likes of Amazon, Walmart, Target, etc.,” ensures Lorren Elkins. “Vendors who can provide cross-functional, seamless integrations will have an advantage. Those who can use Artificial Intelligence to aid in the decision-making, segmentation, and operational execution will have an even greater advantage.”Camilyo_Logo_gray C only small.png