Nominate your firm for the 2018 Telstra Business Awards

| February 10, 2018

Nominations for the 2018 Telstra Business Awards are now open until the end of March, allowing Australia’s remarkable small and medium-sized businesses to seek recognition for their ability to find new solutions and ways of working. The Awards have showcased some of Australia’s best business talent since 1992, with over 45,000 businesses nominated to date.

To launch, sustain and grow a small to medium-sized enterprise owners and their teams must adapt and adopt at a dizzying rate and the pace is placed to pick up even more in 2018. The top trends for SMEs in 2018 revolve around advances in technology, workplace dynamics and relationships; the constant changes can be overwhelming but every change is an opportunity to give your business a competitive edge.

Shift in workplace dynamics

Since 2010, the number of registered co-working spaces across the world has grown by over 2000%. Technology has made it easier than ever before to start a business, and these micro, small and medium-sized businesses are setting up shop alongside each other in co-working spaces.

It’s part of an overall shift in workplace dynamic that’s focused on collaboration, flexibility and accessibility. Even traditional offices dedicated to one company are poised to evolve in that direction this year.

Advances in application of detailed analytics

Advertising used to be fairly broad stroke. You could target a gender, a location, an age group and maybe one interest. Today, largely thanks to the popularity of social media channels, businesses have affordable access to incredibly specific customer data.

This year, the data may become more specific, but the more important forecast for SMEs is the tools that will make it possible to apply that data optimally. Click segmentation tools in email marketing is a good example of dividing data that’s already quite specific into even more specific groups.

Building community to cut through the crowded social space

For a few years now, social channels have been a bit of a free-for-all. When Facebook’s ad platform launched, SMEs could finally develop and execute advertising campaigns affordably and serve them directly to highly relevant audiences.

Since then, ad reach has become increasingly restrictive and the platform has recently modified its algorithm to restrict ad delivery further. Facebook has suggested that advertisers should focus on community-building as a foundation to their ad performance.

Mastering the art of advertising, without advertising

To build a strong community, brands will have to stop advertising to their audience and start engaging with them on an authentic level. Emphasis on authenticity has been kicking around the social space for a while, but now that it’s a key part of effective marketing, this is the year that SMEs need to wrap their marketing plan around it.

Contemporary consumer behaviour indicates that people want to see who you are and what your business is about … not be subjected to a sales pitch. Where to start? Switching from recorded video to live video every now and then is a simple first step.

Normalising artificial intelligence

On the flip side of that, we have the opposite of authentic human connection: Artificial intelligence. Chat bots used to be silly and annoying, but machine learning has come a long way. In 2018, AI technology will continue to revolutionise customer service and sales for businesses that can apply it effectively.

As it becomes more common, customers will begin to expect it as the standard first touch-point with a company. Just be sure to have a backup contact point that customers can turn to if they end up needing to speak to a human.

Growing popularity of cross-promotional marketing

Cross-promotion is becoming one of the most important areas of marketing for SMEs and beyond. Cross-promo, collaborations or brand partnerships are an incredibly effective and affordable way to raise brand awareness and ultimately, increase revenue through that exposure.

Cross-promo takes many forms, from a simple social post that displays products from two companies together, to more involved collaborations like a co-designed product. If you choose cross-promo partners wisely, the potential for shared audience growth is staggering.

Adapting to how customers want to pay

Remember the good old days when people peeled off notes to pay for things? 2018 will be near unrecognisable from that time. Last year, we saw a dramatic shift in payment structure preferences for online shoppers.

Previously, instalment payments (or lay-by) were reserved for bricks-and-mortar stores, but e-commerce tools like zipPay and AfterPay have taken the concept digital. Except for one thing – it’s even more attractive than traditional lay-by because you get the goods right away then pay off the balance in interest-free instalments. Expect to see zipPay, AfterPay and similar tools not only grow in popularity, but evolve in 2018.

Work smarter with data

It’s often hard for SMEs to understand which areas of their business to focus on – with limited time and resources, getting a holistic view of where they are at is a difficult task. Look for online tools like the Business Benchmark Report available for entrants in the Telstra Business Awards. After answering a series of questions, it will create a personalised look at your business and highlight areas that are in need of attention along with some first steps for action.