By Margie Zable Fisher

Keeping up with the everyday activities of your business is challenging. But it’s also important to pay attention to which major small business trends and changes are gathering steam.

And while we can’t look into a crystal ball and predict how these future trends will affect you, we can do the next best thing.

We asked one of the world’s top futurists and trend experts, Scott Steinberg of FutureProof Strategies, to share his thoughts on 2023’s small business trends and how you can learn and grow from them.

How will the economy affect small businesses in 2023?

Steinberg: Inflation will continue to be challenging, and may continue to rise. Labor shortages will continue. Consumers are going to be more conscious of where every single dollar is going, even as they have more choices than ever.

In 2023, and going forward, it’s incredibly important for small businesses to differentiate and stand out from their competitors.

How can small businesses cope with labor shortages?

Steinberg: They will have to get more creative and flexible, and use technology more. To attract and retain employees, businesses may have to provide personalized work schedules, for example. When Chick-fil-A offered a three-day workweek recently, they received 429 applications in a week.

Technology that can save labor time … will be essential. That can mean anything from a customer relationship management system (CRM), marketing and social media automation systems to using tools to optimize workflows.

How can small businesses differentiate themselves?

Steinberg: First, be clear about what your business stands for, and communicate the core value you offer. Customers are looking for this. People will always pay for the opportunity to work with service providers who align with their vision and values.

Second, businesses need to give something before they get the business. This will help customers appreciate you and be more likely to do business with you.

An attorney could give a free 15-minute consult, for example. A plumber could provide a free report of common plumbing issues and how to fix them yourself. I even have real estate agents in my area right now asking if we need any Thanksgiving dinner pies!

Third, we need to have bigger ears and listen to our customers more, so we can better understand what challenges they’re facing. They want us to help them save time, effort and energy, not just money.

Fourth, local service providers need to invest in and participate in their local communities, both online and offline. This will help customers trust you.

How can small businesses communicate their value?

Steinberg: More and more potential customers are searching for information about service providers on social media and online. That means we’ll see more and more small businesses looking at platforms like TikTok and Instagram as a way to cost-effectively reach customers based on their brand.

But small businesses will need to stand out by creating posts that cut through all the noise. You’ll need to get people’s attention in 30 seconds or less at this point. You might need to put some thought into creating dramatic or funny ways to get people’s attention on social media.

In addition to having an active presence on social media, small businesses need to make sure their websites are optimized for search engines and that they continuously publish useful content to show up on search engines.

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How can small businesses benefit from this uncertain economy?

Steinberg: This is a great time for small businesses to spend money on essential business expenses. When everyone else is nervous about a recession and spending less money, there are many more opportunities to get favorable deals in the market.

For example, now is a great time to renegotiate a lease for your building or other facilities. With less demand, you’ll probably get better rates and terms.

Similarly, now is a good time to lease or buy new business property. If you’ve been putting off buying specialized equipment, you may be able to get a good deal now.

Finally, as others pull back on advertising expenses, you may be able to get great rates.

What should businesses avoid doing?

Steinberg: Don’t compete on price. That’s a race to the bottom. The most reliable and often most cost-affordable place to compete is not on providing the same thing everyone else does, but rather, differentiation.

People will either pay a premium if they perceive what you offer to be well-differentiated and of singular worth, or perceive you to be a commodity and pay accordingly. The one thing you can’t afford to be in this type of environment is nondescript and boring.

Tell us in the comments: What other small business trends do you anticipate in 2023?

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