Did Trends Become Reality in 2017?

Just as the green leaves of summer begin to turn color and fall from the trees, predictors of the coming year’s trends offer their insights as to how the most successful, leading companies will achieve their sales objectives in the months ahead.  Last year, Forbes cited important trends in business for 2017.   As we quickly approach the end of 2017, we wanted to see how those trend predictions materialized this year.

Reality: Subject Matter Experts Become the New Rainmakers

Once upon a time there were three sales approaches. The order taker, who called to fill a customer’s needs, the pitchman who focused efforts on remunerating product or service features and benefits to bag and ring-up the sale and the consultative sales person, the subject matter expert (SME), who approached the sale by utilizing advanced business experience and knowledge to close a deal.  Today executive B2B leadership is looking for folks that can provide experience and valuable insights to move their businesses forward.  While the days of sales representatives calling on the C-Level to get a meeting still has its venues, the future of sales lies with the SME Rainmakers.

In Process: Crowdfunding Validates New Products

The prediction that crowdfunding would replace venture capitalist (VC) in 2017, while gaining on more traditional sources of financing, appears to be encountering the learning curve.  Indiegogo CEO, David Mandelbrot says, “We’ve very focused on educating both entrepreneurs and backers of those campaigns. It’s definitely a challenge, but it’s also very new.”  Early analysis of crowd funding indicates a growing popularity among real estate investors and those entrepreneurs seeking to secure asset-backed loans from accredited investors and for supplementary capital for ventures that have been successful in raising funds from traditional VCs.  While crowdfunding has become popular with start-up entrepreneurs, it doesn’t necessarily validate the success of a new product.

Reality: Sales & Content Marketing Fully Integrated

“More than just a buzzword, content marketing has become one of the most powerful tools for attracting targeted customers, building loyalty, and driving profitability,” says Veronica Stoddart, the principal of VS Content Strategies. “If done right and properly integrated within a brand, content marketing will benefit a cross-section of departments, including marketing, sales, public relations, and even customer relations.” The predictor’s crystal ball clearly scored on this one.   The emergence of this digital economy, content has become a clear driver in the sales process.

Reality: Video Becomes Essential 

The combined top three social media networks, Snapchat, Facebook and YouTube are producing 22 billion video views every day. Marketers can no longer ignore video. Video is becoming the method in which to distribute content that will resonate with a broad base of audiences.

In Process: New Collaboration Rethinking Email

Despite all the new emerging digital marketing tools, email remains a persistent survivor. While popular tools like Slack are becoming more common in the workplace, email remains to be an important communication tool.

Reality: Brick and Mortar Loses Retail Stores

We have experienced major retailers closing stores and retooling location strategy in response to consumers’ increase use of online sellers.  Those retail companies that understand the importance of customer experience will continue to excel. Brick and mortar retailers must find ways to be relevant to its customers and continue to evolve the in-store experience.

Reality: Subject Matter Experts Get Sales Support

With the push for content, thought leadership, and marketing tools, organizations are embracing a new way to structure sales and marketing departments. Silos have existed between the two.  In today’s fast-paced digital environment, integration is critical.  Subject matter experts bring knowledge and expertise that can inform sales opportunities.

In Process: Narrow Segments Capture Attention

Understanding your customer segment is critical in communicating a marketing/sales message. However, spreading the message too thin isn’t being effective. “It’s less about narrowing the focus of segments but rather focusing on those segments that are actively making purchase decisions.  The overall effectiveness of this strategy will improve, says Julie Gareleck, Founder and CEO Junction Creative Solutions.” 

In Process: Recurring Revenue

Companies will continue to shift from single, up-front payments for products to recurring revenue for a service.  In B2B and B2C, the goal is to engage a customer on a regular basis, with an ongoing need for goods or services.

Gareleck comments, “This is always going to be a conversation about value.  I don’t see the entire marketplace moving to retainer relationships as a portion of businesses are still looking for the cheapest option available or the most cost effective.”

In Process: Millennials Groomed for Leadership

Ian Altman, a B2B Integrity-based sales and growth expert predicted, “Just like past generations, millennials will emerge as the next set of managers and executives. Top performing companies will work to magnify their strengths and build systems to compensate for their perceived deficiencies.”

Organizations often lack the middle-management layer that trained young leadership to rise and grow within the organization. While Millennials are going to become 50% of the work-force in the next few years, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are prepared for leadership roles.

It’s clear that there is accuracy with trends and predictions.  Some of these areas are evolving while others have reached mass adoption. It will be interested to see what forecasters predict for 2018!

Advice to Entrepreneurs: Spend Every Penny Like It’s Your Last

All new businesses share one common element regardless of the type or size of the endeavor; funding. Acquiring the necessary capital to get the shelves stocked, the doors open, and enough sales to get the cash flowing, remains the most difficult aspect of start-ups and the number one reason small businesses and startups fail. Most new business ventures take 12 to 18 months to generate enough cash flow to become financially self-reliant. While most new businesses rely on the entrepreneurs’ ability to pony up personal cash and assets, outside sources for capital are usually required. Traditional lender, investor and credit outlets are a staple of enterprise funding, but technology has made it much easier and cheaper to start a new business.

Crowd funding, the online availability of capital for emerging businesses, has become the go to location for those looking to fast-track the launch of the business. Trends in the startup and early-stage investor ecosystem continue to grow and are on track to become a major source of new business funding. The source and availability of new capital is not the only important aspect of financial challenges facing a new venture. Managing expenditures and unnecessary spending often is the major reason behind early stage failures.  Careful spending is important in any business. Music entrepreneur and guitar legend Zakk Wyldein says, “You have to pay attention, like with tours and expenses; you have to factor that all in. You want to play music for the rest of your life, you have to pay attention to all the things.”

Dedicating the bulk of spending for things that focus on attracting customers is the best capital spend to generate value and the next generation of funding; revenue. “I challenge you to achieve what you are doing with less capital,” says Mike Schroll, founder of Startup.SC.  Often a successful launch results in a euphoric mentality for those inexperienced and unaware that the most challenging time comes after the excitement of the start wears off.

Like a horse race, every entrant enters the gates with enthusiasm and confidence of a winning run, only to be tempered by the competition and the potential, ever present stumbles encountered along the way. It’s a long race, spending the winnings before you cross the finish line will result in your horse falling back in the pack and ultimately being left out of the race.

A large percentage of companies are squandering the easy cash, utilizing it in bad faith and spending it like it’s their own. Easy money comes with increased responsibility and a need for additional layers of accountability to ensure that investor capital is not squandered.

“I’ve been in or around the emerging business market for nearly 20 years and I have witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly as it relates to funding,” comments Julie Gareleck, CEO, Junction Creative Solutions (Junction).  “I often see smart entrepreneurs with a solid business or technology waste money on salaries and expensive business trips.  In the companies that we have consulted with, we have realized more success with those entrepreneurs who have boot-strapped the business and put their own money on the line.  There is something to be said about using your own money. It’s more difficult but there is typically less wasteful spending. My advice to those start-ups who have been successfully raising money is to treat every penny as though it was your last.  Spend the investment on monetizing the business first.”

The dark side of attracting investment is the reality that missed expectations can lead to unrest with investors. In some cases, investors can exercise their right to take ownership of your business or technology.  “If you’ve committed to investors, you have to deliver. No excuses,” comments Gareleck.  “Mistakes and missteps are a given in business.  Be responsible and take accountability for every dollar. After all, it’s their money.”

While not every entrepreneur can boot-strap the business, entrepreneurs must educate themselves on how to properly manage the investment dollars in the beginning.  It will serve as the benchmark for the future and viability of the business long-term.

Share your investment story with our network!

Is It Getting Too Complicated with Four Generations Comingling at the Water Cooler?

In the most recent years, marketers and employers have been attempting a multitude of strategies to figure out who Millennials really are and what their expectations about life, job and product are. For those who are still struggling to understand Millennials, and the most effective means to connect with them, Generation Z has reached the workforce.

While some marketers can at least claim a little success in cracking the millennial code, others have just given up and returned to re-focus on what worked to attract consumers in the past. Employers who have tried everything from ping pong tables, paid-time off for advocating for social justice issues and work from home models in order to attract, inspire and retain effective millennial employees are still evaluating the totality of their experiences. Are we now supposed to scrap everything and retool corporate strategies for the new generation?

Generation Z consists of those born in 1996 or later. They make up 25.9% of the United States population and are expected to contribute $44 billion to the American economy. By 2020, they will account for one-third of the U.S. population. The most tech savvy and information consuming generation in history, Generation “Z’ers” tend to be less focused on a single thought but are demonstrating an amazing ability to multitask and a lack of patience with a single subject; bad news for War and Peace sized novel writers and good news for publishers of an abbreviated Readers Digest.

This generation has grown up accustomed to the fast paced development of technology. They are perpetual in their use of smart, digital devices and spend less time watching TV than their forbearers. “We are the first true digital natives,” said Hannah Payne, an 18-year-old U.C.L.A. student and lifestyle blogger. “I can almost simultaneously create a document, edit it, post a photo on Instagram and talk on the phone, all from the user-friendly interface of my iPhone. Generation Z takes in information instantaneously, and loses interest just as fast.”  As result, marketers are experiencing a massive shift in advertising methods and content messaging in order to successfully connect with generation Z’s shifting values. “When it doesn’t get there that fast they think something’s wrong,” said Marcie Merriman, executive director of growth strategy at Ernst & Young. “They expect businesses, brands and retailers to be loyal to them. If they don’t feel appreciated, they’re going to move on. It’s not about them being loyal to the business.”

Gen Z-ers have digitally honed social insights but are more socially diverse and conscious. They are more likely to appreciate the face to face relationships than their predecessors. Wanting to do great work for an employer, they are predicted to be willing to invest years in a job that propels them forward to achieving their personal self-development. Many are shunning traditional routes to higher education opting instead for online education while they practice making a living.  According to Gen Z marketing strategist Deep Patel, “the newly developing high tech and highly networked world has resulted in an entire generation thinking and acting more entrepreneurially.” Generation Z desires more independent work environments with nearly 75% of Gen Z teens espousing an ultimate goal to start their own business. “Kids are witnessing start-up companies make it big instantly via social media,” said Andrew Schoonover, a 15-year-old in Olathe, Kan. “We do not want to work at a local fast-food joint for a summer job. We want to make our own business because we see the lucky few who make it big.”

But with all the hype and predictions of generational differences is the next mega market group really all that different from their parents and grandparents?

When developing a strategy to segment any market we must realize that no one generation does a market segment make. Each generation, while differing in the methods of making connections, will invent many new insights and social behaviors but also retain important aspects of connectivity from their predecessors. Generation X, Millennials, Z’ers and Baby Boomers are all occupying the same marketplace and sharing the same water cooler conversations at work.  It will require marketers and employers to maintain due vigilance as each generation continues to morph into the multitude of individuals they want to become.  How are you adapting your organization to accommodate 4 generations?