Be prepared for major change with these top business trends

In Part One we looked at overall business issues and in Part Two we will look at trends bringing change to your marketing, sales, and customer experience groups, which will round out our 22 business trends.

Blog Business Trends for Rental Business Part Two

Hail Marketing, Sales is dead!

Let’s start with marketing. Sales as you knew it ten years ago, and even five years ago, is pretty much dead. This section will give you fresh insight into how to transform your marketing efforts and combine them with new methods of selling to bring in new customers and keep old ones. 

13. Sales and content marketing become fully integrated

As the trend continues for buyers doing more online research, organizations will need to more closely integrate sales with content marketing. A search by a customer needs to find your content to address their questions and issues.

For some, content marketing refers entirely to the generation of blogs, which are indexed by search engines to bring more potential customers to your website. Content marketing is much more than just random or regular blogs and may include multiple mediums, including videos, to educate the readers. The goal is to build trust in the organization before asking for the sale.

Front-line sales staff, whether Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) referred to elsewhere in this document, inside sales, or customer-facing salespeople, are ideally suited to identify topics for content marketing. The content marketing team is then responsible to train the sales group on the utilization of content.

Compare your competitors’ websites and see what they offer for content marketing. Right now, there are few small to medium-sized rental companies doing a good job of this but you can expect this situation to change. You might think content marketing is not really necessary but it is a very important factor in the prospective customer finding you in the top 2 or 3 search results.

14. Video becomes essential

According to a Forbes study executives are increasing their reliance on video when doing their jobs.

  • Over 80% have increased their viewing of video when compared to a year earlier
  • 75% watch work-related videos on business worksites at least weekly and 52% watch work-related videos on YouTube on a weekly basis
  • 65% have visited a vendor’s website after watching a video

Hubspot recently conducted a consumer behavior survey, which noted that 55% of users watch the entire video where only the stats are only 29% for blogs and 33% for interactive articles.

If you want your target users to see the whole message, video seems to be the preferred medium. With some investment, the latest technology can assemble short videos into one seamless offering based on the requirements of the viewer. The goal in any communication today is to match the customer preferences and requirements as closely as possible.

15. Content marketing becomes more innovative

As content marketing continues to gain momentum, companies are beginning to take it more seriously. Specialists in digital marketing and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) will become more popular as companies look for new and innovative content suitable for their target market. As discussed earlier, video will become a critical part of any organization’s arsenal.

For those unsure about the term “digital marketing”, Wikipedia defines it as “an umbrella term for the marketing of products or services using digital technologies, mainly on the Internet, but also including mobile phones, display advertising, and any other digital medium.” In other words, it is a pretty broad group that might not necessarily include the internet. Wikipedia describes the group as including “search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), content marketing, influencer marketing, content automation, campaign marketing, data-driven marketing and e-commerce marketing, social media marketing, social media optimization, e-mail direct marketing, display advertising, e–books, and optical disks and games are becoming more common in our advancing technology. In fact, digital marketing now extends to non-Internet channels that provide digital media, such as mobile phones (SMS and MMS), callback, and on-hold mobile ring tones.

No organization can hope to do all this well so you should concentrate on the two or three that make the most sense. Your website is obviously the first one. Next should probably be blogs and other written content that can be consumed by the customer. Depending on your exact niche, social media may be critical to your success.

16. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Probably the most important thing to realize is that SEO is a moving target. Google, which is the dominant search engine on the internet, frequently updates its search algorithm. This means businesses must stay on top of the changes to ensure their organizations rate highly on internet queries. Research done by Search Engine Watch indicates that 33% of traffic comes from the 1st position and 18% for the 2nd. That means nearly 50% of all traffic comes from just the first two results in any internet search. The full report can be found here. 

According to Wikipedia, SEO affects the visibility of a website or web page in a web search engine’s unpaid results, which can also be referred to as “organic” results. SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines, and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience.

Remember, it is a moving target, and the science of how to optimize SEO results is a complex area. This continuous change and complexity makes it extremely difficult to rely on a part-time, internal marketing resource. Most organizations are better off outsourcing their SEO strategy and execution, although a hybrid of internal people who really understand your business and outside technical experts is often the best strategy.

17. Social Media

It has now gotten to the point where social media is no longer just about young adults and teenagers. According to a PEW Research article about social media users, 69% of adults are social media users, compared to 5% back in 2005 when the study first commenced. 86% of adults from 18 to 29 years of age are involved with social media, 80% of those 30-49, and 64% from 50 to 64 years of age. While only 35% of those over 65 use social media, this number has grown dramatically from 10% back in 2010.

Bottom line, businesses catering to other businesses can probably still afford to be late adopters of social media but that is almost guaranteed to change as the population ages and the users with the highest adoption rates begin to bring their preferences to work. Those involved directly with consumers must get with the program before it is too late.

The customer isn’t just king, he’s leading the way

Now that you have a customer, what do you do with them? They have different expectations than those guys ten years ago. Even your existing customers have suddenly become demanding, or so it seems. In reality, the bleed over from personal customer service experiences, including working with the masters such as Amazon, is transforming expectations as they bring this knowledge to their workplace.

This section will help you understand where those customers are coming from with their unreasonable demands and what you have to do to satisfy and exceed their expectations.

18. Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) become more important than classic salespeople. 

In the Challenger Sale, by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, the authors believe that solution selling is no longer effective and buyers are fed up with yielding information to sales representatives who deliver no value. In the book, a “Challenger Sale” is defined as one where the sales representative teaches the prospect something about their business, modifies their message to resonate with the customer, and takes control of the sales process instead of following a standardized format.   While it is possible that a SME might be a salesperson, it is more likely that a SME in operations will provide the value today’s customers are looking for.

In lieu of reading the entire book, you can access a PDF summary of the book, and then review your sales processes to determine whether your sales process and personnel meet this new reality.

19. SME’s need sales support but who do you hire?

The unfortunate reality is that many SME’s are not temperamentally suited to managing a sales process, through to taking the order. So to complement the SME’s technical and analytical skills, many organizations are hiring inside salespeople to work with the SME’s. These people are effectively order takers in many ways. They are not highly trained, might be fresh out of school, and should be significantly cheaper than traditional salespeople. They are also much easier to replace than the typical rain-maker salesperson.

It’s a good model if you believe solution selling is dead. It also makes sense when you see the statistic from The Brevet Group that says only 13% of customers believe a salesperson can understand their needs. Make sure you have both SME’s and sales support people working together in a well-defined sales process.

20. Radically different customer relationships

Traditionally, most companies believed that they were in control of the sales process. Yes, there was that messy little detail about the customer actually agreeing to purchase something but generally businesses believed that if they followed a defined process, the sales would come. And, it was the business who defined the process, not the customer. I once had a furniture salesperson who seemed quite upset that I wasn’t purchasing furniture from him. His logic was based on the fact that he showed me what I asked for and answered all of my questions. My personal preferences and tastes didn’t seem to matter to him!

Not, any more! The advent of the internet along with social media and mobile products has totally changed the consumer’s idea of how the sales process should go. Informed customers are driving change and wanted to be treated as if they matter. Ignore their opinion or tastes and they will walk right out the door.

To win customers, business must show they are personalizing the customer experience instead of just selling widgets or services. This helps build the trust today’s customer is looking for and delivers value. Do you have a carefully defined customer strategy?

21. Interactions from mobile devices will continue to grow

According to PEW Research Center in a 2017 study, approximately 77% of Americans now own a smartphone. But, more importantly, 92% of adults from 18- to 29-year-olds have one. This is a trend that is not going down anytime soon. Even in households with less than $30,000 of income, 64% of these Americans have a smartphone.

Interestingly, 51% of the public now owns a tablet, a big increase from 2010 when only 3% had one.

The impact of mobile devices impacts many aspects of business operations, not just marketing and a website. Self-service portals are one additional example but use of social media also continues to grow, up to nearly 70% of Americans. The impact of mobile devices and social media is something that can’t be ignored.

Does your company have a mobile device strategy? Remember that Google penalizes websites that aren’t mobile friendly when accessed from a mobile device.

22. A change in how customers want to interact

Traditionally, customers would phone in, often with the result of sitting on hold or leaving a voice mail. Email might have been an option for some.

Today’s customers increasingly prefer to interact through texts or chats, which might happen through something like Facebook messenger, SMS, WhatsApp, or through one of a host of other options that seem to be ever appearing in the market. Artificial intelligence and bots will accelerate this trend in the next few years.

At this point, you might want to see if you have any millennials working for you and start asking them about how this new experience might apply to your business.

You can’t do everything at once

Spend some time thinking about each section. Hopefully, by now, you have some great ideas. Pick a few favorites that have the most potential to improve your business and can actually be implemented in a reasonable timeframe. The objective here is to quickly get a win or two, and then use the momentum to move forward.

Remember the flywheel. Keep pushing and pushing. You can do it and one day you will wake up and realize it is turning by itself. Once momentum is on your side, your business will transform itself as you keep pushing.

Pick one to get started and you’ll be on your way!