What does the entrepreneurial landscape look like for 2017?
Ask 10 “experts” and you’ll probably get 10 different answers. But there are some trends developing (or holding steady) that are worth looking at because they might reveal where you can place the emphasis for your start-up business in the coming year.
One that I find particularly interesting is that physical products are not going away. Many young entrepreneurs who grew up on the Internet have been assuming that physical products are going the way of the dinosaur, and therefore don’t want to waste time on them.
But a funny thing has occurred during this digital revolution. We’re learning that a significant percentage of the population continues to desire physical products, even when a digital version is more quickly obtained. Sales of many physical products such as books, film and music have risen in recent years, despite the presence of digital parallels.
My company – 4Patriots, LLC, formerly Reboot Marketing – started off with one digital product, and it gave us a great launch when we were a start-up. We taught people how to build and install their own solar panels, wind turbines, solar water heaters and solar air heaters through digital instruction guides.
Since that time, our rapidly growing customer base has made it clear that they enjoy physical products just as much if not more, and we’ve accommodated them with items including survival food, solar generators, water purification systems, survival seeds, etc. These physical products have provided us with growth that we would not have otherwise experienced.
The point here is not to disregard your digital product ideas, but rather to keep an open mind regarding physical products that you may have the capability to sell. Even e-commerce companies such as Amazon are planning to open brick-and-mortar stores, so you know physical products are not going away any time soon.
Another important trend is communicating with your customers and potential customers in real time. More and more companies are now using chatbots or ways to connect with a live customer service representative on their sites to answer product queries.
Think about how many times that you, as a customer or potential customer, become interested in a product you see online, but then get frustrated because not every question you have about it is answered by the information provided. If you’re like most people, you click off of that site and start looking for something similar elsewhere.
The companies that can answer their customers’ and potential customers’ questions immediately are the ones who will prosper. The power of a friendly voice from a knowledgeable agent cannot be underestimated. At 4Patriots, we’ve seen over and over again that providing our site visitors with real-time answers to their questions results in happy customers, many of whom then make additional purchases.
Finally, here’s a trend that’s a little more difficult to quantify, but it’s real nonetheless. Customers continue to show loyalty to brands when the manufacturers become known for displaying social responsibility in one manner or another.
This could manifest in anything from creating environmentally friendly products, to making charitable donations to those in need, to addressing ethical concerns in a responsible fashion, to supporting local businesses. As evidence, a Nielsen survey revealed that 55 percent of global online consumers said they are willing to spend more on products and services that are provided by companies committed to positive social and environmental impact.
If you’re planning to launch a start-up, or hope to continue the business growth you’ve established recently, 2017 should be a very exciting year. I hope an examination of these trends and others will help you succeed beyond your wildest dreams.
Allen Baler is a leading entrepreneur and Harvard grad. Allen Baler is a Partner in 4Patriots LLC, based in Nashville.
Disclaimer: This blog post is not a substitute for the sound advice of a business professional with expertise in the subject matter discussed. Please seek appropriate counsel on what strategies make sense for your business.