The new year offers a whole new set of challenges and opportunities for small business owners and entrepreneurs. For starters, the rules of marketing and brand management are rapidly changing. The tools that we use to connect with our customers and manage our businesses have been all but reinvented over the past year. Add an unpredictable economy and you have yourself a heck of a lot to think (and worry) about.
During my recent adventure at the Consumer Electronics Show, I had the opportunity to speak along with Guy Kawasaki, Chris Brogan and Ramon Ray at American Express' OPEN Forum center. After each talk, I spoke with groups of small business leaders and entrepreneurs about the changing times and what awaits us.
Here are two challenges (and opportunities) that came up in conversation:
Challenge 1: We've Entered The Era of “Reactionary Workflow.”
Consider how many different forms of communication you now accept in your business: e-mails, Twitter messages, voicemails, social network messages… and the list goes on. As a small business leader, you're faced with an increasing number of "inputs," and you're likely engaged in the game of simply trying to stay afloat. A number of folks I spoke with feel that their communication lines with their customers are spread too broadly.
Solutions? We need to restrain our tendency to always react to the latest thing that comes in. We must reserve the sacred periods of time where we process long-term projects and do the research. We should also try new applications and tools that consolidate and filter the constant inflow of stuff.
Want more info on CES? Check these stories out:
Challenge 2: Your Brand Is No Longer Under Your Control.
The days of controlling a brand behind closed doors are over. Yes, any company can still try to indoctrinate the masses with million-dollar ad campaigns, but what our friends and community think will ultimately determine what we think. Look no further than the Twitter stream. When you search "Time Warner Cable," you get a stream of real-time commentary that presents the brand more accurately than any commercial on television. But this is just the chorus of the masses. When we are able to tap into the opinions of small groups of especially credible people, brand perception will truly be determined by consensus. When this happens, marketing budgets will be reallocated to customer service and "community management" as the most effective ways to improve a brand.
At the crux of these two challenges is technology, particularly social media, as a way to change the conventions of business.
How do you use technology to solve the problems in your small business?
Find more highlights from CES -- including insights on social media, innovation, and technology from Guy Kawasaki, Chris Brogan, Scott Belsky, and Ramon Ray -- at openforum.com/ces.