Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) haven’t always had it easy. Huge, multi-national corporations had all the resources, all the hiring power, all the brand recognition and, consequently, all the market share.
But things have begun to shift dramatically in recent years.
You’ve heard all about disruption, and that’s because it’s happening in industries that have never experienced it before. SMBs are fighting back against big businesses, offering better services at competitive prices and getting more attention and more dollars from customers.
The last few years have only been the beginning. Here’s why this year is going to be even bigger for SMBs.
1. The Democratization of Data
Until recently, analytics and big data have only been available to the Fortune 1000 companies – businesses with sufficient revenue to employ full-time analysts to crunch the data. Now, every business can track sales metrics, marketing ROI, and support performance without a huge investment in hiring highly-trained analysts. Data is easier to collect, easier to analyze and easier to understand than ever. It’s also available and accessible to all levels of employees, not just CEOs and managers. SMBs are using these tools to drive efficiencies and compete more effectively against bigger businesses.
2. As-a-Service Advantages
Until recently, when someone wanted to launch a business – especially a technology-focused business – they needed a huge amount of cash up-front. Every business needed servers, hardware, expensive on-premises solutions, and a host of other products in order to run effectively. But now, more and more is offered to businesses as a service for a much lower monthly fee. You have Software-as-a-Service, Database-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service, and everything else you need to run a business. A founder no longer has to raise a huge amount of cash at the beginning, but can start off small and then scale as the business grows. This allows many more businesses to get off the ground with less cash in hand.
3. More Available Capital
Even though SMBs don’t need as much capital to launch, there’s more money than ever available if you can turn a savvy investor into a believer. There’s no doubt that 2015 is going to be a huge year for venture capital. As more and more startups go public and see massive success, VCs want to invest more money in promising businesses in the coming year. Investors are more willing to take risks on new ideas. VCs are always looking to fund the SMB that could turn into the next IPO.
4. Growing Customer Trust
Just as investors are more willing to take a chance on SMBs, so are consumers. There are so many success stories like Salesforce and Uber that customers have realized SMBs are not as volatile as they may have imagined. Customers have become much more willing to step outside their comfort zone and trust a small businesses. Rather than go with the status quo or following the rest of the herd, people want to try something new and cutting-edge. They’d rather be the early adopter than miss out on the next big thing.
5. Disruption is In
Everyone is talking disruption for a reason – it’s a real business opportunity. People have realized that there’s an opportunity to disrupt some of the most entrenched and unchanging industries, including cars, education, and even banking. Every business wants to be Facebook for X, or Netflix for Y. There’s even a parody website making fun of this now-common startup pitch. Even though some of these ideas will fail, others will be able to compete with the existing companies and maybe, eventually, displace them.
6. More Small Niches
In addition to disruption, SMBs have learned to take advantage of small, underserved niches within larger markets. While a huge company may be offering products to the masses, they’re simply not reaching every key demographic. That’s where one small business can jump in and start fighting back. For example, in social media there are an array of companies offering services to help improve your presence online. But a company like GaggleAMP offers easy amplification for social, servicing a niche within the broader social media industry. There’s a surprising amount of opportunity in these underserved groups, and more SMBs will take advantage of that in 2015.
7. New Buying Processes
Buyers have more power than ever and can do their own research to learn about the right companies and solutions for their needs. An interested customer no longer has to go through multiple layers of salespeople, sign up for a demo, and spend hours on the phone negotiating a deal. With relatively little hassle, customers can sign up online to try out SaaS products, analyze their results, and easily buy. This is known as “touchless buying” and makes it easier and more appealing to buy products.
8. Agile Innovation
In the past, big businesses were the only ones with the money to invest in funding serious technology research, leading to breakthroughs from big names like IBM. But now, large businesses simply cannot change and adapt at the fast pace of SMBs. Staying small and nimble allows for businesses to make quick adjustments – to their product, their selling process, their marketing efforts, etc. – to improve and grow. Technology is changing daily and big businesses are struggling to keep up with the pace of innovation.
For the SMBs that are able to find their niche, disrupt the market, and stay agile – succeeding in their market will be a snap. Everything is converging to make 2015 the biggest year ever for SMBs.