As part of Solutions Review’s Expert Insights Series—a collection of contributed articles written by industry experts in enterprise software categories—Steve Oriola, the CEO of Act!, shares some 2023 technology predictions for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).
With 2022 winding down, many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) look to 2023 as either the year to right the ship or to best leverage their success of the last year. In 2022, organizations continued to obsess over digital transformation initiatives to upgrade customer experience, reduce process inefficiency and expand operational flexibility. With 87 percent of digital leaders agreeing that their company’s ability to compete in the market is greatly dependent on the flexibility of their technology architecture, digital transformation has become a necessity—not a luxury—in today’s business environment.
While the transformative potential of digital optimization may be universal, not all businesses are built the same. SMB technology requirements differ sharply from those of larger organizations, and with that in mind, here are my top technology predictions for SMBs—including startups—for 2023:
SMBs Will Embrace More Innovative Tech This Year
Following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, every organization scrambled to quickly adopt new ways of working, sometimes implementing new technologies to remain functional. While larger enterprises quickly embraced digital innovation, many SMBs were more hesitant in their technology adoption, even though small businesses suffered more job losses than larger companies.
Act! ‘s 2022 study, The Role of CRM in Today’s Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses, found that 45 percent of SMB owners continue to rely on paper records (!) to manage contacts, leads, and customer communications. With many businesses still reeling from labor shortages, uncertain supply chains, and rising inflation, I predict this number to drop significantly in 2023 as resilient SMB owners look to overcome these obstacles through innovative technology.
In 2023, SMBs will flip the script from understaffed and underperforming to efficient and optimized by embracing innovative productivity technology, like customer relationship management (CRM) software, to reduce workloads, mitigate errors, streamline operations and improve customer experience.
The Rise of Automation
According to Forbes, availability equates to profitability, finding that an SMB owner’s time management skills directly affect their business’s success. With Act! ‘s survey finding that over 69 percent of SMB owners managed all of their companies’ sales and marketing operations in 2022, time management may have been a significant challenge this past year. This is why I predict there must—and will—be a rise in automation within SMB operations.
Automated tools enable SMB owners to eliminate many of the tedious, redundant, and error-prone manual tasks that can slow operations and waste valuable time. A robust marketing automation software can give small businesses the throughput of a marketing team. Imagine being able to automatically send follow-ups, confirmation or holiday texts, and emails at the click of a mouse or design and implement high-quality marketing campaigns in a fraction of the time. With marketing automation, SMBs can reap these benefits.
Once SMB owners realize the time they save and the enhanced experience they can provide to their customers—with minimal resources—they’ll want to implement automation wherever possible.
Conventional Marketing Will Be a Popular Choice Among SMBs
In 2023, conversational marketing and chatbots will be everywhere, including within small business operations. Conversational marketing engages prospects and customers through two-way, real-time engagement rather than traditional sales dialogues. Instead of speaking to consumers as traditional direct marketing does, conversational marketing invites them into more natural, purposeful interactions. By educating them on your brand and services by answering their questions, you’re helping them identify the right offer and accelerate their buyer journey.
Adding new channels to engage with new customers—such as social media messaging, chatbots, and SMS—allows buyers to get the fast response they demand. By introducing a highly integrative CRM to operations, SMB owners can combine new channels with traditional ones, like email, phone, and other social media channels.
Making the Most of 2023
Finally, I predict 2023 will be a year of productivity and success for small businesses. Over the last three years, SMB owners have displayed their smarts, resiliency, and ability to adapt and grow through unprecedented adversity. As more and more SMBs embrace technology to optimize their operation, they can bridge the perception gap between themselves and larger enterprises. The reduced workloads and streamlined process made possible through new technology—like marketing automation and CRM—will enable SMB owners and their employees to focus on their most valuable asset in 2023—their customers.