Entrepreneurs never stop thinking about what’s next for their businesses and how to make the most of what’s ahead—but in the times we live in, advance planning is not always easy. Getting in front of the trends can be especially challenging for one-person businesses and other very small firms, which usually don’t have a big budget for market research or marketing.
For insight on how to grow your business in 2020 no matter what your budget, I spoke recently with Jen Kem, a brand futurist who runs the marketing firm KemComm Media Group and the Master Brand Institute, which teaches entrepreneurs brand building. Forbes readers met Kem, based in Walnut Creek, Calif., when I wrote about her story of entrepreneurial reinvention last year.
Here are some of Kem’s predictions for 2020 and her ideas on how to make the most of what’s ahead.
Human connection will matter more than ever. Many people are lonely, isolated and alienated in a world that’s increasingly driven by technology. Smart entrepreneurs will find ways to devote the time they’ve freed up with technology to getting to know customers better, even if that’s through simple methods like taking a few extra minutes to talk with them. “Where you put your time and money needs to be in ‘real life’ and relationships,” Kem says.
Kem recommends building a small, close-knit network populated by people who help you connect to your higher purpose, rather than spreading yourself thin among a large group or making only superficial contact once in a while. “People don’t want relationships to be a ‘fly by,’” she says.
Also look for ways to create experiences that help people feel they are are part of a “movement,” as the cycling brand Peleton has done, she recommends. Connecting your customers to like-minded people adds to their sense of belonging.
What if you don’t have Peleton’s budget? It doesn’t matter. There are many ways to create genuine community on a shoestring, like planning a live event or workshop, she says.
Keeping your creative output true to your values will give you an edge. What attracts customers to your brand and business will be content or other things you create (or curate) that truly convey your values. That applies to every size business, whether it’s the next unicorn or a one-person shop. “If you’re a small business, you are actually building a brand,” says Kem.