The business landscape is constantly changing. And, at the moment, entrepreneurs are faced with the dual dangers of an economic downturn and rising interest rates.
But there are still opportunities for entrepreneurs who are willing to think differently and embrace innovation. In fact, one of the traits of a successful entrepreneur is the ability to adapt to changing times and stay one step ahead of their bigger, less nimble, and more bureaucratic competitors.
In this article, we look at some of the biggest trends that have been playing out over 2023, and how entrepreneurs might be able to leverage them to give themselves an edge over their competitors.
Adopting sustainable practices
There is still a lot of scope for businesses to steal a march on their competitors by adopting sustainable practices, and positioning themselves as a leader in their industry when it comes to environmental impact.
And while this has been a trend for entrepreneurs for the last decade, there are still opportunities for founders to set themselves, especially in industries are still lagging behind on ESG credentials, such as manufacturing, FMCG, and financial services. Entrepreneurs in these industries should look to market themselves in a way that highlights their environmental track-record.
As a case in point, over the last 12 months, a number of consumer start-ups have started to decarbonise their last-mile delivery supply chains by contracting with bicycle delivery companies, rather than depending on the more conventional petrol-powered trucks.
This highlights another opportunity for entrepreneurs: while your competitors might have already adopted the basics of sustainable practices, there are probably more difficult elements of their business, just like delivery and supply chain, that still provide a ripe opportunity to set yourself apart.
Leveraging personal social channels
One of the biggest trends in marketing over the last 12 months has been the growth of personal PR and personal branding.
That’s to say, rather than just concentrating on building the followings of their companies on social media, many entrepreneurs have started to proactively build their own followings and audiences as entrepreneurs.
Many entrepreneurs have found more immediate and quick success going via this route because customers are, generally, more willing to follow people on social media than companies and corporate brands.
In fact, recognising the value of this approach, many entrepreneurs have actually started to handover their social channels to their marketing teams for ongoing management or, instead, hired a dedicated PR agency for entrepreneurs.
Using AI in a purposeful way
AI has been, probably, the most-hyped topic of 2023, so we need to be wary of buying into raw hype without proper substance and knowledge. But if it’s deployed in the right way, AI can be a key area of advantage for entrepreneurs who are looking to radically disrupt their sectors and industries.
How do you deploy it in the right way? It means deploying AI with a degree of purpose. The problem with AI is when it is simply bolted on to a business without any real rationale or for no reason whatsoever. For example, do we really need an AI-powered toothbrush? Or, an AI-powered fridge? Probably not. In those types of cases, the AI element has only really been added on as a marketing gimmick to sell more products.
But, if AI can actually help you strip out extra costs, then it could be worth considering. For example, AI can help you sort through masses of information quickly or, even, extract trends and signals in data that might not have been possible for humans otherwise. So, if your business uses a huge amount of data, consider how AI might be able to help and streamline your business.
Embracing remote working
It’s often said that a business is only as good as the people within it, and for good reason. Regardless of whether you’re a software, industrial, or financial company, your team will make or break your success, whether it’s the quality of the products that they design for your business, or the customer service that they offer to your customers.
As an entrepreneur, if you can put together a better, more enthusiastic team than your competitors, then you’re already in a better, stronger position to beat them. That’s why a number of entrepreneurs have started to embrace remote working.
While big corporates are calling teams back to office, a number of start-ups are telling their teams that they are willing to actively embrace truly global remote working, whether that’s simply working from home, or even working from abroad.
The benefits are two-fold. On one hand, by embracing remote working, you enhance your offer to potential new recruits, giving you the an extra edge when trying to appeal, entice, and poach top talent from competitors. On the other hand, if you’re allowing team members to work from anywhere in the world, this also gives you the potential to hire people who aren’t based in the UK or wherever your headquarters are located.
Returning to face-to-face sales
Finally, while embracing remote working might be an effective way to super-charge your recruitment effort as an entrepreneur, a number of founders are starting to invest in in-person activity where it really matters: sales, business development, and client management.
In particular, the pandemic saw many sales people get into the habit of relying solely on email, Zoom, and phone to drive calls, and that trend doesn’t seem to have reversed. Many business development teams still find themselves chained to their desks all day, rarely finding the opportunity to meet their potential clients in-person.
Yet, evidence has shown that potential clients appreciate face-to-face contact and, even more importantly, it can lead to more sales success and bigger contracts. So, many entrepreneurs are doubling down on face-to-face sales, or putting together in-person events to engage customers rather than depend, for example, on webinars.
2023 has been a difficult and exhausting year for entrepreneurs, and it doesn’t look like that will change any time soon. In the face of rising competition and a different economic environment, entrepreneurs can spot and leverage new trends to set themselves apart.