Small Business

What are best practices of integrated branding and design?

What are best practices of integrated branding and design?

Integrated branding and design refers to the practice of consistently using the same visual and messaging elements across all marketing channels and touchpoints to create a cohesive and unified brand identity. This includes the use of the same logo, color scheme, typography, and brand messaging across all marketing materials, from social media posts and website design to physical products and promotional items.

Here are some best practices for integrated branding and design:

  1. Develop a clear brand strategy and messaging: Before you start designing anything, it's important to define your brand's purpose, values, and target audience. This will help you create a cohesive and consistent brand identity that resonates with your audience.
  2. Use consistent design elements: Choose a color scheme, typography, and design elements that are unique to your brand and use them consistently across all marketing materials. This includes your logo, website, social media profiles, business cards, and any other branded materials.
  3. Create a style guide: A style guide is a document that outlines all of the design and branding elements that should be used in all marketing materials. This includes details about your logo, color scheme, typography, imagery, and tone of voice. Having a style guide ensures that everyone on your team is using the same design elements and messaging, which helps create a cohesive brand identity.
  4. Communicate your brand effectively: Make sure your brand messaging is clear and consistent across all marketing channels. This includes the language you use, the tone of voice, and the overall messaging you communicate to your audience.
  5. Monitor and update your branding: As your business grows and evolves, it's important to regularly review and update your branding to ensure it stays relevant and consistent. This may include updating your style guide, refreshing your website design, or adjusting your messaging to better reflect your brand's values and target audience.

The most important part of our work is getting the branding and messaging right. It will inform every aspect of our work with you. We will interview key stakeholders and evaluate your existing messaging platform. Then we’ll develop value propositions to define your position based on the segments you intend to win over. This approach enables you to stake out a strong position that 1) differentiates you from the competition, and 2) resonates with your audiences.

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Webex has revolutionized the world

Mark Stallard of Yellow Dog Networks, and John House love using Webex for clients and technical help desk and remote customer service jobs for its ease of use and seamless connections.

Collaboration, support calls, and universal platform to launch on their laptop or desktop. You can connect with end user and give them desktop control to fix quickly and setup properly so much faster than the end user trying to help you with something. Webex has revolutionized the world.

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How to Brand and Design Effective Interactive eBooks

How to brand and design effective interactive eBooks? Creating digital marketing assets like eBooks is one of the best ways to deliver value, create engagement, and elevate your brand. This blog is about my workflow on developing an interactive eBook for Cisco Small Business using Adobe InDesign.

Our design team of writers, designers and planners, develop an eBook about Cisco IT Networking for supporting the small businesses with 250 employees or less. The page count 12+ pdf pages to be used as a presale communication tool to download from the Cisco Small Business website, social media pages, email and other engagements.
We want small business owners to know that Cisco understands their pain points as expressed in the headline: “One Size Does Not Fit All Small Businesses.”

The Purpose of an Ebook

Our approach was a personas driven message. Business owners have challenges and they want solutions that speak to their pain points. These personas portray the kinds of people in businesses that are:
1) New startups
2) Expanding or adding branch offices, or
3) Optimizing their IT Network to accommodate a variety of needs: remote workers, global offices, collaboration, or other kinds of optimization.

There is a big opportunity for the Do it Yourself (DIY) small business people with either low to no IT Staff — and others that do have IT managed companies.

People want to know the right-fit for wireless and IT Networking for their business. The “one size does not fit all for small business” humanizes the Cisco products. People will immediately identify with the solution because you are talking directly to them about their pain points, their experience as a small business person who wants to get their branch office up and running right away, or getting the right wireless solution to satisfy the 100-200 people who visit their location every day.

We begin with our end in mind: what are we selling.

We offer the language of “Value, Expansion, and Optimization” to showcase the Cisco Switches, Routers, and Wireless to small business. We want to offer them one or two different solutions per persona. Then all them to connect to the Cisco online “selector tool.” https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/small-business.html?stickynav=1

Like a good business plan, a small business owner should develop an IT Network plan according to their current needs as well as anticipate their future needs. This eBook will help business owners to future proof their IT Networks by choosing choose the right IT Network for their size and future growth plans as “good, better, and best.” There are a lot of choices in the market place that want to sell you a cheap systems, security and promise performance, but Cisco understands “One Size Does Not Fit All Small Businesses.” We want to offer our customers “Value, Expansion, and Optimization” language of our Switches, Routers, and Wireless to small business, and get them to use the online

We were able to make updates including a new page on Webex see link Click here to view the eBook

Feel free to reach out to me to talk about how eBooks works and how you can use it in your own marketing journey at info@dirigoagency.com.

Timothy Fahey is branding and design professional, designer, professor, blogger, videographer and owner of Dirigo Agency Inc., a company focused on helping business owners use branding, design, and content to market their business. He has worked in the agency business since 1986 and served both local and global brands. His passion is to collaborate with others to create content more strategically so they get the recognition and results they desire through content marketing efforts.

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Shopify E-commerce Site — Best Business Practices and Metrics for Success

Cisco Partners Leading the Way to Digital Selling for Small Business

Marketplace-in-a-Box – best business practices and metrics for success.

To help its partners capture more market share while providing the best possible solutions for customers, Cisco offers a DIY e-commerce platform that creates a virtual “Marketplace-in-a-Box.” One of the first to benefit from this program is Matthew Keeler, President and CEO of KR Group, Inc. a Cisco Partner. He discusses why KR Group chose Shopify as well as how they implemented the platform to sell Meraki cameras and Cisco Meraki Enterprise Support licensing support, along with other Cisco products for small business.

Why is now the right time for a DIY e-commerce platform?
We’ve entered an era where entrepreneurial spirit meets DIY. Companies need to engage customers how and where they live online – but without building complex and costly infrastructure. At KR Group, we have to focus on our existing customers and growing our business rather than burdening our technical people with another system
to maintain. The keys for us are to be nimble, to allow customers to easily research and buy products, and to generate leads – all while supporting our brand.

Why did you choose Shopify as your online store?
We initially tested a robust WordPress-enabled platform that embedded an I-frame on our website. However, that turned out to be a frustrating experience for us and our customers. It didn’t allow us to organize information in a way that made sense, plus to make matters worse, search results load times were painfully slow.

“Rock solid security”
Shopify, on the other hand, gave us everything we needed. It’s not over-designed, it’s easy to use and the SaaS Shopify platform – from a security standpoint – is rock solid. It provides an easy checkout and payment system for our customers.

What’s more, we get a dashboard that includes useful metrics such as total sales, online sessions, returning customer rate, online store conversion rate, average order value, total orders, top product units sold, online store
session by location and social source, sales by traffic and social source, top landing pages by sessions, and total sales attributed by marketing campaigns.

The best part is, there’s no need for system updates or heavy programming that e-commerce platforms ordinarily require. Nontechnical staff can update content and view metrics in a matter of minutes.

How did you implement Shopify?
Cisco sponsored the Marketplace Jumpstart – “Marketplace-in-a-Box” – as a pilot program to manually integrate marketing planning, the project management chronological timeline and the existing marketing roadmap.

With the user interface branded template, we were able to add product information, set up a payment gateway, and sales channel into Facebook. Essentially, that gave us a store inside our Facebook business page, audience profiles, pay-per-click advertising and the analytics.

Customers get to our store via our website’s global navigation and other links. From their perspective the entire user experience is seamless. Social media integration makes it easy to develop posts and targeted Facebook pay-per-click advertising to small business owners and IT professionals in our region. We were up and running within 30 days and getting results immediately.

How we built the digital selling program

Cisco developed a smart business pilot program called Marketplace Jumpstart to help partners reach customers easily through their own e-commerce site with low/no touch sales.
This program reinforces Cisco’s commitment to small business by helping Cisco Partners lead the way for digital selling of cloud and on-premise products with Cisco intel that’s built into the products.

Marketplace-in-a-box provides a way to sell directly to small business with Cisco products that were “no-touch or low-touch” on-prem and cloud-based products under their control, bringing to Cisco Partners the first-ever rogram of its kind to support partners own lead generation program and e-commerce site.

The long-term value will enable partners to work at their pace, hand-off the e-commerce tools to their own marketing department and content development personnel, generate their own leads and sell low margin products while integrating the social media platform into their marketing practices. It generates an additional revenue stream, and use of easy-to- use enablement tools to help partners acquire new customers.

Cisco is constantly finding ways to invest in their partners to help them increase their revenue stream by selling more products, engage more customers and generate leads, training, and best e-marketing practices. For DIY types of entrepreneurs who want an easy way to start a store, there isn’t an easier solution available.

Published by Timothy Fahey; and edited by Howard Schwartz, a freelance user experience strategist and writer. Timothy Fahey is branding and design professional, designer, professor, blogger, videographer and owner of Dirigo Agency Inc., a company focused on helping business owners use branding, design, and content to market their business. He has worked in the agency business since 1986 and served both local and global brands like Sprint and Cisco Systems. His passion is to collaborate with others to create content more strategically so they get the recognition and results they desire through content marketing efforts.

Published by Timothy Fahey; written by Eric Schwartz a freelance writer and public relations and political science major. Timothy Fahey is branding and design professional, designer, professor, blogger, videographer and owner of Dirigo Agency Inc., a company focused on helping business owners use branding, design, and content to market their business. He has worked in the agency business since 1986 and served both local and global brands. His passion is to collaborate with others to create content more strategically so they get the recognition and results they desire through content marketing efforts.

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10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation

How many times have you unfriended someone on Facebook because they said something offensive about politics or religion, childcare, food? And how many of you know at least one person that you avoid because you just don’t want to talk to them? 

You know, it used to be that in order to have a polite conversation, we just had to follow the advice of Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady” Stick to the weather and your health.

But these days, with climate change and anti-vaxxing, those subjects — are not safe either. So this world that we live in, this world in which every conversation has the potential to devolve into an argument, where our politicians can’t speak to one another and where even the most trivial of issues have someone fighting both passionately for it and against it, it’s not normal. Pew Research did a study of 10,000 American adults, and they found that at this moment, we are more polarized, we are more divided than we ever have been in history. We’re less likely to compromise, which means we’re not listening to each other. And we make decisions about where to live, who to marry and even who our friends are going to be, based on what we already believe. Again, that means we’re not listening to each other. A conversation requires a balance between talking and listening, and somewhere along the way, we lost that balance. Now, part of that is due to technology.

The smartphones that you all either have in your hands or close enough that you could grab them really quickly. According to Pew Research, about a third of American teenagers send more than a hundred texts a day. And many of them, almost most of them, are more likely to text their friends than they are to talk to them face to face. There’s this great piece in The Atlantic. It was written by a high school teacher named Paul Barnwell. And he gave his kids a communication project. He wanted to teach them how to speak on a specific subject without using notes. And he said this: “I came to realize…”

“I came to realize that conversational competence might be the single most overlooked skill we fail to teach. Kids spend hours each day engaging with ideas and each other through screens, but rarely do they have an opportunity to hone their interpersonal communication skills. It might sound like a funny question, but we have to ask ourselves: Is there any 21st-century skill more important than being able to sustain a coherent, confident conversation?”

Now, I make my living talking to people: Nobel Prize winners, truck drivers, billionaires, kindergarten teachers, heads of state, plumbers. I talk to people that I like. I talk to people that I don’t like. I talk to some people that I disagree with deeply on a personal level. But I still have a great conversation with them. So I’d like to spend the next 10 minutes or so teaching you how to talk and how to listen.

Many of you have already heard a lot of advice on this, things like look the person in the eye, think of interesting topics to discuss in advance, look, nod and smile to show that you’re paying attention, repeat back what you just heard or summarize it. So I want you to forget all of that. It is crap.

There is no reason to learn how to show you’re paying attention if you are in fact paying attention.

Now, I actually use the exact same skills as a professional interviewer that I do in regular life. So, I’m going to teach you how to interview people, and that’s actually going to help you learn how to be better conversationalists.

Learn to have a conversation without wasting your time, without getting bored, and, please God, without offending anybody. We’ve all had really great conversations. We’ve had them before. We know what it’s like. The kind of conversation where you walk away feeling engaged and inspired, or where you feel like you’ve made a real connection or you’ve been perfectly understood. There is no reason why most of your interactions can’t be like that. So I have 10 basic rules. I’m going to walk you through all of them, but honestly, if you just choose one of them and master it, you’ll already enjoy better conversations.

Number one way to have better conversations: Don’t multitask.

And I don’t mean just set down your cell phone. or your tablet or your car keys or whatever is in your hand. I mean, be present. Be in that moment.

Don’t think about your argument you had with your boss. Don’t think about what you’re going to have for dinner. If you want to get out of the conversation, get out of the conversation, but don’t be half in it and half out of it.

Number two way to have better conversations: Don’t pontificate. 

If you want to state your opinion without any opportunity for response or argument or pushback or growth, write a blog.

Now, there’s a really good reason why I don’t allow pundits on my show: Because they’re really boring.

If they’re conservative, they’re going to hate Obama and food stamps and abortion. If they’re liberal, they’re going to hate big banks and oil corporations and Dick Cheney. Totally predictable. And you don’t want to be like that. You need to enter every conversation assuming that you have something to learn. The famed therapist M. Scott Peck said that true listening requires a setting aside of oneself. And sometimes that means setting aside your personal opinion. He said that sensing this acceptance, the speaker will become less and less vulnerable and more and more likely to open up the inner recesses of his or her mind to the listener. Again, assume that you have something to learn.

Bill Nye: “Everyone you will ever meet knows something that you don’t.” I put it this way: Everybody is an expert in something. 

Number three way to have better conversations: Use open-ended questions. In this case, take a cue from journalists.

Start your questions with who, what, when, where, why or how. If you put in a complicated question, you’re going to get a simple answer out. If I ask you, “Were you terrified?” you’re going to respond to the most powerful word in that sentence, which is “terrified,” and the answer is “Yes, I was” or “No, I wasn’t.” “Were you angry?” “Yes, I was very angry.” Let them describe it. They’re the ones that know. Try asking them things like, “What was that like?” “How did that feel?” Because then they might have to stop for a moment and think about it, and you’re going to get a much more interesting response. 

Number four way to have better conversations: Go with the flow. 

That means thoughts will come into your mind and you need to let them go out of your mind. We’ve heard interviews often in which a guest is talking for several minutes and then the host comes back in and asks a question which seems like it comes out of nowhere, or it’s already been answered. That means the host probably stopped listening two minutes ago because he thought of this really clever question, and he was just bound and determined to say that. And we do the exact same thing. We’re sitting there having a conversation with someone, and then we remember that time that we met Hugh Jackman in a coffee shop. And we stop listening. Stories and ideas are going to come to you. You need to let them come and let them go.

Number five way to have better conversations: If you don’t know, say that you don’t know.

Now, people on the radio, especially on NPR, are much more aware that they’re going on the record, and so they’re more careful about what they claim to be an expert in and what they claim to know for sure. Do that. Err on the side of caution. Talk should not be cheap. 

Number six way to have better conversations: Don’t equate your experience with theirs. 

If they’re talking about having lost a family member, don’t start talking about the time you lost a family member. If they’re talking about the trouble they’re having at work, don’t tell them about how much you hate your job. It’s not the same. It is never the same. All experiences are individual. And, more importantly, it is not about you. You don’t need to take that moment to prove how amazing you are or how much you’ve suffered. Somebody asked Stephen Hawking once what his IQ was, and he said, “I have no idea. People who brag about their IQs are losers.” Conversations are not a promotional opportunity.

Number seven way to have better conversations: Try not to repeat yourself. 

It’s condescending, and it’s really boring, and we tend to do it a lot. Especially in work conversations or in conversations with our kids, we have a point to make, so we just keep rephrasing it over and over. Don’t do that.

Number eight way to have better conversations: Stay out of the weeds.

Frankly, people don’t care about the years, the names,  the dates, all those details that you’re struggling to come up with in your mind. They don’t care. What they care about is you.  They care about what you’re like, what you have in common. So forget the details. Leave them out. 

Number nine way to have better conversations: This is not the last one, but it is the most important one. Listen. 

I cannot tell you how many really important people have said that listening is perhaps the most, the number one most important skill that you could develop. Buddha said, and I’m paraphrasing, “If your mouth is open, you’re not learning.” And Calvin Coolidge said, “No man ever listened to his way out of a job.” Why do we not listen to each other?  Number one, we’d rather talk. When I’m talking, I’m in control. I don’t have to hear anything I’m not interested in. I’m the center of attention. I can bolster my own identity. But there’s another reason: We get distracted. The average person talks at about 225 words per minute,  but we can listen up to 500 words per minute. So our minds are filling in those other 275 words. And look, I know, it takes effort and energy to actually pay attention to someone, but if you can’t do that, you’re not in a conversation.

You’re just two people shouting out barely related sentences in the same place. You have to listen to one another. Stephen Covey said it very beautifully. He said, “Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand. We listen with the intent to reply.”

Number 10 way to have better conversations: Be brief.

All of this boils down to the same basic concept, and it is this one: Be interested in other people. You know, I grew up with a very famous grandfather, and there was kind of a ritual in my home. People would come over to talk to my grandparents, and after they would leave, my mother would come over to us, and she’d say, “Do you know who that was? She was the runner-up to Miss America. He was the mayor of Sacramento. She won a Pulitzer Prize. He’s a Russian ballet dancer.” And I kind of grew up assuming everyone has some hidden, amazing thing about them. And honestly, I think it’s what makes me a better host. I keep my mouth shut as often as I possibly can, I keep my mind open, and I’m always prepared to be amazed, and I’m never disappointed. You do the same thing. Go out, talk to people, listen to people, and, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed.

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Keeping One Step Ahead – things to consider when leasing IT equipment

Why 8 in 10 Small Businesses Lease IT Equipment

According to a recent Gartner report, worldwide IT spending is projected to total nearly $4 trillion in 2019 as companies race to keep up with the latest technology. Staying ahead of the technology curve is critical. However, the balance between getting the latest tech to remain competitive and keeping a healthy cash flow can be tricky, especially for small businesses. 

The solution for more and more businesses is to lease—instead of purchase—their IT equipment. In fact, Equipment Leasing and Finance Association reports that eight in 10 businesses finance equipment.

Worldwide IT Spending Forecast (Billions of U.S. Dollars)

  2018 Spending 2018 Growth
2019 Spending 2019 
Growth (%)
Data Center Systems 210 15.5 204 -2.8 207 1.7
Enterprise Software 399 9.3 427 7.1 462 8.2
Devices 667 0.3 655 -1.9 677 3.5
IT Services 982 5.5 1,016 3.5 1,065 4.8
Communications Services 1,489 2.1 1,487 -0.1 1,513 1.7
Overall IT 3,747 4.0 3,790 1.1 3,925 3.6

Source: Gartner (April 2019)

Growth in Leasing

Small businesses must invest in a more robust and secure network that protects their data and allows them to better serve their customers through digital services.

Keeping pace with the rapidly evolving digital transformation is key to staying in business; yet it can be expensive. (link to Couchbase)

So how can small businesses–many with limited resources to spend on new technologies–compete? They join the growing number of companies that view IT as an investment instead of an expense. That changes the equation.

With the right approach, IT investment is an opportunity to make your business more competitive and efficient to manage. When a small business chooses leasing, it will save on upfront expenses to reinvest in innovation and boost growth or to focus on other priorities.

Cisco surveyed IT professionals in the Spiceworks community about their experience leasing IT networking equipment. Here is what Robert Hummel, with 43 years experience as the IT Director at Cheshire County Keene, had to say.

 “There are many factors from an IT perspective to consider. In times of rapidly advancing hardware, leasing makes sense. It gives you the opportunity to upgrade your hardware at set intervals. Doing one-third or one-fourth of the company at a time can help with IT workload planning as well.”

Why you should consider leasing

Leasing delivers an almost cost-neutral technology refresh capability. It keeps your equipment up-to-date and secure, which is important when comparing the long-term value it brings to the overall organization. Your business can start benefiting from the technology instantly, realizing increased productivity, without waiting for budget to become available. Other benefits to leasing include:

  • Predictable monthly expenses
  • Pay nothing up front
  • Stay on top with the latest technology, gaining a competitive edge

No one knows Cisco better than Cisco

Many small businesses turn to Cisco for technology innovation, but few know that Cisco can also help with financing. Our goal is to help customers get the best technology to optimize their business in the most cost-effective way. Leasing lets small businesses, such as yours, match their technology and business needs. In addition, leasing helps you take advantage of the full benefits of the technology whilst staying in control of your cash flow and investment needs. With flexible payment plans, no upfront costs and predictable monthly payments, leasing provides immediate value and helps optimize cash flow for years to come.

A payment plan gives your small business immediate access to the latest Cisco innovations – to upgrade to the next-gen firewall, enable your network to keep pace with new digital needs, enhance your data center platform, and allow people to collaborate more effectively across your organization.

Buy now, pay over 3 years as low as £1,000

Let us help you get the latest Cisco tech at no cost to you and future-proof your business! Save your valuable cash and use our funds–cost free. You can spread the cost over 36 months with the option to add more solutions to the agreement as your business grows–so you always stay up-to-date.

Find out just how easy it is, and  reach out to learn more.

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4 Steps to Game Plan Your Brand

When you Game Plan Your Brand you are on your way to a successful outcome.

If you began your road trip by hopping in the car and start driving, who knows where you’ll end up. Although this may be a great adventure, you might waste time getting to your destination. Likewise, if you’re building a business or starting a new project you need to map out your plan from beginning to the end. As Alice in Wonderland learned, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

As a business owner, creative or marketing professional, you need to spend a little time to map out your target audience, brand message, most effective vehicles, define the goals for each tactic ‚ and how exactly you’re going to get there.

That’s why you need to “game plan your brand.” Follow a clearly laid out path from where you are — to where you need to go.

You can easily break this path up into different phases.

How does this apply to small businesses?

First, you need to know what problem you want to solve: Getting to your destination in the least amount of time while avoiding getting lost.

For your organization, that goal should be to organize yourself first before launching into countless hours of tactics without the right goals and strategy.

You can break up the process into multiple phases. These are your checkpoints. This is how you make sure you’re on the right path as your moving forward without getting lost or forgetting important details.

The first step is to understand what problem you want to solve and set a goal that will drastically improve business. Next, evaluate your marketing assets and evaluate what parts need fixing or what is missing in the communications process.

Third, interview your key stakeholders on their understanding of your problem you are trying to solve. They are your greatest resource and the ones you will get the most insights. There are a number of ways to do this analysis. For example, develop a SWOT analysis of your business. (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats).

Fourth, go all in on defining the communication strategy and tactics that fit your brand. Develop a value proposition. The key is to define your position based on the target segment you intend to win over. With this approach, you separate yourself as the market alternative from the competition with a unique differentiation that belongs to you to bring the buying decisions your way.

Your intent is to get it down to two short sentences. Note how the two references competitors, the marketing alternative and the product alternative, help the listener’s mind triangulate to find the new position.

Follow this template (generally, this is an internal message):

For: (target customers – beachhead segment only)
Who are dissatisfied with: (the current market alternative)
Our product: (new product category)
That provides: (key problem-solving capability)
Unlike: (the product alternative)
We have assembled: (key whole product features for your specific application)

When satisfied, write a customer-facing messaging that reflects your value proposition.

If you are a local business owner, creative, or a local marketing agency, this may be the most important starting point for building or restoring your customer journey.

Published by Timothy Fahey; Timothy Fahey is branding and design professional, designer, professor, blogger, videographer and owner of Dirigo Agency Inc., a company focused on helping business owners use branding, design, and content to market their business. He has worked in the agency business since 1986 and served both local and global brands. His passion is to collaborate with others to create content more strategically so they get the recognition and results they desire through content marketing efforts. Member of the Rockville Chamber of Commerce.

A Game Plan Your Brand strategy builds your customer journey.

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Top 5 Predictions for SMBs in 2018


Predictions for the New Year are as common as eggnog and holiday parties in December. With so many voices and opinions from bloggers, experts and others, it’s easy to become overwhelmed—especially if you are a small or medium-sized business looking for the best opportunities for 2018.

In this blog, we sift through the noise and provide a few business and buyer trend predictions that we believe are relevant and most likely to have an impact on SMBs in 2018.

  1. Optimizing Business Processes. SMBs across industries are looking at new ways to optimize business processes, provide premier experiences, target and acquire customers and grow their business. A vast array of new approaches, such as machine learning and AI applications, can be used to create relevant and personalized experiences for customers.
  2. Security Top Spend—Respondents to a special report, Tech Budgets 2018: A CXO’s Guide by Tech Pro Research, reported that their companies will prioritize spending on security, hardware and cloud services in 2018. Within IT departments, a premium is being placed on security spending. Fifty-three percent of respondents said security will be a top priority in the 2018 budget.
  3. SMBs Really Embrace High-Tech. IDC forecasts that small and medium-sized businesses are going to spend $668 billion on IT products and services in 2020 as compared to $564 billion last year, outpacing the growth of the overall IT market. Keeping up with the changes in technology is essential for SMBs; keep an eye out for new opportunities; your competitors are!
  4. Multicultural Millennials—Untapped Potential. A recent study by Nielsen reveals that there are 75 million Millennials living in the U.S. and that 42 percent of them are multicultural: of African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic heritage. These young people are highly educated and extremely influential—inspiring new trends in culture, food and technology—among their peers, their children and parents. In fact, according to Nielsen, multicultural Millennials spend more than $65 billion each year, influencing potentially $1 trillion in consumer spending. SMBs owners who make an effort to cultivate and earn their business will have a competitive advantage and be well-positioned to take advantage of this incredible opportunity.
  5. Freelancers Lead Gig Revolution. Entrepreneurs like dentists and lawyers tend to have an established business identity. Freelancers, by contrast, usually work out of their homes, have a need for great technology, and, in some cases, have less financial stability. However, like real estate agents, these nomadic workers can work from anywhere, anytime because of their own flexibility. There are now 55 million freelancers in the U.S., according to 2016 Freelancing in America survey—which is one-third of the American workforce. SMBs that come up with competitive solutions for their unique business needs will have access to a very large section of the American workforce.

These are just a few business and buyer trend predictions to keep an eye out for in 2018. Opportunities, as well as challenges, are ahead for SMBs in the coming year. Cisco—with a newly enhanced portfolio of products for SMBs, is uniquely positioned to provide businesses with high-performance solutions that don’t break the bank. To learn more, visit cisco.com/go/smb.

Read, 8 new trends in Social Media for SMBs in 2018

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