Editor’s Note – Today we feature a post from internet marketing expert Lilach Bullock

With 2019 drawing to a close, business owners – as is their wont – look towards the New Year and the opportunities it may bring. While it’s always tempting to cast a wistful eye back over the previous twelve months, what really matters is the events looming on the horizon: the coming trials, challenges, and openings.

In this article, I’m going to share 4 practical tips to get your small or medium business ready for 2020. After all, you’ll be better placed to take advantage of the next golden opportunity if you’ve already invested in modernizing and improving your processes ahead of time. It’s time to up your game.

Invest in Chatbots & Voice Tech

If you’ve never given much thought to chatbots and voice technology, perhaps it’s time you mulled them over. Because these developing techs could help you improve your customer service and yield impressive ROI in 2020.

Businesses have been using AI to engage with customers and simplify or otherwise improve processes (and in doing so, drive sales) for a number of years now, and AI-powered chatbots which utilize pre-programmed scripts are definitely among the most effective tools. These nifty bots help to answer your web visitors’ queries, qualify sales leads and improve the basket journey for customers craving convenience and ease of use.

Voice tech, of course, is even more sophisticated. Did you know, for instance, that you can tailor your special ‘virtual agent’ to speak in such a way as to align with your company’s brand? And if you suspect this is just fancy technology for fancy technology’s sake, you would be quite mistaken. AI-powered customer service meets burgeoning demand: a survey by Bright Local suggests that 58% of consumers have utilized voice search to locate local businesses in the past year.

All indications are that voice search, far from being a flash in the pan, is here to stay. And according to Emarketer, 66.6 million Americans will use speech or voice recognition tech next year. So optimizing your site content for voice search is something you need to think about, and the sooner the better.

Both chatbots and voice AI have developed expeditiously in recent years, helping to resolve countless consumer queries without burdening or bogging down we fallible humans. Adding one or both to your arsenal will surely help to cut down on delays and furnish customers with the peace of mind and convenience they crave.

Prioritize Video Content

Video marketing is becoming more important, it seems, every day. According to Twitter, 82% of its users view video content on the app and nearly half (45%) of individuals watch over an hour of video content on Facebook or YouTube each week (HubSpot).

You may be thinking, “Well, that’s social media – and social media isn’t my game.” But the trend is not exclusive to the realm of social channels. According to Cisco, by the year 2020 online videos will constitute over 80% of all consumer internet traffic. Just cogitate upon that for a second: more than four-fifths of internet traffic will be to videos. Our expectations of what makes a satisfying browsing experience are changing, and as a savvy business owner you would do well to respond to the flux of consumer expectations and deliver slick, professional video content that reinforces your brand and strikes a chord with your audience.

Not only will this keep you relevant in a fast-changing landscape, but it will get your message across more effectively. According to WireBuzz, viewers retain 95% of a message when they observe it in a video – compared to just 10% when reading it in a text. So yes, there might just be some utility in embedding a nicely-shot video to your product or category page, building up your YouTube channel and sharing relevant videos on social media. This includes live videos – which are growing in popularity – for breaking news or behind-the-scenes content.

You could spend all day reading surprising video marketing statistics, but you’d be better off addressing your aversion to stepping in front of the camera and making video a pillar of your strategy in 2020. Who knows, you might just be a natural.

Modernize Your Phone System

Updating an antiquated phone system, or even one that’s a few years out of date or not offering much in terms of cost savings or flexibility, is an obvious but worthwhile change to make in 2020. After all, there’s not many down sides to improving your business communication.

More and more companies are favoring Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. This easy-to-manage yet feature-rich option is great for sales or indeed any customer service-based business. Not only is using the internet to make phone calls way cheaper than a traditional landline, but it’s far more flexible since you can log in and handle calls and conferences from anywhere on Earth (you know, within reason). It also lets you get rid of those snagging, unsightly cables and wires strewn throughout the office.

Among the benefits typically cited, VoIP users can observe the availability of other staff members on the network, home workers and outside parties can be connected from a single system, and set-up and maintenance costs are refreshingly low. What’s more, VoIP systems enable employees to share vital data and access voicemail transcripts via emails, thereby enhancing staff productivity.

Comparing the merits of the multitudinous VoIP providers is quite an investment of time, which is where a comparison site like GetVoIP comes in useful. Get personalized quotes and trawl through user reviews to find the best VoIP provider for your needs and budget.

Set Clearly Defined Goals

This one sounds pretty simple, but you’d be surprised at the number of businesses – even successful ones – who don’t clearly outline their objectives. If you want to make 2020 your most successful year, learn to set meaningful and, most importantly, quantifiable business goals. And not just for the year, but on a monthly and quarterly basis.

Plodding forward without a clear strategy in mind could actually work, but without numerical goals and time frames in mind, how will you know whether you maximized your success? How do you measure that success if you do not have the staging posts by which to gauge your performance or progression?

If you make one pledge for 2020, it should be to apply purpose to your plans: to note milestones in advance, to reflect on the success or failure of various processes, and to properly identify whether you’re on the right track. That way, you’ll know when to switch things up.

Conclusion

Lilach Bullock says “With a bit of luck, these tips will prove useful to you. Grasp the needle with new tech, slicker content, improved communication and structured goal setting. You’ll be surprised by what you can accomplish.”