After five years of faltering, small business is finally on the rise again. The economy is bouncing back, people are spending money, and total start-up activity showed the largest year over year increase in two decades! A strong ending to 2015 means entrepreneurs should get ready to hit the ground running in 2016, and take advantage of the current economic bump. There are tons of different predictions about what 2016 has in store for businesses, but there are four changes around which every business should plan.
1. Keeping Better Track of Your Employees
Starting in 2016, the American Healthcare Act’s “employer mandate” expands from businesses with over 100 employees to those with over 50 full-time, or full-time equivalent, employees. That means any company with over 50 people on the full-time payroll must offer coverage to at least 95% of their employees, or pay the penalty. Every company – mandated or not – that provides coverage to their employees must also provide a new tax form to their staff this year. Companies under the mandate must hand out Form 1095-C, and businesses with fewer than 50 employees must pass out Form 1095-B, by the end of January. These changes also mean business owners must diligently track scheduling, hours, and wages to ensure the government won’t think they’re trying to skirt the ACA’s requirements.
2. Generating Content
Content marketing is vital to a successful web presence. According to the CMI, 88% of B2B, and 76% of B2C, companies have a content marketing plan in place. However, the widespread adoption of content marketing hampers its effectiveness. The number of businesses that reported an effective content marketing strategy dropped by 8% in 2015, likely due to the sheer volume of content produced day-to-day. It is not enough to pump ads and promo pieces through your blog and social channels – the effective content marketer distinguishes herself with sophisticated writing, expertise, and knowledge. Figure out what you can use to set yourself apart. What do people ask you about? What sort of advice do you wind up giving over and over? Write and post on that, and then keep at it, even if you don’t see immediate results. 64% of “mature” content marketers report success, and the only factor that sets them apart is experience.
3. Embracing Mobile
Like it or not, any business with a web presence needs to optimize for the mobile user. During the first quarter of 2015 mobile commerce spiked 123%, and few have fallen out of love with their phones. The line between app, search listing, site, and social feed are all blurring. You need to consider your entire presence and how it looks to the average mobile user. Is your site unwieldy and odd on smaller screens? Do you require customers to enter their credit cards every single time they use a new device to access your site? Are you still relying on paid ads to generate the majority of your traffic? Mobile users are turned off by many of the tried-and-true tactics for standard PC users. Start pushing more visual, creative content, and at the very least make sure your site is optimized for mobile.
4. Being Ready to Experiment!
2016 is going to be fast, fluid, and constantly evolving. A lot can change in a year – 2015 saw the fall of free marketing on Facebook, the rise of heavy visual and story-based posts, and a deepening struggle between location-based marketing sites, like Yelp!, and the businesses its users review. Entrepreneurs must be good on their feet, and a successful 2016 will mean a willingness to both try new things and, if needed, turn on a dime. Set a few, hard goals for next year, and have room in your plan for experimentation. Think about just how much money and time you’re willing to put into trying something new before pulling the plug. As the old adage goes, “expect the unexpected.” After all, no one can predict everything coming their way next year!
About the author:
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter.