Monday, August 17, 2009

How to Thrive in a Changing Business World: Part 1

Today's small business owner faces monumental challenges. The economic meltdown, global competition and customers' reluctance to spend have woven together to create the perception of an impenetrable barrier to success. Underpinning these challenges is evolving technology that's changing the way consumers and businesses make decisions.

Many business owners feel they've been forced into intense white water rapids—without a guide or familiar signposts. Simply keeping afloat is the goal of many. Finding new customers is also much harder. Shrinking attention spans, more choices and excessive marketing noise have most people tuning out. Add that consumers can effortlessly jump to competitors, and business owners face major obstacles. What can be done to course correct the business? Is there a fast track to business success, even in these tumultuous times? Despite the challenges, businesses are thriving in this complex environment by implementing the uncertainty paradox—a business model that applies a series of proven steps, concepts and tools to help companies succeed in
uncertain times. This white paper will reveal how uncertainty offers opportunity to those who embrace the paradox.

Major Trends Impacting Businesses
In times of constant change, trust becomes the new currency of business. Who do customers trust? Unfortunately, most don't trust companies. A global study on consumer trust found that people trust friends over businesses. Nearly half of the study participants trust suggestions from friends, while only 27 percent believe what's on a company's website and a mere 18 percent trust what's in the company brochure.

Consumer trust has plummeted over the last two decades. In 1993, slightly more than half of consumers trusted major brands, according to The Brand Bubble. However, by 2008 consumer trust shrunk to only 25 percent."Consumers increasingly sift brands that genuinely deliver superior value from those that are simply going through the motions of branding— advertising, logos and so on—but are in fact little more than commodities,"stated the Los Angeles Times. The recent global economic collapse has likely pushed consumer trust to new lows.

The lack of trust can stop people from making logical decisions. For example, one in three Internet users in the United Kingdom do not shop online due to a lack of trust. Despite the discounts available via the web, a significant number of consumers stick with their trusted offline relationships.

In an interesting twist, 92 percent of consumers are more confident about the information they view online than comments from salespeople in retail outlets, found a LinkShare study. "The new online consumer is independent and less likely to trust recommendations of a salesperson or be swayed by the emotional appeal of a TV ad," says Jeffrey Grau, eMarketer senior analyst.Clearly the business world has changed, creating many challenges for small business owners.

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