What will 2017 hold for small businesses? While some may feel a certain amount of uncertainty going into the New Year, about half of small business owners actually feel conditions are looking up as 2016 wraps up. This Trending on Thursday is the last of 2016, and we look at some of the trends you can expect in 2017, as well as some new technology that could change the way you do your business.

Check out this week’s #smallbiz roundup below and tweet us with your 2017 predictions at @MarlinBusiness. And we hope you all get some well-deserved time off and a happy holiday season!

  1. trendingdec221Small business owners have an uneasy relationship with marketing. According to a recent study, only 37 percent of small business owners rate spending time on marketing as “very” or “fairly” important. On the other hand, big businesses invest big money in their marketing efforts – with big results that help them dominate many sectors of our economy. Your small business may not be able to match the marketing spend of a Proctor & Gamble or Amazon, but you can match their smarts by focusing on Business 2 Community’s Stephen Sheinbaum’s key aspects of a marketing plan in 2017.
  1. Like it or not, the world is shifting to mobile and going global. And it seems most small businesses are changing their practices to account for this change. According to Small Business Computing’s Pedro Hernandez, there will be no shortage of opportunities for small business owners to succeed in 2017, as long as they know what to look out for. His article shares some wisdom and upcoming trends to look out for in the New Year.
  1. trendingdec222Holiday cheer seems to be missing for many small businesses. A new survey reveals only 23 percent of small businesses are expecting an increase in sales this holiday season. That’s down 29 percent a year ago. On a positive note, the survey found that overall small business sentiment is improving. Forty-nine percent of business owners reported “good” or “excellent” business conditions in their area heading into 2017. That’s an increase of eight points compared to the first half of 2016. For more insight from the survey, read this Small Biz Trends article by Shubhomita Bose.
  1. Running a small business is challenging enough without trying to compete with a factory full of robotic arms. To help level the playing field, a Chinese startup has unveiled the Dobot M1, a consumer-level programmable robotic arm with interchangeable tool heads and kits. If your company’s manufacturing process requires repetitive sorting, cutting, slitting, or other similar processes, the cost savings of buying and programming this robotic arm could well exceed the costs you’d need to pay an employee over a few years. To learn more, read this News Atlas article by Michael Irving.
  1. For a 10,000-foot view of what the business world will look like 2017, turn to Ian Altman’s Forbes article. Altman lists trends that are still in their infancy and others that are already part of the mainstream. He says that these patterns will emerge regardless of a company’s size. Some of Altman’s predictions include subject matter experts becoming the new rainmakers, crowdfunding validating new products, and sales becoming fully integrated with marketing.

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