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These days, small businesses don’t have to stay small for long. When you’re driven by big ideas, and empowered by cloud services and social media, rapid growth is an achievable – if sometimes still rather daunting – goal. 

But what marks out the businesses that succeed in both growing fast and keeping pace with customers’ changing expectations?

Based on the survey responses of over 3,800 small-business sales, service and marketing leaders, we’ve identified six benchmarks for growth.

Here are the first three…

1. Mobile apps boost productivity

We know that high performers sell more with mobile sales apps and mobile can be a real friend to the growing business – helping comparatively small sales and service teams connect with more prospects and customers. 3

Logan LaHive, CEO at Belly – the world’s largest loyalty rewards program – explains:

Mobile has completely changed how our outside sales team interacts with new Belly businesses. Our reps can easily close deals in a matter of clicks, cutting out 15 hours of manual data entry a week.

Although, right now, small businesses are generally lagging a little behind their larger competitors in terms of mobile adoption, the evidence suggests many are already preparing to seize the initiative.

Indeed, over the coming two years, the use of mobile apps by small businesses is set to grow by:

  • 140% in sales roles
  • 219% in customer service roles

High-performing small businesses appear to be ahead of the mobile curve. In fact, top sales teams are nearly three times more likely than their peers to rate their mobile capabilities as outstanding – while top service teams are 3½ times more likely to do the same.

2. Data and analytics drive customer-centric decisions

When it comes to data-driven decision making, cloud computing has steamrollered the playing field. 

Powerful cloud analytics tools are now available to every organisation – not just those with the huge budgets and specialist skillsets needed to build and maintain them in-house.

High-performing small businesses are capitalising on this easy access to insights, with 53% of top small-business sales teams currently taking advantage of analytics in some capacity.

Top sales and service teams are also more likely to rate their analytics capabilities as ‘outstanding’ across a range of analytics functions. For example:

  • Collecting, analysing and acting on customer/prospect feedback 
  • Gathering insights across the entire customer lifecycle
  • Using intelligence to predict customer needs and activity

This last function, predictive analytics (using existing data to anticipate future events) is set to take off dramatically in the next 12-18 months, with use soaring by:

  • 181% in small-business sales teams
  • 139% in small-business service teams

As you might expect, top-performing sales and service teams are leading the way when it comes to predictive tools – they’re over twice as likely to be currently using predictive analytics than their less successful peers.

3. Teams scale with automation, social and mobile marketing

When your budgets are modest, you need to make every outlay count. Here are three areas where small businesses say their investments are really paying off.

Marketing Automation

Only one-fifth of small-business marketers currently use marketing automation, but the majority of those that do are pretty staunch advocates, with 67% rating the tool as effective or very effective. 

Marketing automation’s power to help small teams operate at scale can make it a great fit for the smaller business – and it seems like the word is spreading: another 29% of small-business marketers plan to put automation into action in the next 12 months.

Mobile Marketing

SMS, push notifications, mobile apps, location-based promotions – mobile marketing, in its many forms – is delivering real results for small businesses.

A whopping 89% of small-business marketers report integrating mobile into their overall strategy is at least somewhat effective – with 54% saying it’s effective or very effective. (The same proportion also rank mobile apps as a very important or absolutely critical technology for creating a cohesive customer journey.)

Social Marketing

For many small-business marketers, social isn’t just about managing reputation and building brand awareness. It’s at the heart of what their business does.

Among small businesses that use social media marketing:

  1. 52% see it as a critical enabler of their products and services
  2. 18% say it’s directly linked to their business’s primary source of revenue

And the importance of social is only growing greater, with 65% of small-business marketers currently upping their social spend.

Fascinating stuff. So, what are the other three benchmarks?

You can read the complete report – featuring all six benchmarks, and the full findings.

We hope they help you size up your own business, and its current capacity for rapid, successful growth.