In 2016, we talked about rising business trends, including the growth in frictionless economies for companies like Uber. Its model offered an alternative to traditional (and uncomfortable) cab services, and turned the sharing economy mainstream. For 2017, we're seeing an explosion in highly-targeted ad spends and communications, including businesses messaging directly with customers through Facebook.

Although the business trends for 2017 vary widely, they do show some commonalities. Most feature some kind of convenience factor that breaks down complicated business models like financial lending. Others rely on personal interaction and customization to create a more enhanced user experience.

Looking for ways to tap into profitable business trends for 2017? Here are 7 to get you started.

1. Launch a Freelance Service Business

Freelancing is no longer a fringe service reserved for a small niche of the self-employed. According to the study Freelancing in America: 2016 conducted by UpWork and Freelancers Union, 35% of the workforce is already freelancing with an expectation for continued growth.

Give your business a boost with a side freelance or consulting offering. For example, a social media agency can collaborate with a photographer to start offering product photos. Freelancing is also a relatively low-cost, no-risk way to test your service offerings. Instead of quitting your job and investing everything you have into that crowdfund marketing business idea, start offering it as a freelance service first.

2. Crowdfund Your Success

According to reporting from the National Crowdfunding Association of Canada (NCFA), the crowdfunding industry is on track to account for more funding than venture capital. Instead of heading straight to angel lenders and looking for small business loans, leverage crowdfunding to validate and fund your own company.

But there are other ways to take advantage of crowdfunding beyond developing and selling your own products. For example, instead of struggling to raise commercial real estate capital to close a deal, investors can turn to crowdfunding instead. Realty Mogul offers opportunities to invest in hotels, storage spaces, retail malls, and more for as little as $1,000.

3. Budget for Targeted Social Media Ads

A targeted social media campaign was once enough to draw in the masses and convert customers into sales. Today, you need laser-targeted segmenting to specific groups within social media to attract leads. And according to an ad spending forecast from eMarketer, U.S. digital ad spending was set to surpass TV by the end of 2016.

Aside from the growing trend of investing in social media spending, businesses still aren't always sure how social media has even impacted their business. According to a poll from Business 2 Community, 43.5% of businesses have a good qualitative sense of the impact, but not a quantitative impact. Another 41.5% haven't been able to show the impact yet. That leaves the door open for consultants and freelancers looking to help businesses conceptualize, execute, and measure their social media ad spend.

4. Amplify Your Content Marketing

According to the Content Marketing Institute, more brands will launch targeted e-newsletters as their key method of growing their audiences. This is good news for businesses who grew up in online marketing when email was king. Email newsletters are now seeing a resurgence with a more targeted approach to provide a spectacular customer experience.

Chubbies features a fun and spirited newsletter for men's shorts that quickly spiraled into a content marketing-driven cult-like following. However, Chubbies doesn't stop at creating quirky and fun newsletters. Its social media posts are also filled with carefully curated images, like a group of men running with open bottles of wine spilling over. The caption reads, "The winery politely asked us not to return."

5. Dive Into Online Lending

Not gaining any ground with traditional bank loans? You're not alone. A Federal Reserve survey found that just 18% of small business owners reported looking for national bank loans with an approval rating of 31%. Meanwhile, those who went looking online were approved 38% of the time.

The rise of online lending has made it easier and more convenient for small businesses to find loans. There are a few options for entrepreneurs looking for online lenders. Peer-to-peer lending platforms can connect investors to your business with services like Prosper. Online lending has also branched out into crowdfunding models to fund projects on sites like Kickstarter and Fundable.

6. Turn to Plug-and-Play Platforms

It's no longer necessary to meticulously build your online e-commerce store when platforms like Fullfillment By Amazon (FBA) can sell and fulfill your inventory for you. In fact, the investment bank Cowen reported that e-commerce leader Amazon is on pace to become the number one U.S. apparel retailer by the end of 2017. You can do more than just set up an apparel shop on Amazon.

There's been a surge in popularity in sourcing products from overseas on Alibaba and white labeling to resell on Amazon. Others look for deals at discount retailers and sell at a profit. Amazon takes business building a step further with additional services like scalable cloud storage with AWS. House your business files, images, and other digital collateral in one place while running your FBA store.

7. Connect with Customers on Messaging Platforms

Skift reported on how hotels are beginning to implement messaging strategies to make it easier for their guests to connect with them over SMS, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger, to name a few. Hotels are even deploying their own apps with messaging capabilities and features to allow guests to use mobile check in, check out, and keyless entry.

Facebook ads also feature a Send Message option for people to initiate private conversations with business pages right from their news feed ads. Customers can connect to ask more questions, request help with a product, or start a dialogue to learn more about the company.


What profitable business trends are you tapping into for 2017? Let us know by leaving a comment below:

Published on: Apr 8, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.