Coffee-powered cars, using your brainwaves as a password, and robots with personalities you can choose … it’s always fun to look into the future. But which tech trends can you genuinely use today to engage with your customers? Let’s take a look.

It’s easy to get cynical about tech trends. After all, a host of companies claim to offer the next big thing. Remember Internet currencies, the paperless office or that goofy iSmell USB device that emitted a variety of odors when you visited different web sites?

The trouble is we can all be so engrossed in our daily work that we don’t see some of the really big shifts in behavior and innovation. It’s easy for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) to miss the boat —as bigger competitors capture the imaginations of customers by saving them time and money.

Here are five trends that are key to all of us, especially your customers. If you can harness these developments and find a way that helps your customers develop and grow over time they will come to see you as a trusted advisor, opening up cross/upsell opportunities and providing repeat business. Over the coming months, I hope to explore some of these in more detail and provide actionable ideas for you. Here’s a quick taste for now.

Trend #1: Mobile working

It’s been around for years, but the mobile working opportunity is getting bigger — not least because there are more self-employed people today. Take the UK for example; self-employment has soared by over 40% from 2000-2016. That means a growing share of your prospects will be on-the-go, fledgling businesses interested in ideas like mobile printing, accessible from any device.

Your customers may be glad to discover they can print documents on their Xerox office printer while on the road, or even print documents on an enabled printer in a client’s office — during a visit. Perfect if they forgot to bring those important project plan hand-outs along!

Trend #2: Smart Apps

Apps are enriching the customer experience across retail, health, education and banking. But there’s a risk that SMBs could miss out if they don’t meet rising customer expectations. That said, companies like Xerox can help you to seize the opportunity — thanks to a wealth of apps you can introduce to your customers.

For example, workflow apps available from Xerox and our partners are ready for you to tweak for your own customers — giving you all the coolness of an app developer but without having to know your Java from your C++. With these apps, your customers can benefit from advanced ways to translate paper documents into actionable data and frictionless workflow in the cloud.

Trend #3: Social influence

To most of us, social media is sounding more like the deafening hum of a million fridges. To cut through, you need to begin by identifying prospects right at the beginning – i.e. at the research stage – and then staying in regular touch — but only with relevant content.

That way, you’re always worth listening to. If you’re ready to put your social media program into overdrive, we shared 3 social media hacks that make the social media engagement process a seamless part of your overall marketing initiatives.

To get traction with your customers and encourage them to share your content, find areas of common interest. Communicate quick business tips to save them time and money. But also consider surveys, quizzes, links to ebooks, infographics and sharing relevant news stories that show you’re on their wavelength and easily accessible in just a few clicks.

Trend #4: Security

Customers may suffer from fatigue in this area. But the criminals are always inventing new ways to exploit weak links via connected devices and cloud services, such as the massive cyber attack through the Internet of Things in October of 2016.

But printers are also networked devices — and many SMB customers may now be waking up to this fact. If they want to strengthen their defenses then tell them how print-as-a-service provides invaluable document backup and security features. Talk to your customers about how you can help them protect business data and avoid hard-copy security weaknesses.

Trend #5: Waste

With plenty of economic uncertainty and austerity never far away, companies are especially keen to conquer waste, including lost time, unnecessary purchases and paying too much. Managed services for print and supplies can make a difference here for your SMB customers.

Learn how Xerox partner, Punto, improved efficiency for its customers by transitioning from selling hardware focused on price, to selling managed services that focused on customer value. Everything changed when Punto started talking to its SMB customers about new ways to produce cost savings and operational improvements. What similar story could you tell to your customers?

Have we missed anything? What tech trends have you spotted in the SMB marketplace? Share your thoughts with us.

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