One way or another, 2014 will be different for small business owners. They'll have a whole new set of obstacles to overcome, but there is still plenty of good news to be had.

Before an entrepreneur gets too worried about his or her financial plan, it is important to remember that the new year will also present a number of exciting, helpful tools and trends. However, without a little planning, these added bonuses could slip by unused.

In order to avoid that, small business owners have to look back at the year past, as well as forward. They also have to prepare their companies for the expected changes, both with their industries, the economy and with the consumer.

Consumer awareness expected to rise
This year will confront small business owners with a whole new set of problems, excitement and opportunities. While it is always challenging to predict exactly where everything is headed, there are several trends that have taken shape. Paying attention to these could be exactly what a financial plan needs.

According to Inc. magazine, regulation will increase. This includes a tougher climate for health and safety, especially in the food production, pharmaceutical and apparel and accessories industries. These changes are often targeted at larger corporations, but the little guy still has a part to play in all of it. Small businesses have to engage in conversation about best practices, so that consumer safety is truly being helped. If regulations are pushed through without proper input from everybody, odds are, something will be missed along the way. Owners also have to be some of the first people to adopt any new changes, which allows the companies to be at the forefront of any market shifts and ahead of the competitors. 

In addition, 2014 is shaping up to be a year where consumers become even more aware, the news source noted. Those buying a product will ask more questions than ever before, and this quest for knowledge could steer some people in one direction or another. Therefore, small businesses have to be open about their services and the process behind the scenes. If they aren't, customers could walk out the door. Instead, a firm has to do everything it can to encourage trust and confidence, so people know they are getting the safest and most secure product available. 

Social media, marketing will become valuable assets
At the moment, leaders may already use plenty of social media and marketing tools. These can provide a serious boost in revenue without draining a business banking account, but 2014 appears to be headed in a direction where these resources have even more value.

According to SocialMediaToday, social media evens the score between smaller firms and the larger corporations. It lets businesses communicate quickly and easily with clients, and doesn't cost a lot to do so. While years past have relegated this to computers, the climate has become increasingly mobile. This is important for owners to keep in mind, because the firm's website has to be designed for smartphones and tablets. If a mobile site hasn't been created yet, it should be. Nearly everyone browses the Internet this way, and a lot of customers can be left out without a great mobile phone strategy. 

Moreover, sharing is a fast-growing trend in 2014, SocialMediaToday explained. This means that social media posts are spread across multiple platforms, and customers are sending valuable content to one another. In order to take advantage of this aspect, a small business should always remember to talk to the client directly, and not worry about reaching a broad audience. If the marketing is good, the consumer will do all the sharing that is needed.