Have you made your business resolutions for 2012? This is a great time to reevaluate what went well last year, what didn’t, and what is worth your time going forward. Sure, year-long plans inevitably get trumped here and there, but you can do a few things in the first quarter to set yourself up for success over the long-term. For the sake of a brainstorm, I’ve listed a few below.
- Figure out what makes you money. It’s really a simple concept, but if understood, it will guide your decisions. Your business certainly brings in cash, but what does it profit from? What enables you to cover your costs and cushion your bank account? Identifying the products and services that you not only sell the most of, but provide you with the largest margin of profit to work with. Check out this USA Today Money article for more tips.
- Figure out who makes you money. This is a tip I gained from a mentor of mine a while back. Start listing the referrals and resources that direct business your way, and the type of business you receive. If applicable, continue to map second and third degree referrals directing you business. This too will illustrate where your efforts might best be placed when trying to deepen your clientele.
- Utilize your contact management system. If you don’t have one, now’s the time to develop it. And if you have one, it’s time to use it creatively. How? The premise is not just about what software to use, but how to develop a system of maintaining relationships with your customers. This Bloomberg Businessweek article explains this premise, and offers a few links to further resources. It’s all about finding a system that you and your team can incorporate into daily routines, otherwise there’s no value to having one.
- Strategize your marketing plan. A marketing plan starts with telling the story of your business, see this Entrepreneur article for a 60-second pitch guide. Once you know how your business is distinctive and the solutions that it offers, it’s time to build a community with your customers. The key is to think strategically about engaging with the right audience, leverage online tools, and interact by providing value. Here are a few ideas for orchestrating your plan:
- “Developing a Marketing Plan,” Small Business Association
- “Want to Make a Killing in 2012? Then Use This 5-Step Cheat Sheet,” OPEN Forum
- “5 Exceedingly Simple Ways to Get More Traffic to Your Website,” OPEN Forum
- “10 Small Business Social Media Marketing Tips,” Mashable
- “5 Advanced Social Media Marketing Strategies for Small Business,” Mashable
- Know how to close deals. With a marketing plan in place, customers will be familiar with your products and services. However, it all falls flat if you don’t offer incentives and opportunities for them to make a purchase. Knowing how to close the deal is crucial as it is always more expensive to pursue new customers than to retain existing ones. There are a variety of sales methods, and it may take a few trial approaches to find out what works best for your business. Here are a few articles showcasing the options available:
Take a moment to think through what proved successful in 2011, and what fell short despite your greatest efforts. We often get caught up with trying to do everything at once and immediately in an attempt to capture opportunities we think will prove fruitful. With a little strategy and foresight, your 2012 business resolutions just might prove even more successful and profitable – and it might not be worth doing everything either. Enjoy the process and don’t forget to celebrate the little milestones along the way.
Photo courtesy of Accessories.