How many times do your employees roll their eyes during a company meeting? Look around, gauge reactions, and if you can, keep a tally. Then think about how many times you have rolled your eyes during those same types of meetings. What is the #1 cause of this happening? Something stated is being read as complete and utter bull. No one believes it. You say you’re looking for innovative new approaches for the year ahead, but what the unanimous eye-roll indicates is that you’re employees expect nothing more than the same safe play. This can be applied to any aspect of your small business that has been left idle. What have you let sit for far too long? What part of your business has become so neglected that the entire company recognizes it?
- Important website changes?
- A detailed revamp of your social story?
- Stronger relationships with your customers or employees?
- Bringing in a certain number of new customers?
- Implementing a new service or good?
There is a quote by Abraham Lincoln that goes, “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the ax.” The idea is to work smarter, not harder. Figure out what’s missing from your business and what needs improvement. A well-thought-out process is much better than diving right in. Nothing is achieved by hasty decisions. Take a look at the whole picture and what you ultimately want for your company, and start working your way in. Be precise in the way you organize your strategies, and you will reap better results.
1. Strengths and weaknesses from another perspective
Perhaps you should start by asking your customers and employees what the strongest points of your business are. Asking the opinion of others makes them feel important, like their ideas matter, as they should. It builds stronger relationships when ideas and suggestions are addressed. Take their views and incorporate them into your own.
What do you do well? What do you do really well? What do you do better than anyone else? You need at least one of these – the ultimate reason why people should choose your business over the competition. Are you also marketing the preferred aspects of your business in a way that resonates? Do a deep dive. Figure out new ways to showcase your strengths. People don’t want a long explanation of those strengths, they want to see them, experience them, in every facet of your small business – don’t waste your time telling people about your strengths when you can show them.
Now, what about your weaknesses? Study customer reviews. Host focus groups. Give your employees a comfortable environment where they can explain what they think your company weaknesses are. You want honesty, so make that clear. Timid answers, answers that are rooted in fear, are counterproductive, they will not help to change anything, in fact, they will likely stunt your growth.
2. Website changes
Learn to use software, at least the basics. Having even a fundamental understanding of Google Analytics will help you to measure your web traffic and decide where your site needs improvement. To viewers, your website needs to tell a smart, cohesive story. It needs to be modern to compete with your competitors. It needs to be easy to use. It needs to be mobile-friendly. It needs to showcase your products. It needs to be eye-catching. It also needs to include essential keywords and category text to remain relevant on top search engines.
Relevant content is key. A useful tool in generating essential content and keywords is Ahrefs. You must also create consistent blog content to simultaneously establish engagement and show your expertise in the field. Take a look at other popular sites on the internet. Conduct a search of your own. Look for a product or service that you’re interested in. What are the top websites doing well? What do you like about them, their content, and their interface? Can you do better?
3. New products or services
Molding a new product or service to the wants and needs of your customers can be quite profitable. You can also suggest pairing this new product or service with things your company offers that they already invest in. If customers can get multiple products or services from you rather than splitting up their purchases over several different companies you have made their life easier, and yours as well. Focusing on and catering to your customers’ needs will keep them coming back, and it will also help to generate more business through not only referrals but your expanded list of product options. If your small business thrives based on a yearly customer purchase of some sort, how can you open these loyal customers up to several yearly purchases?
It’s time to rework your budget. What’s working? What isn’t? What haven’t you tried? How can you redirect your finances toward a more profitable outcome? View your budget more than once a year, it’s important. Make adjustments. Thoroughly examine the power of these adjustments and the results that come from them. Always plan for unexpected expenses – the only certainty is that there will be some.
5. Time management
Go back to sharpening your ax, but know that attainable tasks must be set to keep your business moving forward. There are plenty of great task management systems to help delegate responsibility among employees. Trello is my personal favorite. This will help everyone to correspond between tasks and mark their progress with an easy-to-use digital board. Keep on top of your employees, but don’t micromanage either. Ensure that you are on top of your own tasks as well.
If your employees don’t seem to be working as hard as you would like them to, perhaps an out-of-the-office trip would be a better plan to regroup than cracking the whip even harder. You want to avoid burn-out. Discussing ideas in a different setting, engaging in some type of team-building exercise or charitable activity will help all of you to walk away and come back even stronger. Regenerate. Get closer. And remember to plan these activities throughout the year. You can even publicize these events on social media –they will make your company more relatable.
7. Employee incentives
Not to worry, employee incentives don’t necessarily have to be monetary. Monetary incentives can be tough, especially if you are a new small business. Though employees do like to be recognized for the hard work they put into reaching goals, they enjoy being appreciated for their efforts, we all do. Think of a way to reward them. In some cases, more responsibility is a good thing; it shows that their efforts can lead to growth within the company. Giving them your trust in a more flexible schedule is also an option, perhaps you can allow them to work from home one day a week. If you want to provide in-office perks host a party, spring for breakfast, or buy some games for the break room with an added bonus of bringing employees closer together. If you are looking to give a monetary award gift cards are always nice. And of course, you can still offer a traditional bonus to match will levels of exceeded sales goals.
Another goal for your small business this year should be to create new networking opportunities. Attend relevant tradeshows, inquire about setting up a booth, and create new marketing materials to bring with you. Talk to different kinds of people, no matter where you are, and show them how they can benefit from your business. Small business networking doesn’t just have to take place in person either; the internet offers a vast digital platform to communicate with others.
Attracting and retaining customers is the key to small business success, and you can’t do this without a strong marketing plan. Keep marketing strategies that are already working for you, but don’t be afraid to try new ones. Update your marketing plan to include fresh materials, both print and digital. Create a new look for a New Year. Put together multifaceted campaigns that reinforce your message. Test the strength of these campaigns on your audience, record results, and refine. Tell a cohesive company story. Create a distinct and enticing brand that offers a different perspective than your competition. Be unique, be bold, be meaningful, and connect on a deeper level.
10. Look at your business plan
How did your business plan fare last year? Compare where you expected to be to where you actually are. Did you exceed expectations or fall a bit short? Reassess your goals, refine your strategies, and go in strong. Here’s to a prosperous New Year!