We’re picking up from where we left off in Part 1 of this series. Here are some more ideas on how to best prepare yourself and your business for 2020 so you can start the new year strongly.
Talk to Your Customers
Customer obsession is a popular buzzword these days but there is good reason for it. Being obsessed with pleasing customers is often the key to a successful business. And making assumptions about what your customers want can be a huge mistake as it can lead to focusing on areas that customers don't value, wasting valuable resources and not making your customers any happier. Simply by checking in with your customers and genuinely listening to their perspective, you can uncover issues and opportunities that can propel your business to the next level.
Your customers will often welcome the opportunity to provide feedback and by listening to, and acting on their feedback they will feel valued stakeholders in the business. Being known as a business that listens to its customers and is constantly working to improve customer experience leads to more loyal customers, more sales to those customers and referrals that lead to new customers.
It's easy to be caught up in the day-to-day of running a business during the year and to assume that customers are happy and that nothing can be improved. In reality, there is a good chance you are blissfully ignorant of some issues that should be addressed before your customers start exploring their options.
Know Your Market
Markets are changing faster than ever before. New competitors can suddenly appear from nowhere by offering the products you sell in different ways and/or by cross-selling your product into their existing customer base.
Kodak and digital cameras. Blockbuster Video and online streaming. Amazon and physical bookstores. These are cautionary tales for all businesses and it's important to take a few steps back from the day-to-day running of your business and make sure you aren't missing a big structural change.
Even if you are confident that you aren't missing the forest for the trees, you need to understand and be ready to act on smaller but significant changes in your market. This could be a competitor increasing or decreasing the number of products they offer, changes in their pricing structure, strategic partnerships with other businesses, buying their suppliers or customers, or changes in their marketing strategy. It's important to do your research and understand why these changes are happening. You can then determine if anything should be done in response and if these changes create any opportunities for your business.
A detailed understanding of the dynamics of your market, coupled with listening intently to your customers and acting on their feedback is a powerful combination that will help your business thrive, not just in 2020, but for many years to come.
Review Your Website
More than ever before, a strong online presence is critical to the success of most businesses - think of it as your virtual shopfront. Take the time to review your business website – is your home page clear on what your business does and how you help your customers? Do you need to update your website for changes in your business? It’s important to let people know exactly who you are and exactly what you do right from the beginning. Is your website user-friendly and easy to navigate? Or is it cluttered with too much information? It's often helpful to have someone independently review your website to get an objective opinion. Business owners, who are in the trenches every day, often find it hard to view their website through the lens of a potential customer.
Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay and its importance shouldn’t be ignored. It’s a highly effective way to build brand loyalty, build leads, direct traffic and drive sales. Most of your customers are likely to be active social media users on at least one platform – however, don’t be on social media for the sake of it. A well thought out strategy can work wonders for your business. It’s all about choosing the right network and platform and keep your target audience in mind, be it Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. If your business is already on social media, review your accounts and see where you can maximise customer engagement, assess whether your promotional efforts are producing the desired outcomes, such as increased sales. Make a point of marking in your business calendar to monitor and update your content regularly throughout the year. Optimising your social media presence will improve customer service and allow you to communicate and engage with, not only your existing clients but also prospective ones too.
Update Your Business Plan
Now that you have a clearer picture of your business’ finances, what's happening in your market and what your customers think, it’s time to revisit your business plan. It shouldn't come as a surprise that successful established businesses update their business plans at least annually, review accomplishments (or lack thereof) and decide on new goals or directions. Adapting to market conditions and being flexible is a common thread for all successful businesses especially in this fast-changing business climate.
And finally, what about you? Running a small business is all-consuming so it's important that you enjoy what you are doing! Take the opportunity to think about the parts of your job that you do enjoy and what you really dislike. Perhaps, it’s time to relax the reins and trust your team more? You might consider spending a little bit on outsourcing some things that you really don't like doing or adding that extra headcount that will bring your workload back to a manageable level.
Running a small business is a hard slog and tweaking things to remove some stress will help you be more motivated, creative and focused in your work but most importantly, happier in yourself. And for this, your work colleagues, friends and family will also be thankful!
Lastly, be sure to switch off and get some rest over the holidays. It's a long year and you deserve some down time. With some rest and time to reflect you will be well placed to come back firing in 2020!