As we put the last year behind us and enter into the new one, you might wonder how to turn around a struggling business or what is essential to success in the future. Fortunately, some factors stand the test of time.
In a survey of 350 small and medium business owners, Outbound Engine discovered around 50% don’t have a marketing plan for the coming year. In a world where online marketing is highly competitive and brings massive traffic to most businesses, heading into the next twelve months without a plan is unacceptable.
Even if your plan isn’t official, you should at least have some idea of where you want to go in the next four quarters and some methods to get there. For businesses on the brink of closing, a plan is even more vital. Here are seven crucial factors to keep in mind for next year.
1. Create a Budget
If your business struggles in any capacity, a budget keeps your spending on track and could mean the difference between success and failure. Write out every expense you have, both fixed and flexible.
As you write out your expenses, put a mark next to any you might be able to cut, such as utility costs or rent.
Go through each item and phone vendors, your landlord or ask employees for help. You may be able to save hundreds a year by merely turning off lights when you aren’t in the building.
2. Prepare for Emergencies
For companies already in a cash crunch, an unexpected event might push them over the edge. Spend time preparing for emergencies, and you’ll be better able to handle them as they arise. About 25% of businesses wouldn’t be able to reopen after a disaster.
Think about the issues you’re most likely to face based on your location. It could be a natural disaster, such as flooding or might be due to riots, a pandemic or other situations beyond your control.
Write out a plan for what you’ll do after such an event. Check to make sure your insurance policy covers such situations. Preparation goes a long way toward weathering the storm.
3. Ask for Input
Involve your essential personnel in the planning process. The people who are on the ground every day fighting for your business also understand what makes it successful. Ask for their insight as you plan out how to move forward.
At a minimum, you should hold meetings with your department heads and sales representatives. However, it’s also a good idea to bring in marketing and HR for additional perspectives.
4. Save Emergency Funds
If the COVID-19 pandemic taught businesses anything, it is that things can shift in a short period. You may have long weeks without income. Even if you’re struggling, look for ways to set aside a percentage of your profits for an emergency fund.
The biggest problem smaller organizations often face is cash flow issues. In a press release from a Sapio Research survey, experts found 81% of small businesses financially suffered because of COVID-19.
The biggest mistake small business owners might make going forward is to assume there will never be another pandemic or some other catastrophic event preventing them from doing business. Keep a rainy day fund for when the gloomy times arrive.
5. Set Specific Goals
You won’t know if you’re reaching your goals if you don’t write them down. Take the time to learn about S.M.A.R.T. goals where you have a specific and measurable objective. Plan out the steps to get from Point A to Point B.
You also must get your employees on board, so give them some ownership as you figure out your company’s purpose and how you’ll implement strategies in the coming year.
6. Invest In Cyber Security
According to IBM and Ponemon Institute’s The Cost of Insider Threats Global Report, small companies with less than 500 employees spend as much as $7.68 million per cyber-related incident. When you couple the statistic with the fact that almost half of small and medium businesses have no cybersecurity plans, the risks become apparent.
Put your essential files in a cloud-based server with top-notch security. Train employees on how to protect their information. Change passwords often. Look for any minor issues that might put you at risk, such as former employees having access to your databases.
7. Create a Marketing Plan
Take a hard look at your marketing efforts. Get rid of anything that didn’t work last year and replace it with new methods. Look at new technology. More people spend time online than in the past. Should you step up your social media marketing game?
Ideally, your promotional efforts should reach your target audience on multiple platforms. The more often your potential customers hear your brand name and offers, the more likely they use your services or buy your products.
Look at your budget and what is most cost-effective. Run the numbers on return on investment (ROI) for past campaigns. Which ones brought in the most revenue for the least investment?
Ideally, you’ll have both a short-term and long-term marketing effort that brings in business now while schmoozing customers for the future.
8. Be Open to Audits
One of the most powerful things you can do to improve your business every year is to receive neutral feedback on what works and what doesn’t. When you own a business and implement what you think are great ideas, you sometimes can’t see the issues within your structure or efforts.
Either enlist employees’ help to take a neutral look at programs or bring in an outsider to give feedback. Remember, input from others is just a suggestion. Ultimately, you choose the direction of your company. However, knowledge is power, so gather as many details as possible to help you make informed decisions.