2021 is finally here. I never was big on resolutions. I think they are a waste of time. Developing a strategic plan for the year and SMART goals is a much more valuable exercise. If I learned anything from last year, it’s that tomorrow is not promised. So, I don’t get excited about the new year anymore, instead, I’m taking each day as it comes. The vaccine is now available in limited supply, but the Coronavirus is still ever-present. And the Pandemic has left a lot more than death in its wake. Quite a few small businesses were destroyed too. Congress finally released an anemic corona relief package, but I must say it feels like too little and entirely too late. As a small business owner, it’s time to do a few things to position yourself your success in 2021.
1. Let 2020 Go.
Seriously. Stop looking back, you are not going in that direction. Everyone made mistakes that were painfully illuminated by the sudden global shutdown. Most small businesses had a rough year. Businesses that were already online with a clear lead gen strategy and email list won with everyone suddenly being stuck at home. Listen, I was the victim of a Covid-19 scam and was taken for 100K, and I have moved on, so you can too. Reliving major mistakes is not helpful at all. Learn your lessons and keep it moving. Hopefully, you positioned yourself to win big in 2021. As the late great Teddy Pendergrass once sang, “I think you better let it go.”
2. Get Your Accounting in Order.
You need to lineup an accountant/CPA and a small business lawyer that you trust. Schedule a meeting as soon as can to get their help and strategic advice before the next round of PPP Loans or EIDL loan applications become available. Sit down and get a plan together. If you renegotiate debt, a new lease or payment terms with your creditors, you’ll need advice or for them to handle a few things. If this is a vulnerable time for your business, all of your business decisions need to be strategic. Leverage professional advisors and be prepared to pay for their advice.
3. Your Savings Can Save You.
If you got caught in 2020 without enough free cash flow, Let’s not have history repeat itself. Make sure that you save 5%-10% of every check, you earn in 2021. Keep in a separate account in another bank that is not your business bank. It’s your profit account. Learn more about this in the book Profit First, by Mike Michalowicz.
4. Don’t Let Your Hustle Hurt Your Health.
There are people who believe that the hustle never sleeps. Don’t buy into that. The occasional all-nighter happens in business, but it can’t become a habit. Get proper rest. Let’s face it we’ve learned that health is wealth. Pay attention to your body. Drink more water. Stop going all day without anything to eat. Get an annual physical.
5. No more Competition, Be Collaborative Instead.
Many small business owners are struggling and rebuilding their businesses, so people are very willing to partner for the greater good. Seek partnership with people who already have your target audience. It’s much cheaper than building the audience yourself.
6. Change the Channel.
If the sales channel you have been using has slowed down or just isn’t working, it’s time to make that change. (Yes, I’m a huge MJ Fan) Is it time to find a new sales channel and invest in a new ad campaign. So, if you been only selling on your website maybe you should think about selling on Amazon. If you have tried FB or IG Ads maybe, it’s time to do video ads on YouTube. If you’ve been driving traffic to your website and your landing pages aren’t converting, hire a copywriter to help you fix them and build a sales funnel so you can nurture the leads.
7. Stop Waiting for an Opportunity to Come
You have not because you ask not. Find the target customer that needs your product or service and tell them they need you. If you have significant value add, you can create an opportunity.
8. Leverage Marketing Technology to Be More Effective
Marketing automation could save you time as you try to drive sales to your business. This marketing software automates repetitive online tasks to more effectively market their brand over websites, email, and through social media. Some of my favorites are Aweber.com, Keap.com, Mixmax.com, Drip.com, and ZohoCRM.com
9. Outsource What You Can
You might need a salesperson, but you can outsource who answers your phone and checks email for leads. You can outsource content creation, copywriting, graphic design, social media marketing services.
10. Update Your Keywords and Hashtags
Your content is only as good as your keywords and hashtags. Make sure you check whether the ones you are using are still relevant to your target audience. Keywords change over time. Stay up-to-date on your target customer’s search habits and adjust accordingly.
11. Improve Your Customer Experience
Upgrading your customer experience should be high on your list as all customers have many buying options at their fingertips. If you have a website, start there, you have less than a minute for customers to seek you as the resource that they need. If you sell products online consider upgrading your shopping cart or unboxing experience. If you are a services business, think about ways to add value or try new uniforms for your staff. If you are a retail storefront think about add some new signage and reorganize your store. Can you shorten your shipping time? Upgrade your packaging? Add more value with upsell products? Or create a loyalty program?
12. Review Your Analytics
Use your Google analytics to learn more about how effective your content is with your website visitors. What is your best social media referral source? What content do they visit the most? What is your bounce rate? Also, look at the activity in your shopping cart and track conversions over time. Then use the information to generate the content that your target clients want.
Bonus: Expand Your Social Media Efforts
If you started focusing on one social media platform consider adding one more site or content type to your regular social media mix. Start a chat on Clubhouse if you are an iPhone or iPad user, try out FB Live, start a podcast, post live videos on LinkedIn or Instagram, create daily Alexa Flash Briefings, and remember that YouTube is still the #2 searched site online. These are great options to consider. Don’t be afraid to stop doing something too.
The last thing I want to leave you with is some encouragement for the New Year. By this time, you know I love a good acronym. Here is one based on my name. Think, what would Melinda do?
M: Manifest What you want in your business? Take some time to reimagine it and create goals and write them down. You are far more likely to accomplish them with a written plan.
E: Elevate your thinking focus on how you can be more strategic and not tactical.
L: Leverage other people’s excess capacity. Don’t spend your time as a CEO doing clerical work. Focus on high-value tasks.
I: Income Look for ways to increase your net income. Profit is how we keep score in business.
N: Network Your network is your net worth. Use social media tools to build connections and followers. But be strategic. Everyone is not your customer.
D: Debt-Free In this Pandemic in most businesses have racked up debt and struggled to service existing debt, so do what you can to get the debt down.
A: Affirmations Be good to yourself. Make sure that you keep your self-talk positive. Speak out loud affirmations of what you want to have happen each day in your business and for yourself personally. Try, “I’m going to have a great day today.”