As this is going up it’s the last day of 2018. Being the last day of the year means I’m competing for your attention in a sea of business/entrepreneurial posts trying to tell you how to make 2019 your best year ever, how to set resolutions you keep, and trends to watch in the business world in 2019. That’s all well and good but I had a different idea. I wanted to share ten actions you can take right now to move the needle in your business. I like this idea way more than another how to set goals motivational type post because even if you find this post in August of 2021 you’ll still be able to take some action and get some results.
So, let’s just jump right into it!
1. Monday Morning Quarterback.
Even if you’re a team of one right now you should still carve out time early in the week (EVERY WEEK) to set the tone for the days to come. You can use that time to identify challenges in the business, flush out a content editorial calendar, and plan on when you’re going to do the work you need to grow. It’s also a great time to review the goals you set the week before. Did you hit them? Why or why not? What can you learn from the data you’ve collected in the last week?
2. Connect with a customer or someone in your audience. It’s not a secret that people do business, and keep doing business, with people the know, like, and trust.
Reaching out to check in with someone, answering a question, or responding to a social post are all opportunities for you to build real relationships with people. There’s no trick or hack here. In order to show people that you care, you have to actually care. It’s a long tail strategy but one that will leave everyone happier than just some flash sale content you spam out to everyone.
3. Create something.
I’m definitely not a fan of “Field of Dreams’ing” it when it comes to building a business but you should be creating content on a regular basis. Blog posts, podcasts, and video like Facebook Live or Youtube give people an opportunity to engage with you. You’re giving them a reason to pay attention to you because you’re offering them something of value in exchange for their attention. Creating content regularly is also great for being found online, Google really likes sites that update regularly with information that answers your audience’s questions.
4. Ask for a referral.
There’s never a bad time to reach out to your best customers and share how awesome it is to serve them. Asking for referrals gives your customers the opportunity to be the hero because that introduction will gives them the chance to solve the problems of the people they care about. Plus, it’s a great litmus test for the value you’re providing in asking people to share you and your business with the people the care about.
5. To quote the Little Mermaid, “I want to be where the people are..”. (No shame in my Disney Fan Game.)
Networking for the sake of networking or worse trying to cold sell in person is not a good business development strategy. But, putting yourself in environments that allow people to get to know you and create opportunities for you to be a resource/connector/giver is always great business development karma. Building your credibility and visibility in your community will help you shorten the time it takes for people to get to know, like, and trust you. It will help establish you as a leader in your market and help make it easier for people to refer new customers to you. Plus, your social reach absolutely amplifies after people see how awesome you are in real life. In most communities you’ll find Chamber of Commerce’s, Young Professional Organizations, and even BNI (Business Networking International) groups hosting events monthly, if not weekly. So no excuses!
6. Check in on your competitors.
Careful with this though because if you don’t set some ground rules you’ll end up in a comparative blackhole wasting time and feeling worse than when you started. This is very much an exercise in researching what people are doing and not what they are saying. Maybe you’re curious about someone’s social strategy so you look at their posting frequency, platforms, engagement, etc. Then, use that data to either compare to your own efforts and results or others in the market. Maybe you evaluate the types of content they are producing and the results that content is yielding. You can do this for social, offerings, and possibly even market share depending on the industry/market you’re in. I hate that I have to say this but make sure you’re using this data to help differentiate you and that you’re not just biting someone else’s style.
7. Get lean.
Profit is more than just growing top line revenue or getting more dollars in the door. It’s about using the resources you have as effectively as possible. Costs have a tendency to creep up on you without you really “feeling” it, I know this from personal experience. For example, take a look at all the subscription services you use in your business. Feel free to use your bank statement as your guide. Take a hard look at all of them and decide if you really need all of those services. I did that this month and cut three non-essential subscriptions. I wasn’t using them enough to justify the expense and one of them I wasn’t using at all. I bought it wishfully thinking I’d use it. There’s never a bad time to do a quick audit of your expenses to see where you might be able to save a few dollars in the weeks and months to come. Your profit margin or ad budget will thank you for it.
8. Create something new for your current customers.
If people are buying from you it means you’re solving a problem or providing a value they’re willing and able to spend money on. I challenge you to find an adjacent issue that you can offer that would benefit the people already buying from you. This isn’t just an upsell, it should be an offer that solves a real problem. Adding new products or services to your mix will allow you to deepen the relationships you have with the people you serve and ensure that they stay with you for the long haul.
9. Audit your data.
This can be a hard pill to swallow for some because it means taking a look at what you’ve been doing all year long. It means looking at what you’ve been doing in your business without the little rationalizing voice chiming in to protect your ego. Spot check a customer, take a hard look at what your cost to acquisition is in your marketing, be honest about the amount of time you’re spending on sales, or any other activity that you do to move the needle in your business. The idea here is to look for patterns and to decide what’s working and what’s not. Blindly throwing more money or hours into an activity that’s not getting you the results you’re hoping for is not good strategy at all.
10. Talk to the media.
In most communities there are a handful of traditional media channels that cover small business issues. Find out who those people are and reach out. You can offer yourself as a resource to them in their potential future stories or suggest a story of your own. Heck, in my community they even showcase small business owners with an interview every Monday. Making friends with a few local journalists gives you an opportunity to build social capital/credibility, create content, and benefit from the leverage of that media’s reach - all in exchange for your expertise. This might not happen right away but taking the time to build real relationships with people is always a great investment of your time.
This list isn’t a be all end all for business growth nor is it a recipe to follow. I’m hoping it spurs you out of inaction when you’re feeling a little lost or a little down on your business. If you happen to be reading this as we head into 2019 then great, maybe there’s an idea you liked and you can run with it. If not, no worries because there’s never a bad time to try something new or get a little introspective in your business. Just as long as you take some action, ideally a little bit everyday, and work towards some incremental improvement I’m happy.