As 2017 draws to a close, it’s a perfect opportunity to look back to discover what worked well and what needs to be improved in your business. Planning ahead is key to ending the year right.
If you’re looking for different and better results in your business next year, make the decision to change some things or add new practices. As well as making specific resolutions to suit your business, below are six tips that will help any business become more successful in 2018.
1. Automate repeatable tasks.
There’s no need to continue doing administrative and routine tasks that take up a lot of your energy and time. You can automate just about any repeatable business task, including:
- Accounting doesn’t have to be a business task you dread. There are a wide range of tools to help you drastically reduce your work at the end of each quarter or year end. Tools like Xero also link to bank accounts and other business software.
- Workforce management is a necessary but time-consuming business task. Coordinating employee schedules, keeping a record of timesheets and making sure that everyone is up-to-date on the latest developments can become complicated, especially as your team grows. Deputy’s workforce management features take the stress and the inconsistencies out of arranging work schedules, record-keeping, team collaboration and more.
- Social media can be regarded as a necessary evil for businesses. This is because it’s one of the most time-consuming tasks that need constant attention. Automating your social media can cut down the time spent on getting the word out about your business. You can use tools like Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule your posts on different platforms. Scheduling your daily updates frees up your time to interact with people who engage with your posts.
- Email marketing remains one of the most effective forms of communicating with your customers. The direct and personalized access to potential and current customers means that email marketing should be a part of any business, irrespective of its size. After taking the time to carefully craft an email or newsletter, you don’t want to go through the trouble of remembering to send your messages at a certain time. This is where email automation comes in. You can schedule emails to your subscribers in advance. You can also perform other tasks, like creating an email sequence and designing opt-in forms with email automation software like MailChimp or AWeber.
2. Delegate or outsource.
Now that you’ve decided to automate as many tasks as possible, it’s time to go one step further to remove yourself from the day-to-day running of your business so you can focus on growth strategies. If you’re not used to delegating tasks to others, then make a resolution to at least start small. The good news is that there’s a long list of things you can delegate. Here are a few:
- Web development and design can be done by non-specialists, but it will save you time and stress if you pass these tasks on to trained professionals.
- Promotional and branding work can be fun if you have a creative streak. However, quality design work is sometimes best left to the experts to give your graphics, images and stationary a high-quality finish.
- Customer service enquiries, like resolving complaints and handling product and service inquiries, can consume the majority of your day. You can delegate or outsource your customer service function to well-trained operatives who’ll represent your business in the best light and keep your customers satisfied.
3. Improve your online presence.
To grow a successful business in 2018, you’ll need a solid online presence. Make a resolution to take as much care of your digital storefront as you do of your brick-and-mortar premises.
Things move quickly in the digital world, so it’s a good idea to give your website a revamp if it hasn’t been updated in a few years. Your website needs to be both attractive and functional. Google penalizes websites that aren’t mobile-friendly, so make sure your website is optimized for mobile devices.
Here are some additional ways to improve your business online presence in 2018:
- Provide content on your website. Use blogs, videos or even audio to show your expertise to your potential customers. Your posts should provide value for your website visitors to keep them coming back again and again. Providing useful content also increases the likelihood of shares and your website appearing higher in the search engines for your chosen keywords.
- Since 71% of consumers start their journey by using search engines to find new products or services, it’s important for your website to be found in search engines. Make a decision to invest in search engine optimization (SEO) in 2018. SEO helps your website to show up in organic searches without paying for ads. You can learn the basics of SEO yourself or choose a reputable company to provide these services.
- Make a resolution to be more focused on one or two social media platforms for 2018. There are billions of monthly active users on social media channels. Social media done correctly builds customer loyalty and increases the chances of your business making sales. These benefits of using social media can only be realized if you concentrate on the platforms your potential customers use. There seems to be a new must-have social media platform every year. Let 2018 be the year that you take time to do research about where your ideal customers hangout and then tailor a social media strategy to engage with them.
4. Network online and offline.
Leave the lonely business owner journey behind in 2017. Think about making a resolution to grow your business circle in 2018. Being part of a business community has many benefits, such as:
- Providing support.
- Securing new business opportunities.
- Hanging out with people over the shared experience of running a business.
There are a wide range of networking groups and communities online and offline to suit your type of business.
Here are a few options:
- In person networking groups can help you build relationships with other business owners. You can use services like www.meetup.com to find groups that are of interest. Even if you don’t come across any groups that are a good fit, you can start your own Meetup and invite other business owners. To make the most of Meetups, share your new contact’s content and they’ll most likely do the same for your business.
- Online groups can provide just as much support as offline communities. One added benefit of being part of an online group is, if you need immediate help, you can post a comment and someone will be able to offer you support. “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together” is Facebook’s new mission statement. This is an indication of how powerful online communities are for business owners to support each other. There are a growing number of Facebook groups to suit different business needs.
- Chamber of Commerce has been around for a considerable amount of time, but this doesn’t detract from their effectiveness when it comes to networking. Joining a local Chamber of Commerce helps to keep you abreast with what’s happening with other businesses in your area. You are also able to show your expertise by hosting seminars and giving presentations. This helps to position your business as the go-to specialist for the goods or services you provide. You can also get free advertising as most chambers of commerce have a newsletter that highlights members’ businesses.
5. Give back.
Giving to worthy causes doesn’t only do good for those you are helping, but it also helps your business. One of your business New Year resolutions should be to find a local cause you care about and give whatever you can. The benefits of philanthropy include:
- Improving the prospects of your local community.
- Gaining a good business reputation.
- Growing your network.
Additionally, most consumers want to know that the businesses they buy from support a good cause.
Giving back doesn’t always mean providing financial donations. Here are some other ways your business can do good deeds in 2018:
- Donate surplus products. If you sell physical goods, find organizations that will benefit from your surplus stock.
- Offer pro bono consultations. Where you have a service-based business, why not hold a free surgery to offer advice to those who can’t afford to pay you?
- Give your employees permission to volunteer ‘on the clock.’
6. Take some ‘me’ time.
It can be easy to take care of everyone and everything else when running a business. According to one study, only 57% of small business owners are planning to take a vacation. If you haven’t been taking time out to relax and refresh yourself, then make the resolution to start in 2018. Taking time out helps to prevent burnout and also makes you more effective at running your business. Here are some tips to ensure you keep your New Year’s resolution to take well-deserved vacations:
- Plan ahead by keeping the automation and delegation resolutions. This will make it easier for you to take time away from your business without things falling apart.
- Let your team know what you expect while you’re away. Choose someone who’ll be in charge in your absence and let them know what to do if and when things go wrong. Leave contact details of who to call if there are issues with the internet, premises etc.
- Being attached to your phone the whole time you’re away doesn’t count as a real vacation. Set rules for yourself about when you’ll check-in on your team and read your messages. If you’ll respond to messages while on your break, choose how long you’ll spend answering work emails, and stick to it.
- Make use of collaboration tools in emergencies. Have a back-up plan of how you can be reached in urgent situations. Most instant messengers have video messaging, so let the person in charge know that they can video call you if they are in a sticky situation they’re unable to handle.
Now that you’re armed with these tips to improve your business in 2018, the next step is to draw up a plan to turn your resolutions into actionable goals to make next year your most successful and profitable yet.