[IMAGE CREDIT: Some rights reserved by Ken Lund]
Successful small businesses have to be agile. You need to be ready to make changes on the fly, and blow with the wind. If your target market is being fickle, you need to be able to not only identify how they’re changing but even anticipate those changes.
In fact, change surrounds small businesses, especially today. Revolutions in technology have dramatically altered the way that a small business finds and interacts with customers. In two decades, the Yellow Pages have gone from being the primary way to find a business to being a relic of a bygone era.
If you want to improve your small business in 2012, there are some specific things you’re going to need to do:
Learn from the mistakes and successes of 2011. Take a long look back at 2011. Identify the three worst moment or events in your business. Maybe it was a failed product launch. Maybe it was a poor customer service moment that cost you further business. Figure out what caused each mistake and make an action plan to avoid repeating it. Do the same process (in reverse, of course) for your top three moments in your business of 2011.
Boost your social media presence. The time where small businesses can ignore social media is gone. If you’re not investing part of your marketing efforts and budget into social media, you need to start immediately. Pick one format – whether that’s Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, or even LinkedIn – where your target audience is likely to hang out. Develop a daily pattern of providing interesting, authoritative, and useful updates to your social media presence, and you’ll see your follower base grow.
Blog at least twice a month. One of the most effective ways to get noticed in social media and by the search engines is by blogging. You’ll want to blog at least twice a month in 2012. Ideally, you can write up 3-4 posts at a time and schedule them to go off every couple of weeks. If something major happens in your industry, consider writing up a short blurb of 200-300 words about it, along with a link out. This will not only boost your search engine standings, it will generate inbound social media links and help to establish your authority in your niche.
Get moving on local and mobile SEO. Today’s consumers look for companies electronically. They use Google at home to find businesses, and they use a number of different apps and tools via their smartphones when they’re not at home. Make sure that your website is optimized for local SEO. If it’s not, consider talking to an SEO expert about how to get there. Same goes for mobile optimization; here’s a great resource on making your site mobile-friendly.
Implement a monthly newsletter. A monthly newsletter puts you on your customers’ radar every month. It gives you the opportunity to a) build credibility by providing something useful to their daily lives, b) market specific promotions that you might be running, and c) increase brand recognition. If you don’t have a monthly newsletter or know where to start, consider looking into Constant Contact or one of its competitors.
Involve everyone in your business. There’s no one on your team that isn’t needed. (If there is, it’s time to show them the door). Demonstrate that your employees are truly useful. Give back a little bit, in little ways. More importantly, talk to your teams to see what ideas they have about improving the business. Really listen, and make it a priority to implement at least one suggestion from each and every team.
Learn to use business intelligence. There is a significant amount data that can be used to increase your business’ efficiency. Much of it is contained in your accounting software (assuming it’s configured correctly and being used correctly). Run reports on various business processes to see if they’re as efficient as they can be. Take a look at given product lines to see if they’re still holding their own, or whether they’re losing money. Collect all of that data and determine what steps you can take in 2012 to do better than you did in 2011.
Ultimately, success in 2012 is going to come down to agility. Is your small business going to be agile enough to make the changes it needs to make to succeed, or is it going to stagnate and repeat the same failures of the past?