This post was originally published at the end of 2014. It has been updated to reflect goal setting for 2016.

As 2016 gets closer, we begin to think about changes we want to make in our lives in the new year. This is a great time for small business owners to take a good look at the past year, and develop a very specific list of business goals for 2016. Did your business grow in 2015? Did you add a new service or two over the year? Did you invest in your business? Even if you’ve answered Yes to one or more of these questions, there is always room for improvement. So grab a pen and paper and start writing out the changes you want to make for your business in 2016. To start, let’s break it down into 4 distinct categories of goal setting for your business: Marketing Goals, Networking Goals, Professional Goals and Financial Goals.

Marketing Goals for 2016

This could include running more print ads, developing a strategic social media marketing plan, focusing your efforts on email campaigns, or anything else that puts your business in front of your target audience. For example, one of my marketing goals as I began 2015 was to launch a monthly newsletter, The Small Biz Bulletin (sign up here). My original goal for the newsletter was to add 50 new subscribers by year end. I ended 2015 with 78 new subscribers, easily exceeding my goal. To do this, I focused on providing interesting content each month, as well as making it easy for new subscribers to sign up on my website and through social media. A marketing goal for 2016 for me is to continue to grow my newsletter distribution list and hit 75 new subscribers by the end of 2016.

Another goal I have for 2016 is to involve my business in local events throughout the coming year. In August 2015, Erin Sweeney Design sponsored an annual 5K race in my community for the first time. I have strong ties to my community, and I would like my business to become more involved either through sponsoring events, or partnering up with other businesses and organizations in the community.

You may want to consider developing a direct mail piece this year to promote your business, or maybe invest in the development and design of a brochure that you can hand out to potential clients. Consider various advertising outlets and how they may benefit your business. Also, consider how much you are willing to invest in marketing your business over the coming year, put a number on it, then begin steps to stay within that price range. This includes online marketing. Some outlets allow you to promote your business for free, but you will probably need to invest a bit this year to really promote your business online. Just make sure you have a number in mind before you begin paying for any online marketing.

Networking Goals for 2016

Erin Sweeney Design turns 10 in 2016. While this is an important milestone for my business, I feel that I’ve been lucky to have grown as much as I have. I have gathered over 150 clients in the past 10 years, but this has been strictly by word of mouth. Luckily I have not had to go out to drum up new business yet, but I realize that to continue to grow, I can’t rely on word of mouth alone. I need to get out there and network. For starters, I joined my first network, the Women’s Business Network, in September of 2014. In 2015, I redesigned their website and joined their board as Webmaster. However, I continue to have difficulty making it to monthly meetings on a regular basis. My networking goal for 2016 is to attend meetings more often, as well as utilize their other networking opportunities. In addition to that, I plan to attend 2 large networking events in 2016. As a small business owner who works from a home office, it is very easy to sit at my desk all day and stay buried under project work. In 2016, I will make a strong effort to meet other business owners and grow my network of professional contacts.

To help you develop your own networking goals, consider who you should know to grow. Are you a member of a local Chamber? If not, joining a Chamber is a great opportunity to put your business out into the community. If your business would benefit more from online networking, consider developing strategic networking campaigns to promote your business online. For example, join relevant groups on LinkedIn and start conversations. On Facebook, follow similar business pages and see what they are doing to network their business online. Comment on status updates. Make professional connections online.

Professional Goals for 2016

2015 was my most successful year ever. One problem I have each year, however, is my lack of productivity. I feel I have so much work to do on a daily basis, I have a hard time prioritizing what needs to be done. My professional goal for 2016 is to become more productive. Whether it be project work, utilizing opportunities to learn and increase my skills, or dedicate a portion of my schedule to networking or growing my business, learning how to be more productive will help me throughout the coming year. I will begin by developing a list of what I want to get done in 2016 (take a programming course, teach myself a new program, make a minimum of 5 new connections each month), then take that list and determine how to hit each goal in a more productive way.

In addition to these goals, I plan to offer 2 new services to my clients in 2016. Depending on the industry you are in, if it’s possible, consider adding to your list of services each year. Even if it’s only 1 or 2 new services, expanding on what you offer will grow your client base. With this in mind, I also have a specific goal of gaining 15 new clients in the new year, as well as reaching out to past clients throughout the year and reconnecting. If your goal is to grow your client base, consider where they are. This is where your marketing and networking goals will come into play. Next, write down a number and develop strategies for hitting that number.

Financial Goals for 2016

At the end of the day, every business owner wants to make money. The trick is figuring out how to make enough to stay in business. This is a time to look at what you made over the last year, comparing it to the previous year. Did your business earn more? Less? About the same? Whatever the answer, now is your chance to write down how much you want your business to make next year, then develop goals to make that happen. For example, figure out your hourly wage. Decide how much you’d like to make per week (realistically). Next, figure out how many hours you need to work to make that amount of money. Are you able to dedicate that amount of time each week to your business? If not, readjust your number to something that will work for you and stick to it, or make changes in your pricing to help you reach your goal.

If possible, look at 2016 as the year that you invest in your business. Buy new software or equipment, dedicate an amount of money to advertising and promotions for your business throughout the year, hire assistants or employees, etc. Consider how investing in your business will help it to grow, come up with an amount that you’re willing to part with to make that sort of investment, then make it happen.

Be SMART

Make sure your goals are Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Setting specific goals can be hard for a small business owner, but it’s proven that we are more successful at reaching a target if we have a specific number in mind. We all know what we want to happen, but the fact is that just wishing for a great year isn’t going to cut it. You need a detailed and specific course of action ahead of you to achieve your goals. Having hard numbers is the best start. Write it down. Keep your list posted somewhere that you can see it every day. Develop a means for achieving those goals, making sure the goals are SMART. Then, as you reach a goal, check it off the list. You may be surprised how quickly the goals are met once you focus your energy on a real course of action.

Good luck and here’s wishing you a wonderfully successful 2016! 

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