As 2015 gets closer, we all prepare the annual list of changes we want to make in the new year. While many may focus on general ideas of healthier lifestyles and losing weight, small business owners should take this opportunity to develop a very specific list of goals. This is a chance for us to step back and take a good look at our successes and our failures over the past year. Did your business grow? Did you add a new service or two over the year? Did you invest in your business? If you said “Yes!” to one or more of these questions, great! If not, this is definetly the time to grab a pen and a piece of paper and start writing out the changes you need to make so 2015 is your best year yet. Even if you had a very successful year, there are always new goals you should focus on as the new year begins. To begin, let’s break it down into 4 distinct categories of goals: Marketing, Networking, Professional and Financial.
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 for the new year is to run a monthly e-newsletter that goes out to my current client base. In addition, I’d like to add 50 new subscribers by years end. To do this, my focus will be on providing interesting content so subscribers don’t unsubscribe, as well as making it easy for new subscribers to sign up, offering simple forms on social media outlets, in emails, and on my website. One great thing about marketing with an e-newsletter is the ease of which I can track what works and what doesn’t. At the end of next year, I can take that information to establish better methods moving forward.
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. Facebook has made many changes, none of them beneficial to the small business owner. We need to accept the fact that free online marketing is becoming a thing of the past. If you really want to use social media to promote your business, namely Facebook, you will probably need to open your wallet this year. Just make sure you have a number in mind before you begin paying for any online marketing.
Networking is the area that I’ve paid the least attention to over the years. My business has grown strictly from word of mouth. But as I continue to grow, I realize I can’t rely on word of mouth alone. I need to get out there and network. For starters, I joined a networking group last September but have yet to attend a meeting. Obviously, belonging to a network does not mean that I’m now networking. My networking goal for 2015 is to attend meetings regularly. In addition to that, I plan to attend 3-5 large networking events in 2015. On my “to do” list is begin researching some events for the upcoming year and registering for them. As a small business owner who works from a home office, it is very easy to sit at my desk all day and work on projects. As long as I have work in, I justify my inability to attend meetings and other networking events. Not in 2015. I have concrete goals: attend meetings as often as I can with the network I belong to and register for 3-5 large events in the coming year.
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.
After 8 years as “Erin Sweeney Design”, 2014 was my most successful year yet. One reason was I was able to dedicate more time to my business. I also invested in the business more this past year than before, buying a new laptop and new software. One problem, though, was that I found I was a little too busy. I spent so much time working on project work, I never allowed myself the chance to improve my skills and knowledge, which was a goal I had set for myself in the beginning of the year. I had planned to take a course or two over the year. I also planned to learn new software that I have but never set aside the time I needed to teach myself. So, my first professional goal for 2015 is a focus on education, learning new software programs and taking at least one course this year.
In addition to these goals, I plan to offer 2 new services in 2015. 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.
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.
You could look at 2015 as the year that you really 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 2015!