1. Take Time Out to Really Understand Your Business
“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.” — A saying attributed to Canadian management theorist, Laurence J. Peter, best known for “The Peter Principle.”
Whether you’re a freelancer, contractor or business owner, if you want to get the maximum financial rewards and personal satisfaction from your business, you need to have very clear goals and detailed plans for how you intend to achieve them.
As obvious as this may sound, with all the seemingly million-and-one tasks that the setting up and running of a business and day-to-day dealing with customers and clients involves, it’s all too easy to lose sight of your longer-term objectives and the reasons why you wanted to set up on your own in the first place.
So, one of the most valuable things you can do this week, or any week, both for your business and yourself, is to block out time in your schedule for serious strategic thinking.
You may choose to do this alone or to involve a few trusted members of your senior team. It may be a full day, half a day or even just a couple of hours, but take the necessary steps to ensure that you will be uninterrupted, and this will prove to be an invaluable exercise.
If you haven’t already done so, it’s critically important to use this time to set highly specific, time-limited goals and detailed plans for achieving them.
“Get rich” or “become the dominant player in our niche,” as desirable as these goals may be, are unlikely to cut it for this purpose. But “launch new product within three months”; “get 100 new customer leads within one month”; or “increase gross revenues by 25 percent by fiscal year-end” just might.
If you’re confident that your previously determined long- and shorter-term business goals are still relevant and sufficiently specific, you can devote this strategic planning time to considering whether your current day-to-day practices are optimized toward ensuring their achievement.
2. Review Your Business Processes
However new and/or small in scale your business may be, it’s vital to have written plans and processes in place.
At a minimum, these should cover all essential aspects of your business, including lead acquisition, follow up procedures to turn leads into customers, maintaining engagement with previous customers or clients, new product or service development, complaints handling, etc.
If you have staff or employees, you, of course, need to ensure that they have access to the written procedures relevant to their roles and are encouraged to suggest improvements.
In these more complex organizations, it can be helpful to take one process a week or month and focus on its improvement. Over time, this will result in significant overall efficiency gains for the organization.
But this exercise is arguably even more important if you run your business alone. Without a daily or weekly plan for your “must-do” tasks, it’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the short-term demands of customers or clients, to the exclusion of the processes that are essential for your long-term success.
Your business may revolve around a physical product, a bricks-and-mortar or online retail store, or the provision of a service. But for all business types, perhaps foremost amongst these necessary processes is the setup, maintenance and monitoring of effective systems for generating a steady flow of new leads and customers.
3. Set Up or Review Website and Marketing Funnels
As renowned marketer, Jay Abraham, observed, when all the business school jargon is put aside, there are in essence only three ways to grow any business. You can:
· acquire more customers
· generate more revenue from each transaction with your customers
· increase the number of transactions you have with each of your customers
Ideally, of course, you will try to do all three, and although this may seem a daunting task, with the right processes in place, much of the work can be automated.
Firstly, even if you are a lone freelancer, or a business providing products or services to a local market only, you need to have a website to showcase your products, skills and expertise and to gather leads that can be turned into customers.
So, if you don’t yet have a website, make launching one a top priority this week. While it is, of course, possible to spend prodigious sums on a bespoke, designer-built site, this is certainly not necessary. Visiting your competitors’ sites is a great place to get initial ideas, and platforms such as WordPress now make the creation process very simple. Any assistance you do need can be readily obtained from free information online or experts who advertise their relatively inexpensive services on sites such as Fiverr.com and Freelancer.com.
If you already have a website, devote some time to considering whether it is helping you with the three key growth objectives listed above.
At a minimum, you need an effective way of collecting e-mail addresses from leads and prospects and an automated system for following up with them (your marketing funnel). Details are beyond the scope
of this article, but a simple internet search will reveal numerous paid and free e-mail autoresponder services that can help.
You can, of course, also contact your e-mail list at any time outside of the automated series, perhaps to offer a specific promotion or simply as a way of maintaining engagement. Sending out questionnaires or customer surveys can be a great way to do this.
If you have an effective e-mail follow-up series in place, then consider how you are going to attract traffic to your website. This is related to, but not necessarily the same as, your overall marketing strategy.
4. Design or Review Your Marketing Strategy and Metrics
Your business advertising may be off-line, online or a combination of both.
If off-line, you may be using traditional direct mail, leaflets, or newspaper and radio ads. Online, you may be driving traffic to your website using paid traffic, social media, content marketing or a combination of these.
But whichever methods you’re using, it’s important to have a strategy and to have methods in place to monitor the success or failure of each marketing campaign you run.
In fact, it’s fair to say that the constant monitoring of such vital metrics as your cost per lead, cost of each customer acquired, the average value in sales, or fees of each of your customers, is one of the main determinants of your overall profitability, and, therefore, the success or failure of your business.
So, if you don’t have those figures immediately on hand, make a point to generate and study the necessary reports this week and use them as a basis for new and more profitable campaigns in the future.
5. Create and Implement a Calendar for Special Promotions
Well-designed and cleverly timed promotions can be a great way of increasing revenues, particularly during quiet times, but they do require careful planning.
Straightforward price discounting or coupon marketing can still be effective, but careful attention needs to be paid to ensure that customers’ expectations of forthcoming discounts does not depress demand outside the promotion period.
With customers becoming ever more price savvy and wise to traditional advertising ploys, it may pay to take time out during the week to brainstorm for more creative and exciting ideas. This is an area where inviting staff participation can pay dividends. They are, after all, customers as well.
Realistically, you will probably not complete all of these tasks in a single week, but scheduling specific blocks of time for their consideration, committing in writing to relevant action points, and following up on them in subsequent weeks, will really help drive your business to the next level.
Join a Local Business Network
However passionate you are about what you do, running any kind of business can be lonely and frustrating at times. Joining a network of like-minded entrepreneurs can be a great way of alleviating these stresses as well as picking up useful practical tips. NAPW is a network of more than 850,000 women and offers inspiration, support and motivation through virtual and face to face meetings. Connect with the network that will help you achieve more today!