Prepare for 2021 - A To Do list for small businesses (Part 2)

December 20th, 2020

The second instalment in our guide to ensuring that your business is ready for the new year.

We’re picking up from where we left off in Part 1 of this series, where we discussed the upcoming winding down of JobKeeper payments, tracking your invoices, planning your budget, and more. In this article, we’ll provide you with some further ideas on how to best prepare yourself and your business for 2021, so you can start the new year as strongly as possible. 

Talk to your customers

Customer obsession is a popular buzzword these days, but there is good reason for it. Being obsessed with pleasing customers is often the key to a successful business. And making assumptions about what your customers want can be a huge mistake as it can lead to focusing on areas that customers don't value, wasting valuable resources and not making your customers any happier. 

Simply by checking in with your customers and genuinely listening to their perspective, you can uncover issues and opportunities that can propel your business to the next level. 

Your customers will often welcome the opportunity to provide feedback and by listening to, and acting on their feedback they will feel valued stakeholders in the business. Being known as a business that listens to its customers and is constantly working to improve customer experience leads to more loyal customers, more sales to those customers and referrals that lead to new customers.

It's easy to be caught up in the day-to-day of running a business during the year and to assume that customers are happy and that nothing can be improved. In reality, there is a good chance you are blissfully ignorant to some issues that should be addressed, before your customers start exploring other options.

Know your market

Markets are changing faster than ever before. New competitors can still suddenly appear as if from nowhere. They may be offering the products you sell in different ways, and/or by cross-selling your product into their existing customer base.

This year in particular has seen the rise of the industry giants, such as Amazon, Netflix, Apple, etc. which despite the economic unrest, have seen record highs over the last few months, where many smaller companies have struggled or failed completely. 

While some of the pitfalls of 2020 may have been unavoidable, it's still important to take a few steps back from the day-to-day running of your business and make sure you’re doing everything you can to stay ahead, or at least to keep abreast of the competition.

Even if you are confident that you aren't missing the forest for the trees, you need to understand and be ready to act on smaller but significant changes in your market. This could be a competitor increasing or decreasing the number of products they offer, changes in their pricing structure, strategic partnerships with other businesses, buying their suppliers or customers, or changes in their marketing strategy. 

It's important to do your research and understand why these changes are happening. You can then determine if anything should be done in response and if these changes create any opportunities for your business.

A detailed understanding of the dynamics of your market, coupled with listening intently to your customers and acting on their feedback is a powerful combination that will help your business thrive, not just in 2021, but for many years to come.

Review your website

More than ever before, a strong online presence is critical to the success of most businesses - think of it as your virtual shopfront. Take the time to review your business website – is your home page clear on what your business does and how you help your customers? Do you need to update your website for changes in your business?

It’s important to let people know exactly who you are and exactly what you do right from the beginning. Is your website user-friendly and easy to navigate? Or is it cluttered with too much information? 

It's often helpful to have someone independently review your website to get an objective opinion. Business owners, who are in the trenches every day, often find it hard to view their website through the lens of a potential customer.

Be Social

Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay, and it's significance to marketing opportunities shouldn’t be ignored. 

Social media is a highly effective way to build brand loyalty, build leads, direct traffic and drive sales. And most of your customers are likely to be active social media users on at least one platform. 

A well thought out strategy can work wonders for your business. Whether you opt to be active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram, it’s all about choosing the right platform, keeping your target audience in mind, and building the best network of followers possible for your brand

If your business is already on social media, review your accounts to see where you can maximise customer engagement, and assess whether your promotional efforts are producing the desired outcomes, such as increased sales. 

Make a point of marking in your business calendar to monitor and update your content regularly throughout the year. Optimising your social media presence will improve customer service and allow you to communicate and engage with, not only your existing clients but also prospective ones too.

Update Your Business Plan

Now that you have a clearer picture of your business’ finances, what's happening in your market and what your customers think, it’s time to revisit your business plan. It shouldn't come as a surprise that successful established businesses update their business plans at least annually, review accomplishments (or lack thereof) and decide on new goals or directions. 

Adapting to market conditions and being flexible is a common thread for all successful businesses especially in this fast-changing business climate.

Take some time to reflect

2020 has been a trying year for us all - and whether your business has struggled in the face of its many obstacles, or flourished despite the odds, chances are you’ve had more on your plate than you bargained for this year. Now is the time to take a step back and reflect on the year so far and how it's affected you personally - what’s gone well, what’s gone badly, etc.

Running a small business can be all-consuming, and it's important that you enjoy what you are doing. Take the opportunity to think about the parts of your job that you do enjoy, and what you may really dislike. 

Perhaps it’s time to relax the reins and trust your team more? You might consider spending a little bit on outsourcing some things that you really don't like doing or adding that extra headcount that will bring your workload back to a manageable level.

Running a small business is a hard slog and tweaking things to remove some stress will help you be more motivated, creative and focused in your work but most importantly, happier in yourself. And for this, your work colleagues, friends and family will also be thankful!

Lastly, be sure to take some time for yourself, switch-off, and get some rest over the holidays. It's been quite the year, and you deserve some down time to recuperate. With some well deserved time-off, and an opportunity to reflect, you will be better positioned to come back firing in 2021.

If you would like to chat to our team about business finance options, such as a line of credit, invoice financing arrangements or equipment finance  for your business, please call us on 1300 760 205 or email us at [email protected].

If you'd like to learn how Earlypay's Invoice Finance & Equipment Finance can help you boost your working capital to fund growth or keep on top of day-to-day operations of your business, contact Earlypay's helpful team today on 1300 760 205, visit our sign-up form or contact [email protected].