It’s a brand new year, so why not make this the best one yet for your business? A great way to help make this happen is to make a list of New Year’s Resolutions for your business and then stick to them! These can cover things like cutting unnecessary costs, improving cash flow or getting to know your customers better. Here are our suggestions:
1. Write a Plan for the Year – and then stick to it
If you haven’t already written a business plan, now’s definitely the time to do it. Even if it’s not going to be read by anybody but yourself, it can be invaluable to detach yourself psychologically from the day-to-day distractions of running your business and look objectively at what what you’re doing, and what you should bedoing. You can set your goals and milestones along the way, and what you plan to do to achieve them. Once it’s written, stick to it, as it will act as an instruction manual every day! Get help writing a business plan.
2. Attend at Least 1 Big Industry Event
There’s nothing worse than being stuck in your office behind your desk all day, every day, answering emails and generally getting caught up in the daily grind. If your business is going to be successful you need to get out there and meet people – and those people need to meet YOU, too! Some events are expensive whilst some are free, so there’s really no excuse not to go. For us in the Telecoms and Internet of Things industries, examples are events like Convergence Summit, Mobile World Congress, CeBIT and CES. What events does your industry put on?
3. Be Proud of your Business
You’re the main window into your business for your customers, so make sure they see what you want them to see. If you act timid, unsure or desperate for a sale then alarm bells will ring and most customers will go elsewhere. Act confidently and exude pride at all times, and customers will flock to you and tell their contacts, too. Even if your business is only in its early days, or is going through some tough times, don’t be afraid to “fake it ’til you make it”!
4. Run a Website? Re-think how you take payments from your customers
If your website is your primary means of doing business with your customers, you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for them to pay you whilst making it easy for you to manage, too. This way, you won’t have to make awkward phone calls to customers chasing payment, and you’ll get paid more quickly too. To accept regular payments via Direct Debit, consider someone like GoCardless or for credit card payments (worldwide) in USD, EUR or GBP try Stripe.
5. Improve your Website, and make it the best it can be
Does your website clearly portray and explain what your business does, and the products/services you provide? Does it do justice to your brand and all the hard work you’ve put in over the years? If the answer to any of those questions is no, then it might be time to invest some time and money into improving your website before you waste money on advertising, which will just bring customers to your website who will quickly press “back” when they don’t find what they’re looking for or feel confident in your abilities.
Whilst you’re getting your website looking and feeling it’s best, don’t forget to put SEO at the heart of your strategy to ensure that lots of people find you in organic web searches. If you’re using WordPress, you could do a lot worse than using the Yoast SEO plugin.
6. Engage Better with your Customers
If you don’t already have a presence on the main social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn then you should do, as people will already be talking about and discussing you on these platforms, so you should really join in. They’re great ways to engage with your customers, inform them of your services and give help when they need it. If you need a helping hand managing your profile on all the different networks, try a management platform such as Hootsuite.
Don’t forget that there are other ways of engaging with your customers too, though. I’m talking about the old-fashioned traditional method of standing a metre or two away from someone and speaking using your mouth. Go to events, organise meetups (such as our own Open Source Telephony Enthusiasts Group (OSTEG)) and offer to pay your clients a visit once in a while to catch up and review how well you’re working together. It will pay dividends, literally.
7. Automate Mundane tasks like Accounting with Xero, Receipt Bank
Spend less time on operational tasks and more time making your business a big success. Speak to your accountant about cloud-based services like Xero and Receipt Bank and how these can save you time and money. If your accountant doesn’t use them, it might be time to look for a new accountant!
8. Get a Professional-looking Business Phone Number
If you’re still advertising your mobile phone number – or even worse, your home landline – as your business telephone number then let today be the day you do something about that. A more business-oriented phone number from Telecoms Cloud inspires much more confidence in would-be new customers as it makes a far better first impression. It also allows you to distinguish between business and personal calls, so you never run the risk of answering a sales call in an unprofessional manner.
You can direct the calls to your home/office landline or to a mobile phone, and you can do handy things like record the calls, play “we’re closed” messages based on your opening hours, and view detailed statistics of who’s called your number and when. And those features are just the tip of the iceberg.
If your business is local and it serves the local area, you’re probably best with a local geographic number starting 01 or 02, which lets you establish a local presence in any city/region of the UK even if you have no office or landline in that location. If your business is more nationally-focussed then look at an 03 number; these are really popular these days as they cost exactly the same for customers to call as if you had a local 01/02 number (so are included in free minutes) and yet they aren’t tied to any one area of the UK so give your business a national presence. You can also choose 0845 and 0870 numbers, as well as numbers from thousands of cities worldwide.
9. Marketing – use different phone numbers to test campaigns against your Call Analytics
What’s that you say, you only advertise one phone number for your business? That’s so last century!
One of the easiest ways to measure how effective each major piece of marketing becomes is to put a different phone number on each one. They can all be set up to ring in the same way and point to the same place, but the real magic starts when you look at your account statistics and see a big rise in calls to one of the numbers: that’s when you know that advert worked best of all, and to do more of that. Our Call Analytics platform also lets you see a breakdown of where your callers called from, which is useful for targeting geographic areas with your marketing, as well as plotting spikes in calls on a daily graph so you can cross-reference with the times your TV ads are played out on-air.
10. Finally, take time off to recharge
Last but not least, be really careful to avoid burnout this year, especially if you’ve recently started your business and there’s lots to do and get set up. It’s crucial to make time for the important things in life like family, friends and hobbies. It might be tempting to work every hour under the sun on your business, but if you burn yourself out you’ll actually work less efficiently and be less focussed at work, resulting in lower productivity. It also helps to have something exciting (like a holiday) to look forward to as it spurs you on, and you can always reward yourself with an early dart now and again when you’ve achieved a big milestone. You deserve it!