It’s nearly Christmas and, in this most challenging of years, you may well be looking forward to getting together with at least some of your family to celebrate. Everybody deserves some joy this year as we focus on the things that matter most in our lives.

But if you are running your own business, this is also the perfect time to reflect on the past year and how to take your business forward in the New Year. Take some time for yourself and spend as much time as you can with your family. But make some space to look back at 2020. Despite the huge challenges, how have you succeeded this year? What have you learned about yourself and your business? What do you need to change to help you grow in 2021?

These are big questions but let us help you with that last one. We work with customers to become more efficient, productive and able to find and respond to their customers more effectively. To get your thoughts into some sort of structure, here are 7 ways you can review your business this Christmas and New Year. Work through each one and you could start 2021 with a bang!

Get Your Sales Funnel Flowing

How big is your customer list? Are you reaching enough people to make sure you hit your sales targets? If not, it’s time to build that list and put more customers into your sales funnel. So how do you do this? The key is to create some content that is useful to your customers and then to follow up so your name is front and centre of their minds.

So, do you have a white paper, a newsletter, a handy Cheat-Sheet, a 2021 Business Planner, a free consultation, or a discount for your services you can offer? Create a page on your website to get people to sign up, publicise your lead magnet on LinkedIn and Facebook. Send thank-you emails and have a follow-up email ready so you can solidify the relationship with those people you add.

Before you know it, you will have increased your sales funnel and your opportunity to sell more of your products and services.

Research the Competition

If you want to grow next year, it is important you know who you are competing against. How well do you know your closest competitors? Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Research your product or service as if you were buying it. How do your competitors’ websites compare to yours? Do they offer services that are valuable to your customers that you don’t? Is it difficult finding information? Can you book online or do you need to call? Look at all the elements of being a customer in your sector, identify what you do well in comparison with your competition and more importantly, find out what they do better than you.

If you can, ask friends or family to carry out a mystery shop exercise. Design a set of questions that allow you to benchmark your business against a range of competitors and see how you compare. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to identify the top 3 things you can do to beat your competition in 2021.

Carry out a SWOT Analysis

If you want to identify your priorities for 2021, there are few better ways to do it than by drawing up a SWOT analysis. If you have never done one before it’s very simple. Draw a large square and divide it into four squares. Each square contains information about one of the elements of your SWOT analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Think about the strengths of your business, why your product benefits customers, your specialism others don’t have, the way you deliver customer service, and so on. Your weaknesses are just that. Is your website hard to find? Is it hard to book an appointment with you? Is payment a straightforward process? Do you lack service offers that others provide? Be honest and think hard about what you need to address. Your opportunities are exactly that. Is there something happening in the market you can exploit? Can you build a new service or product that would increase sales? Is there a collaboration with a complementary business you could enter into that would grow your business? And threats – what should you be keeping a very close eye on, whether from your competition, the economy, your supply chain, technological development, and many more? Prioritise actions that protect you against the threats you are most concerned about. If you complete your SWOT analysis honestly and thoughtfully, you will have the foundations to build a comprehensive action plan for the New Year.

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Mind the Gap

One of the most common ways for businesses to grow is to identify a gap in the market. If you’ve followed steps 2 and 3, you may have identified a major opportunity that exists to offer your customers a service not currently available elsewhere. Think hard about the problems your customers face and how you can solve them better than anyone else. There are always gaps in the market, you just have to find them!

Move Online

This may sound obvious in a world that seems to spend half its life on Zoom. But think hard about what you do and whether you can create online versions of your service that means you don’t have to deliver it all the time. If you train people, create training videos you can sell online. If you are a coach, why not create a video development programme? What online resources can you create that can be charged for?

Collaborate to Accumulate

One of the most powerful ways you can expand your customer base and the products and services you offer is to find partners who complement what you do. Being able to seamlessly provide additional services your customers are likely to need is a great way to attract customers who might otherwise go elsewhere. If you’re a physiotherapist or osteopath, how about partnering with a nutritionist or masseuse? A marketing consultant may partner with a copywriter or a graphic designer, an architect can work brilliantly with a talented interior designer. Identify who you need to work with to help you grow your business and your importance to your customers and then target potential partners via LinkedIn or through networking.

Design Your Ideal Client

Who do you like working with? What sort of work do you most enjoy? The chances are it is the work you do best. But does it make you money? Use this time to review your most profitable clients. What do they buy and how often? Who causes you pain? Do they take up too much time for too little profit?

It is important that you understand who your target market is. That means understanding your most profitable products and services and who buys them. Review key characteristics like typical age range, whether you appeal to men, women, or both, geographical areas, professional backgrounds, personal interests.

Find the sweet spots that provide you with your favourite types of customers and the type of work you most like to do. Write down what that ideal customer looks like and then design your content and lead generation strategy to target as many of those people as you can find.

If you take some time over the next few weeks to think about these 7 steps, you can create a 2021 action plan. And that could deliver your most successful year yet. It is like driving to a destination you have never visited, without a map. You’ll probably get lost, you may never get there and if you do, then chances are you’ll be stressed and exhausted. So, create the roadmap for your business and see it grow.

May we wish you a joyful Christmas and a very happy and healthy New Year. Thank you for supporting me in 2020 and I look forward to carrying on the conversation with you in 2021.

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