Guest Author: Elizabeth Howard
The end of the year is an ideal time for Indiana businesses to take stock and develop a small business strategy for the new year. You have a year’s worth of data to analyze, for one. You should also have some ideas of what trends are gathering steam for next year. The ongoing supply chain problems make it more important than ever that you lock in a clear strategy. So how do you go about creating that strategy?
1. Look at Your Marketing
Marketing plays such a crucial role in business success, it’s almost more important than the actual products or services you sell. Marketing draws in new customers and helps keep your brand top of mind with customers.
Dig down into your marketing channels. Unless you’re unusually lucky, at least one or two of those channels is nothing but a money bleed for your business. If you can’t see an obvious way to make that channel pull its weight, drop it. You can spend that money on other channels and activities.
Give strong consideration to doing some content marketing. Content marketing is solid, long-term strategy for drawing the right kinds of visitors to your website and social media pages. If done correctly, they can also serve as a trigger for sales.
2. Give E-Commerce Some Attention
E-commerce is here to stay. Even before the pandemic, it was a major source of revenue for many businesses. The pandemic showed that e-commerce also works for businesses that didn’t traditionally do business online.
Make sure your e-commerce system is a finely oiled machine. If you’re shopping cart is glitchy or your payment gateway fails occasionally, look for other options.
If your website is slow, that will slow down e-commerce for your business. Consider upgrading to a better tier of hosting for your site.
If you don’t have any e-commerce offerings on your site, look for ways you can embrace them. Create eBooks or reports focused on things your customers care about. Develop a paid video course. Look for ways you can adapt your services, even partially, to a digital model.
3. Prepare for the Weather
Winter storms can play merry havoc with businesses across Indiana. You need a plan in place for dealing with winter weather and not just a bag of rock salt for ice, although you should have that as well.
You should have a formal disaster plan in place. That includes making sure your insurance is up-to-date and can cover the costs of disaster recovery, such as replacing all of your inventory, your IT equipment, or even the building itself. A business interruption clause in your insurance policy can also help you cover costs like wages and bills while you get up and running.
Beyond that, you need some kind of off-site data backup system in place. Losing inventory is a massive blow, but losing all your business data can prove even more devastating. If you don’t already have it in place, look for a cloud backup system.
You should also develop an emergency communication plan for your employees. This system should include information on how you’ll contact people to tell them not to come in, as well as numbers for essential service providers and emergency services. Keep copies of the plan on-site and off-site.
Consider basic survival equipment for your primary business space, such as shovels, flashlights, emergency blankets, and even small heaters in case the primary heat goes out.
4. Look for Cost-Saving Measures
Dig through your books and look for other places where you bleed money. Convert to digital processes where you can save on paper waste. Review your vendor agreements and see if you can negotiate new terms or even replace your vendor with a more affordable option. If you routinely fall behind on your bookkeeping, outsource your bookkeeping and invoicing to someone who will stay on top of it. A lot of businesses have a lot of money tied up in unpaid invoices.
5. Scale Back on Inventory or Find Alternatives
Supply chain issues have been affecting small businesses across the country, especially throughout the 2021 holiday season. With the new year ahead, hopefully, these supply chain issues will start to go away. If you haven’t already though, prepare as though they are here to stay. This could mean scaling back on your inventory for a certain product. Or it could mean finding or creating alternatives. There is no guidebook that will tell you how to deal with a crisis like this, so you will need to think outside the box for your specific business to find ways to keep it afloat.
6. Plan to Pay the Loans Back
If you took out loans during the pandemic, start planning on financial streams to begin paying those back. The sooner you are able to pay those to avoid the interest, the better. Once your loans are paid off you will feel a sense of relief.
The new year provides you with an opportunity to clean house in several areas and start fresh. Update your marketing plan. Get your e-commerce options tidied up or just in place. Check for cost-saving measures. Plan for inclement weather. All of these initiatives can save you time, money, and maybe even help protect your employees.
If you are an existing Indiana business we hope this guide has helped you brainstorm a business plan for the new year. However, if you are a new business, check out our guide for creating a new business plan.