Doing business is hard, and savvy entrepreneurs are always looking for a way to accomplish more. No two companies have the same goals, so success might look different for everyone. But at the end of the day, every owner wants their operation to build and grow. As we head into the new year, here are five things that can give your business the edge it needs to succeed.
Knowledge is power. Making plans without first maximizing your data means essentially flying blind. For example, it’s impossible to draw up realistic sales metrics if you don’t have both a solid knowledge of your general ledger and accurate assessments of market conditions. The latter can be especially difficult in a turbulent economy. Business analytics is both a discipline and a suite of technologies. The two reinforce each other. As artificial intelligence and machine learning applications get more sophisticated, forecasting systems become more refined. This information can only be leveraged, though, by someone with the education to know how to analyze the numbers. Whether you’re investing in new tech or new training, make analytics a priority in the new year.
How you incorporate and administer your business can make all the difference when it comes to long-term viability. There are several options here, from sole proprietorships to limited liability companies to S corporations. They all come with an array of advantages and disadvantages, including tax breaks and added fiscal responsibilities. Too many owners don’t do their due diligence here and end up choosing a structure that’s suboptimal for their goals. Internal organization is another thing to consider. A classic hierarchical structure can facilitate rapid growth and specialization, but resource efficiency and versatility might be helped by a flatter and more egalitarian system. Know your business, do your research, and find the right structure for your plans.
One of the greatest drags on business success is bad customer service. A study by NewVoiceMedia in 2018 found that poor customer service experiences cost U.S. businesses $75 billion that year. Much of this was due to businesses losing relationships with customers, often over something as ridiculous as them being blasted by annoying muzak while languishing in a phone queue. Similar research found that customers overwhelmingly prefer interacting with a human as quickly as possible, whether on the phone or (preferably) through live chat. It’s a simple matter to program a chat option into your company’s website, and social media channels only expand and diversify these options. Be a source of convenience, not confusion to your customers.
According to an IBM study done earlier in 2021, the average cost of a corporate data breach rose to $4.24. That kind of loss can wipe out a small to mid-sized business. It’s also not an inevitable blow. Focus your efforts on endpoint security. Upgrade your digital defenses and then standardize them across all user endpoints on your network. Consider firewalls to help head off malware attacks. Most importantly, educate your employees on how to recognize the latest scams and attacks. Remember that the cybersecurity “chain” is only as strong as its weakest link.
What is the top layer of any sales funnel? Awareness. Brand awareness is the only way to draw and keep the attention of consumers, and these days, that’s mostly accomplished online. Build your landing page and your company iconography using the science of psychology. Certain text patterns and color schemes lend themselves to conveying a particular message or impression. The social media channels that you use to communicate can speak volumes about your company too. A multichannel or omnichannel approach to outreach is becoming standard because it can affect both a broad reach and create focus through tailored content. Learn what appeals to your particular niche and tailor your experience to meet (and hopefully exceed) their expectations.
The end of the year is a good time to take stock of what you have and plan for the future. Keep these five essentials in mind, and your business is sure to thrive.