13 things you need to do for your business in 2013

Happy New Year!

I love this time of year! There’s something about a fresh start that gets me fired up. It’s kind of like getting a “reboot” in life after the grind of the previous year has worn you out.

With that in mind, here are 13 things you need to do in 2013 to really rock out this year:

  1. Renew your passion for your business every day. Chances are, you started this business because you loved the subject matter or the clientbase or the type of effort it required. But after a while, it can feel like work — when deadlines are overdue or when a client fails to pay or whatever. And in those times, you can be tempted to give it up and do something easier… maybe dust off the resume and find a “real” job. So every day this year, I want you to remind yourself of why you started doing this in the first place. Use a sticky note or set a recurring appointment in your calendar to job your memory.
  2. Get to know something about your clients that you don’t already know. Rather than running on autopilot with the information you already have, deepen the relationship by learning more about them. Do it selflessly — without a specific monetization goal in mind. Find out what sport they like or when their birthday is or how many kids they have or their favorite vacation spot. It doesn’t have to be big but it will turn into something big because the connection between you will be stronger.
  3. Streamline your sales funnel. Your sales funnel is the most important part of your business because it lays out how someone interacts with you on their journey toward becoming your customer. What is that journey like for them? Are they meandering about, floundering around as they make a decision on whether to buy from you or not? Or are they pressed to urgently respond with quick, timely marketing and sales from your? Take a look at your sales funnel and explore whether or not it is doing what it should be doing — which is to rapidly turn a cold audience into a hot and frothy buyer who tells their family and friends about you.
  4. Double your prospecting efforts. Yeah, double it. I know the economy sucks. I know the fiscal cliff looms scarily. But I hate complaining and a lack of sales effort is a key reason why businesses fail. So continue your marketing but then go out and turn those marketing leads into prospects and then into sales. And do twice as much as you were doing. Trust me, it’s the best cure.
  5. Do something to help your business two years from now. A lot of entrepreneurs are living day-to-day, sale-to-sale. Hey, I’ve been running businesses for a long time and I fall into that trap sometimes too (especially when things get really busy). And even when we want to be proactive, it’s sometimes hard to see farther than a month or a year down the road. But one of the best investments you can make is to do something right now to help your business two years from now. It doesn’t have to be big but a little effort now will pay off later. I’ll blog more about this in a future post.
  6. Narrow your target market. The longer I’m in business the more I realize the importance of narrowing your target market. Tightly define your market to help you speak more clearly to one group of people and to serve them more effectively. Even if you already have a specific target market, consider refining it slightly to see what happens. You can start by looking at who your most profitable customers are and finding common points between them that are not shared by your least profitable customers.
  7. Read a book. Building a business requires your own skill and knowledge but it also takes a bunch of expertise that you might not have. Fortunately, someone else probably has something to say on the issue and their guidance can help. Identify your top struggles and find a book or two on each one.
  8. Develop additional products or services. You don’t want to be a one-trick pony. The world is changing and the expectations and needs of your customers are changing too. You don’t want to wake up one day and realize that you are irrelevant. Offer new services, create new products, enter new markets, sell your stuff in a different way. You don’t have to do EVERYTHING but you should dial in a couple of new ways to make money to diversify your business.
  9. Build contingency plans. I’m a big proponent of contingency plans (especially after I accidentally stabbed myself). As the world changes rapidly, we need to be ready to roll with those changes so contingency planning is more important than ever. Not sure where to start? Here are some top contingencies to plan for.
  10. Split test. There are many things that can pull your attention away from your business, especially if it seems shiny and new. But a tried-and-true technique (and one that I’m planning to do more of this year) is to split test your efforts to see which one offers a better result. Choose something — marketing efforts, marketing channels, content types, sales efforts, prices, product distribution, etc. — and try doing it differently to see if it has a better result.
  11. Get some balance. This is the one I struggle with the most, although I’ve made some huge leaps and bounds in the past couple of years. Entrepreneurs need balance — for their sanity and their relationships and their profitability. So yes, eat your vegetables, workout, and take some time off… believe me, you’ll see the benefits in your business.
  12. Do something that scares you. This has been a recurring theme for me in the past couple of months so I’m incorporating it into my operational plan this year. As your business prospers, it becomes too easy to enjoy that success and remain fixed on the one course you’re on. But growth takes a little discomfort and pain so doing something that scares you will help. What scares you in your business? Cold calls? Asking for the sale? Saying “I’m sorry” when you screwed up? Negotiating? Asking for more money? Branching out with a new product? Saying something that could be considered stupid? Give it a try and see what happens.
  13. Be relentless. It’s easy to try something new and then to let it go when the shininess wears off. When was the last time you touched your blog or your Twitter account, for example? But one of the best secrets to success is to just do the work, just keep pushing, just persevere long past the point when everyone else has given up and gone home.