Small Business Planning: Look Back to Move Forward

The end of the year is the perfect time to reflect on one’s life and business. While we’re all anxious to start off the New Year on the right foot, don’t skip a vital part of the business planning process. Take time to look back before you look ahead.

Small business planning is crucial to survival and growth.

Take time to reflect on your business. Where is it heading and where has it been?

Take Time to Reflect

Reflect on your accomplishments during the past year. Did you grow your revenue? Add new customers? Turn sporadic customers into loyal clients? Hit key milestones? Reach your goals?

Look back at things that didn’t go as planned. Did you lose a major client? Have a customer dispute payment? Run into a nightmare project? Spend too much time on non-revenue activities?

Measure the progress of your goals. First of all, did you set goals? Did you reach them in the allotted time frame? What helped you achieve them or hindered your progress? Upon further review, you may need to alter your goals or set more appropriate goals in the first place.

Related Reading: Why I Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions

Look Ahead to 2017

Where do you want your business to go? Did you have success with a new product or service this year that you’d like to feature? Do you want to focus on delighting your current clients to deepen those relationships and grow with them? Are you looking to bring on new customers and expand your business? Is a merger or acquisition in your sights?

In order to achieve your business dreams, you need to create a road map. This is where setting SMART goals comes into play.

Your goals should be:
Specific
Measurable
Agreed Upon
Realistic
Time-Based

Inc. Magazine has a worthy read on how to set business goals if you’d like to learn more about this topic. As Herm Edwards famously said, “a goal without a plan is a wish.” He may have been a football coach at the time, but his thought process applies to business and life just as much as sports.

Keep in mind that goals aren’t permanent once they’re set. It’s helpful to review them regularly and adjust accordingly. Agility is a tool for small businesses to use to their advantage, so don’t feel locked in to current goals if your situation changes. Take time every week to focus on your business’s big picture and plan your road map, rerouting if necessary. It can be a breath of fresh air to step back from the daily grind to look at where you’re heading and where you’ve been.

Your Take

Do you set SMART goals for your business?

How often do you focus on planning for your business?

How do you encourage yourself to keep your business planning sessions?

We wish all small businesses a wonderful holiday season! Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017.

CCC’s Chief Planner,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about your business goals, marketing needs or otherwise):
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Winning As The Underdog: Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths

I’m only 30 pages into Malcolm Gladwell’s latest, David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, And The Art Of Battling Giants, and I’ve already learned much.

David And Goliath bookcover

Pic credit: Gladwell.com

This highly publicized new book starts off with a bang, taking a closer look at the ultimate underdog story: David vs. Goliath. Upon further review of this epic confrontation, David wasn’t nearly at the disadvantage we all thought he was. Therein lies the answer; oftentimes, the very features that make the favorite the favorite also make him vulnerable. Make sense? Read the book; it’s definitely worth your time.

The very features that make the favorite the favorite also make him vulnerable.

Next, Gladwell moves on to discuss how a small army and an inexperienced basketball team are successful by not going toe-to-toe with their much better, highly favored opponents. That’s noteworthy and can be applied to your business. Do one or two behemoths dominate your industry? Don’t worry, you don’t have to beat them head-to-head. Target a different demographic; offer your customers a different experience.

Target's bulls eye logo

Bulls eye? Target’s famous logo.
Pic credit: Target

Who’s a perfect example of this philosophy? Target. The discount retailer never tried to go head-to-head with Wal-Mart, who has dominated this landscape for years. Instead, Target aimed for a slightly more affluent, design-conscious consumer who still liked to be money-savvy. From the beginning, the discount chain aimed to be invested in its stores’ communities, donating to local charities and giving back to local schools. It also was into being green before being green was cool. Target was a leader in its industry with pushing reusable bags (by offering a 5% discount on each purchase bagged in one) and offering in-store recycling centers.

The irony is now that Target is very competitive with Wal-Mart’s pricing (its calling card), and is even less expensive on some items. In keeping with its philosophy, you’ll never hear Target advertise this fact specifically though. The company is staying true to its vision and will not directly confront Wal-Mart, even when it proves to be superior.

Take a tip from David, Target and all of the other underdogs out there. You don’t have to be big and mighty to win. Sometimes your ‘weaknesses’ turn out to be your biggest strengths, when you use them to your advantage.

How have you outmaneuvered a favored opponent?

How have you turned a supposed weakness into a strength?

Who’s your favorite underdog in history?

Always the underdog,
Jaime

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Have you found your social media voice?

I’ve written about various aspects of social media before, including the importance of profiles, and especially, the profile picture. (Seriously, why does anyone want to be an egghead?) These are essential aspects of the social media game, but I was really getting ahead of myself. What comes before completing your profile?

empty spotlight

Find your voice before jumping into social media!
Pic credit: Danielle Buma (CCL)

Your voice. You have to find your voice and decide what type of image you’ll project. Really, that comes before anything. Your voice will help determine the rest of your strategy and where you go from there.

So how do you find your voice?

  • What is your company’s mission? Reason for being? To put it simply, why are you in business?
  • Look at your offline marketing efforts. What type of image do you portray with your collateral, logo, tagline, etc.?
  • What type of customer experience do you offer? (Hint: ask your customers!)

These questions will help you find your voice and determine what type of personality your company has. Are you a new company? Fantastic! You still have time to figure these out. Change the questions above to a future tense… What type of image will you portray? What type of customer experience will you offer? Don’t get overwhelmed by everything involved with getting set up; just take one step at a time.

Try to focus on essential services that you do well and think about bringing in help for the others. That may be social media, that may be accounting. That’s one thing I wish I would have done differently. You may be Superman (or Wonder Woman), but you can’t do everything by yourself.

Put time and thought into finding your voice, because everything else flows from there. It’ll make your social media efforts a little easier down the road.

Find Your Voice

What type of voice powers your social media efforts?

Have you changed your social media voice at any point? Why?

What social media account best portrays your voice? Feel free to leave URLs, handles, etc. in the comments.

Any other thoughts about your social media voice? Drop them in the comments or reach out on a network below.

If you have any questions regarding social media or would like to discuss your efforts, please let me know.

Cheers,
Jaime

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Super Bowl XLVII: Not A Complete Blackout

I planned on writing about marketing lessons to be had from some of the better Super Bowl commercials until I read 5 Marketing Lessons From the Super Bowl’s Most Popular Commercials from the fine folks at Entrepreneur this morning via Pulse. So that’s been done.

Speaking of the Super Bowl commercials, I felt like they grew more interesting along with the game in the second half, and more specifically, after the blackout. Or I should say during the blackout.

How about Oreo? It almost seemed as if the company knew the blackout was coming. (Hmm, cue up the conspiracy theorists.) More likely, this fun brand was just prepared for the big game instead of sitting back and watching its ad run. Talk about great social media management. And better yet, it’s impromptu ad reminding us all that “You Can Still Dunk In The Dark.” actually made me crave an Oreo. Go figure, an ad that sells!

Oreo Super Bowl blackout ad

As of the writing of this post, Oreo’s clever tweet had earned nearly 16,000 retweets and almost 6,000 favorites on Twitter alone not too mention its success on other social media platforms. There’s something to say about being ready to take advantage of an opportunity!

Of course, Budweiser weighed in with another winner. I almost expect this giant in the beer industry to top USA Today’s Ad Meter and satisfy fans annually. The company used its famous Clydesdales for instant brand recognition and included a direct call to action, which many ads did not. People watching the commercial were asked to help name the baby Clydesdale pictured in it by suggesting names with the hashtag #clydesdales on Twitter.

Budweiser just launched its first-ever Twitter account on January 27th (after Twitter introduced age verification), so the commercial was a great way to attract attention to its new handle. As of February 5th, the new account already has nearly 10,500 followers despite being restricted to fans at least 21 years old.

Last, but certainly not least, let’s not forget about JELL-O! The legendary snack company came on right after the dramatic ending to congratulate San Francisco on being #2. How many companies have thought of that strategy?! JELL-O promised fans in San Fran free product today (Feb 5th), because winners shouldn’t have all the fun.

In addition to free pudding, distraught 49ers fans can install the Baltimore Blocker Google Chrome extension, which replaces the words Baltimore and Ravens anywhere they appear on the Internet with blah blah blah and swaps out pictures of celebrating Ravens fans with cute animals. This strategy has people talking on Twitter, Facebook and watching the pudding drop on the company’s website. “Who’s the big winner now, Baltimore?”

Well, that’s my wrap on Super Bowl XLVII, which despite a dramatic second half and some intriguing commercials, will be remembered for a blackout. While I had no loyalties on either side, I am happy for Dean Pees, current Baltimore defensive coordinator and former Kent State head football coach. Way to represent, Coach Pees!

What’s your take? Did you enjoy the game? The commercials? Or did you switch over and watch Downtown Abbey? (I DVR’d it.)

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or hit me up on social media. I”m always up for a discussion, especially on football or commercials.

Waiting for pitchers and catchers to report-
Jaime

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