11 Resolutions for Business Growth in 2011

11 Resolutions for Business Growth in 2011

If you’re operating budget or your marketing plan looks like it did five years ago, two years ago or already last year, there’s a problem.

With every advancement in technology, with every emerging social platform and with every shift from the desktop to the cloud, the ways people communicate, the ways your customers make decisions and the ways your employees work will continue to evolve. To stay ahead in today’s marketplace, your business growth strategies and tactics must evolve right along with them.

Here are 11 resolutions that you must make for your business to unprotected to success in 2011 and beyond:

discarded your excess baggage.

You’ll never get ahead as long as you’re the one impeding your own progress.

In today’s economic climate, efficiency is the number one rule of survival. The future of business is leaner, smarter and more responsive. It’s time to take a look at your operating expenses and see what you can reduce or eliminate.

Now that technology has made it possible to do business anywhere and at any time, do you nevertheless need to continue a expansive physical office and everything that goes into supporting and maintaining it: utilities, landline phone systems, servers, furnishings, cleaning sets, etc.?

Or is it time to consider shedding that office and all of its outmoded systems in favor of transitioning to a virtual operating form and reaping the benefits of lower expenses, increased efficiency, higher employee satisfaction and – most importantly – greater profitability?

already if you’re not ready to fully commit to making the virtual jump just however, there are nevertheless plenty of things you can do to lighten the burden of the reoccurring expenses you carry.

A great first step is to look to the cloud. Today there are excellent cloud-based solutions for everything from project management to accounting and already CRM. Google Apps alone additional over 60 new business-focused web-based apps in 2010.

These tools are lighter, more flexible and more affordable than their traditional personal-computer-based counterparts, making the business of running your business more efficient and less costly.

From Basecamp for project management to Grasshopper’s virtual phone systems to Skype for voice and video conferencing to Dropbox for online file sharing and synchronization, these systems are designed to promote productivity and ease collaboration among your employees, whether they are tethered to a cubicle or working from a home office.

So already if you can’t however throw away the keys to your office, you can at the very least reduce your dependence upon phone systems, printers, paper, filing cabinets, on-site data storage and back-ups…the list goes on and on.

Bow to the tribe.

Just ask Digg, Toyota, Apple or Gap: What the tribe says can make you or break you.

What is a tribe? At its chief, it’s a group of people that connect around shared goals, interests or needs.

If you want to grow in today’s marketplace, you must clarify, become a member of and rule the tribes that are applicable to your business. additionally, your products or sets must be shaped around meeting the needs of its members and making their lives better or easier.

Fortunately, the evolution of social media has stripped away the communication barriers that once divided companies and their tribes. Take advantage of having direct access to your customers and their opinions and include them in your business operation.

Keep them informed about what you are doing. Ask for their honest feedback, not just about what you’re doing right but also about what you’re doing wrong and how you can do better. By listening and responding, you’ll solidify their trust and earn their continued loyalty.

For evidence of the strength of tribes, look no further than Gap’s disastrous attempt to set afloat a new logo in October 2010. According the company, the logo was intended to signify Gap’s change from “typical, American design to modern, sexy, cool.” However, in actuality, it raised the ire of their tribe and sparked a wave of embarrassing publicity.

While a simple logo redesign might seem like just a shallow cosmetic change, when Gap’s tribe saw their familiar brand icon fall by the wayside, they interpreted it as an indication that the company’s traditional style and values would soon follow suit. In response to this vehement backlash, Gap swiftly scrapped the new logo and reinstated the typical blue box, and in doing so, they recovered the trust and loyalty of their tribe.

Get out of your corporate comfort zone.

In order to include with your tribe and relate to them in an authentic way, your company must be human in every way.

What does this average? Think about qualities that are uniquely human. These include passion, sincerity and humility, just to name a few.

Humans take the time to understand, so be easy to reach, responsive and generous with your skill and assistance.

Humans make mistakes, and they apologize for those mistakes. Don’t be afraid to show the world your flaws. Instead, be honest, accountable and trustworthy.

Taking ownership of a problem isn’t the same as taking blame. Your end game shouldn’t be saving confront at all costs; it should be demonstrating that despite the unavoidable misstep, you always have your customers’ best interests at heart.

People want to do business with people who genuinely care about them and understand their needs, not faceless corporations whose only concern is the bottom line. When you include in real, authentic relationships, you create fans who are not only loyal customers but also brand evangelists that do your marketing for you.

Don’t just be likable, be indispensable.

The omnipresence of Facebook has turned the act of “liking” into its own rare form of money. Brands include in hot pursuit of being “liked” as if the acquisition of that position in and of itself is the culmination of the company-customer relationship.

However, competing in this rat race makes it easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. In today’s economic climate, customers don’t easily part with their hard-earned dollars – unless, that is, they simply can’t live without you.

It’s time to re-examine your value, not just in terms of price but in terms of what it is that your customers have come to depend on you for and how you can give them already more.

for example, a Maytag washer might initially cost more than a comparable form from GE or Whirlpool, but their customers also know that they can expect reliable, worry-free service for years to come, which will ultimately save them the time, hassle and expense of repair or substitute.

What aspects of your competitive scenery can you own? Is it service? Is it convenience? It is reliability?

Make sure that you address the needs of your tribe and make their lives better or easier in meaningful ways that no one else can duplicate. In doing so, you’ll transform your products or sets from insignificant commodities to indispensable necessities.

Stop treating your website like a brochure.

What separates the superstar websites from the rest?

It’s not pretty pictures or flowery copy.

It’s not flashy graphics – or Flash, for that matter.

It’s not videos or animation or any of the other bells and whistles alone.

It’s achieving the right balance of form and function, of design and functionality.

Stop wasting opportunities to grow your business with a website that doesn’t truly perform. It’s no longer enough for your website to sit like a brochure on glass and provide just the basic ABCs about your company.

In fact, the term “website design” itself is a bit misleading. While your site can and should be beautiful, more importantly, it must be useful.

Perhaps there’s no better case for this argument than Facebook. Facebook is hardly the most beautiful website ever built. However, it serves its purpose well, and it’s simple enough to navigate that everyone from your 10-year-old cousin to your 80-year-old grandmother can use it with relative ease.

People love apps and for good reason: they’re intuitive to use, they’re focused and they serve a specific purpose.

You should keep this mentality in mind with regard to the way your website roles. People come to your site for a reason, and they have specific needs that need to be addressed.

When they land on your site, don’t make them think too much. Instead, point them in the right direction. Your goal should be to provide a useful web-based extension of your company that’s obtainable 24/7 and provides the path of least resistance for your customers to reach the resources, information and products they seek.

Go organic.

Once upon a time, it was easy to ensure that whenever someone was searching for the types of products and sets that you offer, you’d be in front of them. Every year you’d write a check (albeit a big one) to the Yellow Pages and then just sit back and wait for the phone to ring.

But in today’s marketplace, when people have a question, want information or need to find a product or service, they don’t flip open the phone book, and they don’t scour online directories.

Instinctively, they turn to search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. As a consequence, these sites are the gatekeepers between you and prospects who are looking for a solution that you can provide. With over 16 billion searches performed in November 2010 alone, there’s clearly much to be attained from appearing in the first few results when someone enters keywords that pertain to the products or sets that you offer.

However, unlike in the days when the Yellow Pages ruled the world, you can’t buy your way to prominence on an organic search results page. Instead, you must commit to an current, dedicated investment of time and resources to work your way up by the rankings of a search using authentic, proven search engine optimization tactics.

While there’s no easy or moment way to jump from page 10 to page one, over time, your patience and persistence will be rewarded with better ranking, greater traffic coming to your site, more prospects seeing what you have to offer and increased opportunities to transform visitors into customers.

Be everywhere all the time.

To compete in today’s on-need culture, you need to ensure that you’re obtainable to your customers on their timetable and on the platform of their choosing.

No longer are people usually sitting in front of a computer when they’re searching for answers to their questions and problems. With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, mobile browsing is on the rise.According to data from comScore, in October 2010, approximately 36 percent of mobile subscribers used their devices to browse the web, while 34 percent downloaded apps and 24 percent accessed blogs or social networking sites.

It’s basic to make sure that when your customers are out and about, you’re in their pocket and along for the ride. The first step is optimizing your site for the mobile Web to ensure that it is small-screen-friendly and that browsing on the go is a pleasant and efficient course of action. There’s nothing more frustrating for your customers than when they’re in a hurry and waiting for your image-saturated website to load on their Android or struggling to navigate your drop-down menus on their iPhone.

Simply put, mobile web development is a trend that you simply can’t provide to ignore any longer. Your customers won’t understand or tolerate your failure to keep up and will keep browsing until they find someone else who can provide what they want when and where they want it.

Break out of your social bubble.

Social media is about communication and connection, with the ultimate goal of building and nurturing a community around your brand. However, to be successful, you must break out of your own brand bubble and let others direct the conversation.

Wherever you choose to establish a presence – whether that’s on LinkedIn if you’re B2B, Facebook if you’re B2C or on Twitter – you must realize that these sites are not just another place to leave your brochure, nor are they your own personal podium for endless self-promotion.

Instead, think of your social media outpost as an current party where your people can hang out and talk about the things that they care about. You want the air to feel like your living room, where everyone is free to pull up a chair and join in the conversation at their leisure. The people who congregate there will get to know each other and will form relationships that are established upon a shared interest in your brand and the values it stands for.

Just like any real-world social setting, the more comfortable you make it, the more people will call it home, and the more they’ll look forward to coming back again and again.

For example, if you’re in the business of selling your own custom-made handbags, your people are those who care about fact and about standing out from the crowd. They’re people who like to be on the cutting edge of trends and gossip.

So there’s no need for the chatter on your Facebook page to regularly revolve around handbags. You could just as easily talk about what Natalie Portman wore to the Golden Globes or discuss the latest episode of America’s Next Top form. As long as the conversation is happening in your living room, it doesn’t have to be about you.

By contrast, if you put up a Facebook page and do nothing but talk about yourself, you’ll watch the party empty quickly.

Stop keeping up with the digital Joneses.

Because the Internet is public domain, suddenly it’s easier than ever to keep close tabs on what your competitors are doing. And along with this comes the temptation to regularly make sure that you are present anywhere on the Web that they are.

However, just because you can see what you’re competitors are up to doesn’t necessarily average they’re doing it well or that their tactics are worth imitating.

Just because your competitors are on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr and every other platform in existence, doesn’t average you should be, too. Just because they have 1,000 followers doesn’t average that you’re a failure because you only have 200. Just because they have a message board on their website doesn’t average that you should necessarily have one in addition.

While it’s always good to keep your competitors in your crosshairs, don’t let it take your focus away from doing what’s best for your own business. It’s far more important to stay laser-focused on your customers and to gain an understanding of where they live and how they prefer to be engaged.

Focus your efforts not on keeping up but on setting yourself apart. Carve out your own niche in the Web marketing universe, create your own identity, offer something rare to your customers and cultivate your own community of dedicated followers.

Get out more.

With all the buzz surrounding social networking, don’t forget the importance of confront-to-confront networking.

As one responsible for growing a business, you belong to an expansive community of people who are in the same boat. Collectively, you represent an almost limitless pool of knowledge and experience in addressing the challenges of building and growing a business. Whether it’s a colleague in a related industry or the owner of the shop next door, there’s a wealth of wisdom and contacts just waiting to be shared.

All too often, however, people treat networking as a stop-gap measure when nothing else is working. Networking shouldn’t be approached as an moment fix to a sales pipeline that’s running dry but as a long-term investment.

To be successful, you must apply the principles of trustcasting: be willing to give generously of your own time and skill, not focused solely on what everyone else can do for you.

Build your reputation as a knowledgeable resource, take a genuine interest in helping others succeed, and ultimately you’ll find that opportunities will start to flow your way.

Turn your resolutions into reality.

It’s not enough to set the goals. You must develop an action plan for their execution. Otherwise the coal-shoveling responsibilities required to keep your business engine running smoothly will always rule your time and attention.

Simply put, you must schedule time for growth, or all your good intentions will drown in a sea of wishful thinking.

In reality, you probably can’t tackle all 11 of these resolutions at once, so decide what’s most important for your business and set your priorities consequently.

Break down each big-picture objective into specific, manageable responsibilities, and establish milestones and metrics by which you’ll measure your progress.

Set aside some time each week to unplug and apply focused effort toward meeting your goals. Treat these responsibilities with the same level of importance as meeting with a client or filing your taxes, and don’t let anything displace them from your schedule.

Don’t fall into the trap of reactionary business growth planning and wait until there’s a crisis of income and cash flow to get serious about shoring up your competitive position. In today’s marketplace, there’s no room for objectives du jour that only aim to put out whichever fire is burning hottest at the moment.

Establish your goals for the year now, and make a firm commitment – to yourself and your employees – that other projects won’t be allowed to interfere with achieving them. If things don’t unfold as planned, don’t worry and don’t give up. Just adapt and stay focused on the ultimate goal: owning your market.

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