10 Must-Dos to Kick Off 2016 for Your Business

1. Develop an Effective Sales Strategy: Sales are the lifeblood of your business. If you don't do anything else before the holidays, be sure to develop a sales strategy for your business in 2016 NOW. How will you generate leads? How will you follow up on leads? Will you hire a sales person this year? What new offers will you have for your existing customers? You need to make sure you have an ample sales pipeline going into the new year. Create a sales plan that will help you project for the peak times of year, and put together a budget that will help you generate leads and close business successfully.

2. Make Your Website More User-Friendly: Your website is your #1 sales tool; it is your welcome mat into your business. It's time to give it a facelift. Take a look at your website to see what new changes or updates can be made. What are going to be your new offers to snag your visitors' email addresses? Is it time for a new header or ebook offer? You don't need to do a complete overhaul. You can add videos from a recent media appearance, or use photos or testimonials to update the website. Be sure to look at your analytics to see what your most popular content is, and then be sure to develop more of that. 

3. Engage Customers One-on-One: How often do you make customer calls? I believe magic happens over the phone, especially when you are not selling anything. Check in on your customers. Many corporate people switch jobs or companies this time of the year, so be sure that you are in the loop. You also need to find out when the latest budget cycle is so that you can be sure to know the right time to ask for a new contract. Make a list of clients that you can start calling to try to reach out to at least 10 current and former customers a day for the next two weeks.

4. Develop New Products: Everyone loves new stuff. What was your top seller this year? Is there an opportunity to expand it into an online course or live event? If you own a coffee shop, could you start offering live jazz performances every other Friday to draw in a nighttime crowd in 2016? Take a look at what's working with your product and services and look for areas that you can tweak or expand. Creating a bundle deal to a product that customers already enjoy can reinvigorate their desire to buy.

5. Create a Marketing Calendar: If you've been in business a while, you already know what your big holidays and special buying triggers are going to be. Look at your business by quarter to get a jump-start on the year by mapping out a marketing calendar. What month will you launch your new product for the year? Is March Madness or Mother's Day a major buying time of the year in your business? What about "Back to School" in Aug/Sept or Halloween? Start planning your special promotions now, so that in 2016 you and your team won't feel like you are running from fire to fire getting ready for the promotions in your business. 

6. Expand and Tweak Your Social Media Strategy: If you have been focused on one social platform, it might be time at add something new. Live video streaming is really coming on strong with Periscope, Blab, and Facebook adding live streaming capabilities. Choose one new social media platform to add to your daily mix of marketing activities. Whether you are doing business online or as a storefront, you should be using social media to create buzz about your business and drive traffic into your store or website. It can also help you engage people who have never heard of your brand.

7. Embrace Email Marketing: It's cheaper to keep a customer, and one of best ways to nurture relationships with existing customers is to use an email marketing platform. Consider adding an email marketing tool like InfusionsoftAweber or MailChimp to stay on top of mind with customers. You should have a monthly newsletter sent out, and you can set up an auto responder series of emails that goes out on your selected dates and times to help you follow up with someone who downloads a free offer from your website. You should develop for an email marketing campaign for your new 2016 offer before the year is out.

8. Take Another Look at Direct Mail: Email is on overload for most people, so a targeted direct mail campaign can still be a very effective way to grab your customer's attention. All the online clutter makes it easier for you to reach a client if your mail piece shows up on their doorstep. Try a double-sided postcard to keep the bulk postage price low. Coupons are great to offer this way. If you're a dry cleaner, for example, you could send your customers an offer for 20% off on Wednesday, if that is your slowest day of the week. You can use direct mail to spark repeat business.

9. Dabble in Online Ads: Organic search is the most effective way to reach customers online, but since everyone is doing some form of content marketing, paid ads are now a necessary method of outreach to customer. Set up a campaign with 2-3 messages and 2-3 piece of artwork. You need to test your campaign first, then invest in a longer campaign with one piece of artwork and one message. Since the cost of online ads are far less than traditional media, it's a good way to experiment before the end of the year to find new buyers or re-engage current customers. Some platforms, such as Facebook, allow to you target ads to your existing email list or people who have visited your website.

10. Review Your Business' Year: Who were your best customers? How many proposals went out? What was your close ratio? Are there any customers you want to pitch again in 2016? How many revenue streams does your business have? Do you need more or to eliminate some of them? Do you need to hire or fire to realign your team? Put together a list of wins for the year and a list of what went wrong. The process will help you to think about what you can do better in New Year. You must plan for success. The Year End Review should be one of the foundational elements for establishing your small business goals for 2016.

Original article appeared here.

Melinda F. Emerson, SmallBizLady is America's #1 small business expert. She is an author, speaker and small business coach whose areas of expertise include small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. She writes a weekly column for the New York Times, publishes a resource blog, www.succeedasyourownboss.com,which is syndicated through The Huffington Post. She also hosts a weekly talk show on Twitter called #SmallBizChat for small business owners. As a brand, she reaches 1.5 million entrepreneurs a week on the internet. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. Forbes Magazine named Melinda Emerson one of the #1 Woman for Entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. Melinda has been featured on MSNBC, Fox News, NBC Nightly News and in Fortune, The Washington Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Black Enterprise. She is the bestselling author of "Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works," and the ebook How to Become a Social Media Ninja; 101 Ways to Dominate Your Competition Online.


Kyndle would like to thank The Gleaner and Union County First for the use of images throughout this site.