’Tis the season to think about next season

By Jim Kendall

This column originally appeared in the November 17, 2014 Daily Herald

                Even though Santa already has been sighted at more than one suburban mall, there’s plenty of time for business owners to plan for next year:

* In our short attention span society, products and services need to look new and better. How you give new life to your widgets, or to your coaching advice, depends on the nuances of what you’re selling, but you probably shouldn’t go into another year with the same old same old.

A new product name – “15 Business Building Services for ’15,” for example – will help, but lead off those 15 services with something new, or thoroughly re-worked, that fills a marketplace need.

Remember that whatever you sell must align with what your customers actually need. Bundle your accounting services; wrap legal services into small business, not-for-profit and family packages.

Cosmetic refreshes will go only so far.

* Do what few entrepreneurs do: Look at your business through customers’ eyes. That’s a task easier to say than accomplish, and for an unvarnished opinion you might want some outside help, but the customer – whether the head buyer at Goliath Industries or an adult child seeking care for Grandma – sees your business differently than you do.

What do customers want from your business? What do they expect? What do you provide?

* Look at your sales support process. When you refresh your products-services, you’ll likely need new collateral material – which in content, look and style should match the impression you want to present.

New leave-behind folders? Periodic newsletters, preferably e-newsletters that not only are less costly to produce but with decent analytics can provide information on what recipients read?

A return to print advertising? Web banners instead? Trade press?

* Image and visibility. Do you put your name in front of customers with a barrage of advertising, or do you plan an information campaign where the ideas establish you, and therefore your business, as knowledgeable and up-to-date?

Podcasts, low cost and easy to produce, can help present you as a well-informed individual worth a look. YouTube videos, if done carefully, can do the same.

The approach depends on your type of business and awareness of the marketplace, but creating a strategy that raises your business’ visibility is fun – and ultimately profitable.

* Look at the web as part of the visibility effort. Does your website show as well on mobile devices as it does on a laptop? Is the site easy to navigate? Is there a video demonstration of your product? Audio that highlights staff capabilities? Are there endorsements?

Does the site quickly tell visitors what your business does? Does it sell what you want to sell? Present your business the way you want it presented?

There’s plenty to think about – and, happily, time to put a plan together. As a practical matter, you have into January to start the new business year.


© 2014 Kendall Communications Inc. Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write him at Jim@kendallcom.com. Listen to Jim’s Business Owners’ Pod Talk at www.kendallcom.com.