When you run a business, is there ever such a thing as a holiday slowdown? Sure, there might be a seasonal lull in new clients or customer orders, but even when there’s less to do in your business, there’s always more to do for your business.
While your business’ to-do list can sometimes seem never-ending and overwhelming (in which case, be sure to take care of yourself), there are some tips that can help you maintain perspective and meet the end of the year with total control.
Review the Ups and Downs
The end of the year is a good time to pause and reflect on how your business has performed over the past twelve months. Not to kick yourself for what went wrong, or even to praise yourself for what went right, but to pick out the learnings that you can use to build an even stronger business next year.
How to do this?
First, take a deep breath. Then:
- Take a moment to write down your three most successful campaigns or activities.
- List the three things you did that you feel didn’t live up to your expectations.
- Capture what you can learn from all six of these moments and add those lessons to your business plan for 2018.
Analyze Your Analytics
For many business owners, digging into the numbers isn’t the most fun activity, especially if math wasn’t necessarily your strongest subject in school. Yet, as business owners, we know that it’s those numbers that keep us in business. Do you know what yours are telling you?
Take a look at your Google Analytics and see if you’re attracting the numbers to your site you want (for example, how many page hits are you getting?). Are those numbers converting into sales or signups? Or, if your visitors are engaged, is that engagement resulting in the type of data you want?
Next, take a look at what’s going on in your social spheres and consider these questions:
- Have you been building your following and pulling potential clients into your orbit through your chosen social media channels? Or has your social outreach gone stagnant and needs more focus?
- What is your strategy for gathering and maintaining Twitter followers, or attracting Facebook page likes?
- Do you need to get with the Instagram crowd?
- When was the last time you looked after your presence on YouTube?
- When you Google yourself, not your business, what do you find?
Remember to take a look too at how you’re nurturing those visitors and customers already in your circle—your “tribe”. Identify which email campaigns have worked for you. What qualities or features do they have in common? See what your CRM software tells you about your most loyal subscribers. Make a special note of their common characteristics and use that information to appeal to more people like them next year.
Lastly, review your assets: your website, your resources, your blogs, your marketing materials, your speeches, and your videos. What needs updating, archiving, or re-sharing?
Make a Plan
Now that you’ve got loads of information about how your business has been performing, it’s time to plan where you want to take your business next year. What practices do you want to stop, start, or continue?
- Define the metrics that will deliver the results you need. Based on your current numbers, determine what you should reach for, not just in revenue, but in the areas that help you build that revenue such as Facebook likes, email opens, or YouTube comments. Determine the metrics that form both the start and end points of your pipeline and focus on them.
- Define the three priorities you can deliver next year that will transform your business. Make a commitment now to be steadfastly focused on these. Don’t plan anything that doesn’t align with them. What do you need to deliver on these priorities? List the steps you’ll need to take, the resources you’ll need, and the resources you already have.
- Map out your activities to support those priorities. Buy a full-sheet paper calendar (or make one) and divide it into 52 weeks or 12 months. Mark it up with events in your diary that you want to attend, or send pitches for speaking engagements. Do they support your priorities, do you feel that there are any gaps? Research conferences or other events you want to attend and mark them in too.
- If you like, it can be really helpful to mark up your calendar with the awareness days/weeks/months that you can leverage within your business marketing. You can piggyback on top of these to use for promotional activity or publicity. You can find the full list on Wikipedia. Plan campaigns around these events where appropriate. Remember, the trick is to make yourself and your business the story, not the day itself.
- Think about your publicity strategy too. Do you want to feature more in magazines and the press to build your credibility as the expert in your field? Did you miss opportunities in the PR calendar this year, that you want to address for next year? You’ll only get featured if you start to plan for it: identify the media featuring businesses like you. Keep a log of the journalists writing about your topic. Pitch them why they should feature you. Glossy magazines need about 4 months’ notice, so plan that activity on the calendar.
Review Your Calendar
One of the biggest causes of overwhelm for the small business owner is trying to do too much.
Your task is to remove items from the calendar. This step, removing work, can feel like the hardest of all. Everything feels important so how do you choose? It all comes back to your three priorities to deliver.
- Identify which of your three priorities each action in the calendar supports.
- Remove any activities that don’t support delivery of any of your priorities.
- Assign each supporting activity a number from one to ten for how critical it is in delivering the priority.
- Remove anything that isn’t pulling its weight in contributing to that delivery.
- Be ruthless: you don’t need to go to every networking opportunity or say yes to every speech.
As a business owner, there is always so much more to learn. We have to be great at (and keep learning about) the business of serving our customers and clients. We also have to be great at marketing, sales, speaking, blogging, videos, and more. The saying “every day’s a school day” is definitely true when you’re in business for yourself.
In evaluating your knowledge gaps, think about what caused you most pain last year, perhaps that one thing kept telling yourself you wish you knew how to do. Now, think about whether you can outsource or delegate that expertise. Do you have to get better at it yourself, or can someone else take it off your hands? If you can’t hand it off, research the most time-efficient and cost-effective routes to training yourself adequately (you don’t need to become an expert in everything).
If you decide you need to get better at Facebook Ads, for example, or sales, blogging, or your visibility online, seek out the experts offering support in these areas and join their Facebook groups or mailing lists. Look for free sales trainings, free Facebook ads webinars, or dive into free trainings on SEO.
You’ll be surprised at how many resources are out there waiting for you to take advantage of them.
Don’t Wait, Create!
Phew! That’s already a lot of activity for what might be just a couple of fallow days over the holidays. But if you’re already moving forward with your business, there’s no reason to sit around and twiddle your thumbs. Instead, use the quiet time to get your creative juices flowing and draft your priorities for next year. Start creating your membership site, your next online course, or sit down and write that book.
Finally, don’t forget to put your feet up and enjoy the holiday time! You’ve worked hard all year, so take some time to enjoy yourself, be present with your loved ones, and welcome the chance to laugh, smile, and breathe! You’ve got another year of your business under your belt, with another one to look forward to. It’s time to celebrate.
Do you have your own strategy for using downtime effectively? We’d love to hear your own ideas in the comments!
Emily Jacob is a Lifecycle Marketing Manager at Namecheap, a writer, and a small business owner. She will be spending the holidays planning her book launch, and choosing between writing her next book, developing her online program, and enhancing her profile to achieve her ambition of doing a TEDx talk as her main focus in 2018. (Right now her answer is “all of the above”, so she really needs to take this blog to heart).