Business Planning in the New Year

Whether it’s bright and balmy or blisteringly brisk, January is a great time to plan for the year.  A mad rush of holidays has ended, affording small business owners a chance to stop, catch their breath, and reset for the coming year.

new year

Photo by Flickr member Sally Mahoney. Used under a Creative Commons License.

How was your 2012?  What product lines worked?  What sales venues worked?
Are there things you want to do more of in 2013?  Are there things you want to start doing?  And how about things you’d like to NOT do this year?

AWeber quizzed 3000 business owners to gain some perspective on what’s in store for small businesses in 2013.

Here are some ideas and advice for the coming year from Clovis News Journal, GROW Nebraska, The Examiner, Swipely, and Reno Gazette Journal.

And finally, here are some predictions that may help you tailor your plans for 2013:

Colloquy predicts the rise of small businesses, “establishments with as much engagement power as some of their national rivals, but with the ability (and panache)–of being hands-on local.” Due to deft handling of social media and the ability to take payments online, small businesses are competing with national chains. (Members, this is the year to take advantage of a soap guild store!)

Being mobile-friendly is more important than ever.  Email insider stresses the importance of generating mobile-friendly marketing emails.  Rohit Arora, at the Fox Small Business Center, emphasizes use of smart phones in small business, while Constant Contact predicts “an aggressive upward trajectory” to the trend of consumers searching for business and product information on their phones.

Ekaterina Walter and Dave Kerpen, in a Social Media Examiner article, foretell the growth of visual marketing, which small businesses can take advantage of through sites like Instagram and Pinterest, as well as their blogs.  Speaking of visual marketing, Pinterest will be used in more marketing emails, per Email insider.

Regardless of which sites become more popular, social media will be even more crucial this year (Constant Contact), with advertising becoming more popular and more industries engaging on social media networks (Social Media Examiner).  Businesses will not have just a social media department, but will truly become social businesses, according to Brian Solis.  Small businesses are well positioned to take advantage of social media and truly listen to the customer.

Here’s to an incredible year!

Business Focus: Why Write A Business Plan

When you started selling your soap, did you start out with an idea that you would make handcrafted soap and immediately write your business plan?  Or were you like many small businesses; your hobby morphed into a business and you are just winging it?

If you fall into the latter category, it’s never too late to write a business plan. Even if you “know” what you are doing, having a written plan allows you to clarify the direction that you are taking with your company. A business plan allows you to reflect back and see if you are on track with your vision; it allows you to keep focused on what is important for growing your business.

Not sure where to start?  Your report does not have to be a tome, just a few pages that outline areas of concentration for your complete business. A standard business plan contains: an executive summary, description and vision of the business, market definition, description of products / services, sales & marketing  strategy, and financial assumptions.

Many resources are available through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). With development centers in many cities, the SBA provides workshops, online training, information, and tools to help entrepreneurs with activities that build their businesses. You can find a free  step by step business plan template online on the SBA’s website.

Once you have written your business plan, the benefits go beyond just having a written document. You will have a document that you can add into your portfolio that you can use for other purposes such as  business competitions and applying for a loan. Along with having a business plan, it is useful to also write a marketing plan. The foundation of your marketing plan will be included in the business plan.  The marketing plan includes the tactical details.