Next year is almost upon us. Can you feel it? This time of year brings more than those dreaded resolutions. It gives entrepreneurs a chance to evaluate their business and plan ahead.
Each month of 2012 is an opportunity to put real steps into action. Consider your next free calendar a chance to build a business-boosting plan for the upcoming year.
January: Evaluate the good and the bad
When the calendar flips to January 1, you get a shiny new year to fill up with business excitement. Before you start selling next year, look back at the year that just ended.
What sold well and what didn’t? Now is the time to weed out the deadweight products that didn’t pull in enough sales. Focus, instead, on what sold well, and brainstorm ways to build on those bestsellers.
February: Create a product plan
Every business needs a big dollop of fresh offerings from time to time. Now that you know what your bestselling products are, think of adding new products that will complement what already sells well.
What can you add to your business that is new and exciting? Consider products and services that pique the interest of repeat customers and attract new ones.
March: Perfect your marketing
Your 2011 marketing efforts deserve a good going-over, too. Consider all of the marketing you did in 2011, both what you paid for and what was free. What netted the best results?
If you’ve decided to change up your product line a bit, think about new avenues of marketing to reflect the changes you’ve made. Make a list. What will you stop doing? What will you try again? What new marketing efforts will you participate in?
April: Arm yourself for summer
The summer months can be lean for some businesses. If yours is one of them, now is the time to figure out how you’ll keep your business afloat.
Look at your financials for the upcoming year and see what changes you can make to keep more money for slow-selling times. Consider cutting expenses or finding lower-priced (but still effective) suppliers and service providers for such necessities as Internet services.
May: Pitch the press
Spring and summer are good seasons to talk to the press about your business. Many magazines and blogs are looking for products and businesses to feature in winter editions, especially holiday editions.
Use the list you made in March that shows where you will focus your marketing, and start pitching the media that you’ve kept on your list. Include radio and television media if they apply to you, as well as print and online magazines and blogs.
June: Optimize for search engines
Search engine optimization (SEO) is time-consuming to implement. It also takes time for any SEO changes you’ve made to show up in search engines.
Tweak your SEO now. Change keywords or add new ones and start building back-links with related websites and blogs. By the time the busy winter shopping season begins, your SEO changes should be in effect.
Six months of the year have passed. Look back and see how the changes you’ve made are working. Have you found any glitches or mistakes that need to be fixed? The winter shopping season is coming, so make any needed business tweaks or changes now.
August: Get ready for the holidays
Only three months to go until the busy holiday-shopping season. Now is the time to roll out any additional new products you may want to add to your mix.
Build inventory on best-selling items so you have a good stockpile for holiday shoppers.
Have you kept up with your social media circles? Social media can take a lot of time, but it’s a wonderful promotional tool. Immerse yourself with intention in your social media groups, like Facebook and Twitter.
Share great content and ideas to keep your followers engaged. If you blog, be sure to update frequently and increase your reader following. Make time each day to work on social media, but don’t waste time (stick to your social media time budget).
October: Prepare even more for holidays
Now holiday shopping really is right around the corner. Prepare your business by stocking up on essentials, like packaging materials, business cards, office supplies and any inventory you haven’t ordered yet.
If you sell handmade products, boost your production to finalize your inventory, if possible.
November: Get help
If your business typically experiences a surge in sales during the holiday rush, now is the time to consider getting some help. Each year is different for holiday sales, but if you’ve experienced a rush in the past, hire an assistant.
Find someone to help with packaging and shipping, e-mails, phone calls or any other tasks that can quickly get out of control.
December: Tidy up
Your business year has come full circle. As December winds down along with the holiday buying rush, take time to finish loose ends and restock your store. Don’t forget to breathe and take time to relax.
Look back on 2012 and see the results of your changes and efforts. Then, you can start the circle over again by looking ahead once more.
Justine Grey is a web entrepreneur who writes Work Life Joy for frazzled business builders who long to work vibrantly and live beautifully. You can find her on Twitter at @JustineGrey chatting about life, work and her pop-culture obsession.