What lessons did you learn in 2010? I’ve pulled together a list of lessons that I gathered from some of the most interesting business books and experts of the year.
Go through the list and make a vow to put at least one into play next year.
1. Practice “Open Leadership”
Open Leadership means that you make yourself, your opinions and thoughts available to your customers. Command and control communication is over. Just look back at BP’s Tony Hayward on TV looking like a deer in the headlights. You don’t want to be him in 2011. Don’t be afraid to share your company’s purpose, mission and engage your customers in the journey.
Forty-seven percent of small business owners still aren’t sure or don’t think their customers spend time on social media. This is like saying that you aren’t sure if your customers have a telephone. Your customers are online and they are judging YOU and your company online. Be there to engage them in conversation. Tell them what you’re up to as a company and make them proud to do business with you.
2. Build a powerful community of influencers to advance your business and agenda
Brian Solis, futurist and new media expert, encourages leaders to look beyond the communities you are connected to and reach out to new influential audiences that can advance your message. Take Roger Ach for example, he’s supposed to be retired; instead, he’s the CEO of vADz, an online video marketing tool for small business. Using LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, he leverages his connections to gain access to ever higher and more influential people in the media who can help him achieve his company’s goals.
2. Price for profit and brand equity
Not making enough money? Economist and author of 1% Windfall, Rafi Mohammed shares a variety of pricing strategies that will get your business into solid profitability and higher levels of customer satisfaction. Do you have prospects that aren’t turning into customers? Try creating offerings at different price points. What about grabbing more profits by offering customers special benefits like going to the front of the line or faster service?
4. Stand out and get attention
Humility might be an admirable personal trait, but if you’re a small business looking to build your brand, it won’t do you any good. Commit to be BOLD in 2011, Jim Kukral, author of Attention! This Book Will Make You Money. Looking for ideas? Try some of these; eavesdrop to people chatting on the bus or phone and build on the snippets, get people who aren’t familiar with your business to ask you questions, do the opposite of what you normally do, doodle and draw out your challenge and see what comes up. And most of all -- don’t be afraid to stand out.
5. Get a slice of your customers’ time
According to The 24-Hour Customer, your customers just aren’t that into you. Forty-nine percent say that shopping is just something they do. If you want them to choose you, you will have to find creative ways to squeeze your product or service into their schedule. For inspiration, consider how Zipcar re-defined car ownership by renting cars by the hour in big cities or how Nike partnered with Apple to combine running and music. How can you “sneak” your product or service into your customers’ day in 2011?
6. Build a business that’s Repeatable, Teachable, Valuable
Are you running your business or is it running you? According to John Warillow, your business should be a money making machine -- not a life-sucking-slave-driver. Instead of being a generalist, specialize. Pick a single product or service that you do better than anyone and focus on that. Stop trading time for money and productize your service by identifying the unique process you use and make it repeatable and teachable.
7. Systematize and Automate
Don’t let another sale slip through the cracks because you didn’t follow up. In Conquer the Chaos, Clate Mask and Scott Martineau share some sales realities. For example, nearly 50 percent of all businesses stop following up with prospects after the first call! That means that you can increase your sales by simply staying in touch with your prospects and educating them on why they should choose you.
The experts and authors of 2010 see the future for small business as full of opportunities as our ability to step out of our familiar patterns and fears. As you plan for 2011, seize the opportunity to create your business by the decisions you make and the actions you take.
Ivana Taylor is CEO of Third Force, a strategic firm that helps small businesses get and keep their ideal customer. She’s the co-author of the book “Excel for Marketing Managers” and proprietor of DIYMarketers, a site for in-house marketers. Her blog is Strategy Stew.