Many successful businesses revisit their business planning at least annually, conducting a checkup to see where they’ve been and where they want to go. Whether you sell products, services, or both to buyers, to prepare your business for 2023, start by prioritizing business objectives that sustain success throughout the year.
According to small-business experts, instead of emphasizing how to make the most sales in 2023, focus on defining "what" you do to get more of what you want from your business next year and beyond.
For example, what kind of business are you building and what kind of business owner must you be to build that business? What customers or clients will you attract? What products or services will you offer that solve their problems or meet their most pressing needs? The “how” you get there gets determined by your answers to the “what” questions.
The below strategies offered by small-business experts focus primarily on your mindset coming out of the pandemic and the political and social unrest of the past several years. Business has changed substantially during that time, and this advice can help you adapt your thinking – and your enterprise – to those changes.
Be Willing to Invest Money in Digital Business Success
Marc Parham, owner of several small businesses and director of The Entrepreneurship Center at the Urban League of Atlanta, specializes in working with online businesses. He can't emphasize enough that “online enterprises must invest money in their digital marketing platforms to succeed, because gone are the days you could do everything free.” Such businesses must get past the "get it free, do it free" mindset.
Parham works with both brick and mortar and online-only businesses, but his message is the same for both: focus your 2023 business planning checkup on what your digital presence is doing to accelerate your business growth. Know who you are, what you offer, what makes you different, and what you must add to your digital platforms to make customer experience so exceptional, buyers keep returning.
“A responsive, customer-centric, digital presence is essential to success in 2023,” he says. He cites the pandemic shutdowns as the business shift that makes this true.
“Everything went online, and that led to higher expectations from customers about how your business should work for them,” he continues. The shift in consumer expectations means that "you can get what your order overnight, so now customers expect that service level from even the smallest businesses,” he explains.
To meet customer expectations, says Parham, “You can’t go with only free or cheap digital platforms for your e-commerce business anymore.” That’s true even if you see influencers on social media appearing to generate high revenue from those free platforms. Eventually, social media platforms send customers to the brand's websites, and those sites get designed, usually professionally, to guide customers directly to the product they want to buy. The customer experience on those sites typically is outstanding, and it’s clear they’ve invested the money and time to achieve customer service excellence.
“Customers won't click around to find what they want on your site,” says Parham. “They expect to find it immediately and buy with a few clicks or they leave,” he adds. They also expect you to be easy to contact and that you’ll respond quickly to them. “Most customers assume you’ll respond within 24 hours or they’re wondering whether yours is a trustworthy business,” he says.
Hire professionals to make sure your site has everything it needs, both on the front end user interface and on the back end for functionality, in order to make your site as similar as possible to the sites where you shop.
Build Strong Networks
One of the most import aspects of business growth Parham sees for 2023 is rebuilding networks, which he sees many online entrepreneurs are avoiding beyond following social media influencers. But pandemic shutdowns led to loss of business connections, and Parham says without them, businesses won’t experience much success.
“You must build strong networks and across business sectors or endeavors, not just in your own,” says Parham. “You don’t know where your next big sale or opportunity might come from, but it’s most likely from your network.”
Leaders should do values-setting exercises, so that as you go about reaching your goals, you know how you're going to respond to whatever happens in your business.
—Dr. Michele Pfannenstiel, founder and CEO, Dirigo Food Safety
There is information available online about the tools, techniques, strategies, and tactics to use to drive revenue in online businesses. “Business owners who don’t focus on these two strategies won’t see much success in 2023 or in the future," Parham says. "The pandemic changed business drastically and permanently, and these two mindsets around investing money in your digital presence and rebuilding your network must change first.”
Focus on Values and Culture in Product-Based Businesses
Dr. Michele Pfannenstiel, founder and CEO of Dirigo Food Safety, works as a coach and consultant primarily to small food business owners. “We help business owners with the skill sets related to food safety as a lens for managing their food business,” she continues. “Then we help them with the mindset.”
She says that product-based business owners should emphasize mindset, particularly values, in their 2023 business planning checkup. "Mindset determines what skill sets you develop to achieve your business goals," Pfannenstiel says.
While this applies across business types, it’s particularly important in product-based businesses because physical products not properly manufactured, monitored, and managed could harm consumers. Not maintaining the right skill sets and mindsets might also lead to employee harm, especially on the manufacturing floor.
But, even if you don’t manufacturer the products you sell, sourcing from vendors who don’t share your values may lead to customer injury. That potential liability adds additional stressors for product-based businesses.
Pfannenstiel insists the first thing business owners should address while conducting their 2023 business planning checkup is their core values. “Who are you going to be every day when things are not working?” Pfannenstiel says.
“The calendar change to 2023 won't bring us magical solutions to finding employees or make the supply chain problems disappear,” she says. "So, product-based business owners really must know what their deepest values are that will help them confront problems."
"Leaders should do values-setting exercises, so that as you go about reaching your goals, you know how you're going to respond to whatever happens in your business," she adds. "If you know that, you can always achieve your objectives, because only the "how" is going to change, not those core values."
Pfannenstiel says she runs her enterprises with the core values of love, service, and liberation, and those values drive all she does. "So, if I have an employee that's consistently late for work, I ask myself, 'How does love, service, and liberation address that issue?'" It's those core values you emphasize across the company culture, with both employees and customers. "If you have a customer service problem, you handle it through the lens of your core values," she says.
Address Physical, Financial, and Emotional Safety With Your Employees
What Pfannenstiel recommends next is essential for production and product-based businesses because of COVID's influence on businesses globally. "Be extremely honest with yourself about whether your people feel safe at work," she says. There are three types of safety Pfannenstiel says employees need: physical, financial, and emotional.
Physical safety is most important, especially post-COVID. That goes beyond having appropriate COVID protocols in place. Is your manufacturing or production floor safe? Pfannenstiel says she can tell if leaders believe their answer when she asks them that question.
Financial safety at work is the next consideration. If your employees don't feel paid well enough to meet their needs, then they are likely to be distracted by financial concerns. "You are not getting the most out of employees concerned about their financial safety," she explains.
Emotional safety at work means is the environment free from toxic behaviors by leaders or other employees. "That includes everything from mean teasing to racial microaggressions," says Pfannenstiel. A toxic workplace reduces productivity and profitability.
"So, what do people have to do for their brands in 2023?" asks Pfannenstiel. "Work on trust and credibility, since people do business with people that they know, like, and trust," she says. "If you do the values exercise, and you are out there living your core values every day, people recognize that energy."
Develop the Right Sales Perspective in Service Enterprises
Leah Neaderthal is founder of Smart Gets Paid, where she helps women who run independent consulting businesses run them more profitably. “In our world, that means getting more of the clients that we really enjoy working with and getting paid much more for every client engagement,” she says.
Neaderthal started her first consulting business in 2010. She quickly realized she neither had a sales mindset or sales skills. After intensively training herself in service-business sales, using the approach she developed, she saw results: a 92% business win rate and sales of over $3 million in work. She launched Smart Gets Paid in 2015 to teach entrepreneurs to achieve the same outcomes.
Neaderthal works specifically with women who have substantial expertise they built through their career, usually in corporate environments, and they've started a consultancy to offer that expertise. "They are exceptionally confident in doing the work of their business, as management or marketing consultants, for example," she says. "But the sales process and growing their business feels like unfamiliar territory, because it is."
But, Neaderthal says that because of the potential uncertainty looming over the economy in 2023, the way businesses hire consultants has changed. So, it’s imperative consultants push through their discomfort, change their sales mindset and learn to lead a sales process.
"Many consultants believe clients won't spend money to hire them during [economic uncertainty]," she says. “But that's untrue, because clients need your services, since their firms may have laid off those who do your work, making a consultant a more cost-effective alternative,” she continues. “However, clients are more discerning, and that changes sales process in a few key ways,” she adds.
Neaderthal says one way you need to reframe your mindset about your work is to think of it as pain reliever rather than a vitamin. “Many consultants describe their work by focusing on the services that they provide or work they do,” she explains. They market themselves, including on social sites like LinkedIn, by centering their tactical offerings.
“In [uncertainty], clients only purchase the solutions that resolve their most critical problem – the solution that’s [an alleviator].” says Neaderthal. Going into 2023, it’s essential consultants evaluate their messaging to position themselves as that alleviator. A vitamin, which doesn’t solve an immediate issue, is a service that clients are likely to put off buying as uncertainty looms.
Consultants also must make their services the safest choice for clients and become the consultant they know and trust. “Clients don’t want to feel you’ll let them down, or waste their time or money,” she says. “But that doesn't mean being the cheapest option, either,” she adds. “It means being the option that they know the most about.”
That requires you to show up online where your clients are, sharing how you can problem-solve for clients. “For most women consultants, LinkedIn is where their clients are,” she says. Once clients learn about how you think about solving their challenges, you become a safer option. “You're positioning yourself better to get clients in 2023 and beyond using this strategy,” Neaderthal continues.
"In fact, you owe it to the people who need your solutions to position yourself as the painkiller who solves their problems," she says. "It's not salesy, wrong, or icky to get visible, so the people who absolutely need your help can find you,” she says.
Putting It All Together
There are multiple resources you can use to determine how you’ll reach specific tactical goals in your business. Research and identify those unique to you, based on the mindsets you’re encouraged to develop. Include those strategies and tactics in your 2023 business planning checkup.
If you need additional help from a coach or consultant, consider investing in that help. Similarly, delegate any business task that’s not your area of expertise.
All three experts also remind small-business owners that business planning checkups are an ongoing process and should happen frequently throughout the year. It’s to make periodic appointments with yourself, whether it’s weekly, monthly, or quarterly, to check your progress against the business planning checkup you complete. However, make sure this periodic event centers on your renewed mindsets or your established business values to ensure ongoing success.
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