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The start of a new year often comes with a laundry list of goals and to-do’s, which can quickly become overwhelming if you try to tackle too much, too fast. I’ve always made resolutions for the whole year by setting short and long term goals – after all, we have 12 months to accomplish our goals, and there’s a reason they aren’t called January resolutions.
Now is an important time for business owners to reflect and chart a course for the year ahead, but it’s easier than ever to worry about the challenges facing the economy.
I would encourage all small business owners to approach 2023 with empathy and realism. Don’t Bury Your Head in the Sand – Be mindful of the economic headwinds we face, but don’t let them monopolize your attention. Instead, devote your time and energy to the challenges and tasks that are within your control.
Here are four trends shaping the small business landscape — and take advantage of as you lay out your plans throughout the year:
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1. The big picture: Business owners are prioritizing marketing and recruiting amid recession concerns
We conducted a national survey of business owners late last year that found 78% expect the recession to affect their business initiatives. Despite this, business owners are actively investing in their businesses, with a priority placed on marketing and promotion, increasing hiring and wages, and investing in new equipment and technologies.
The best defense against customers tightening their wallets is an active offense. If your marketing efforts could use a refresh, consider these best practices:
keep it simpleA well-organized strategy that approaches your overall business goals will help keep you on the path to success.
Identify your target audienceStart with your end goal in mind. Who are you communicating with and what are you trying to tell them?
Choose the right platform: Once you know where to find your audience, you are ready to choose your preferred marketing channel. When starting out, I would recommend focusing more on one or two specific marketing channels, at least initially.
measure your success: In the age of social media, marketing is no longer a one-way street. A successful marketing campaign is now a multi-platform, multi-interactive way to engage with your customers. Set your goals and KPIs early, and check and re-evaluate them often to see if your message is resonating with your target audience.
2. Keep up with the latest business technology
Over the past few years, small businesses have widely adopted new technology to make their operations and customers’ lives easier. At this point, incorporating the latest technology is no longer just a nice-to-have – it’s essential to the future of your business. Even in the face of a possible recession, 68% of business owners plan to upgrade or incorporate new technology this year.
Implementing new technology and services has the potential to be confusing, if not downright intimidating, for many of us. If you want to integrate new technology but don’t know where to start, you might consider prioritizing this year:
Investing in an automated payroll or people management (HR) platform to reduce complexities and streamline operating costs.
Accept new forms of cashless or peer-to-peer (P2P) payments at your business’s point of sale, such as Zelle.
Modernize your customer relationship management (CRM) system with enhanced omnichannel capabilities that can communicate with your customers regardless of the platform they are on.
Enhance your cyber security measures to protect yourself from hackers and latest cyber threats. Unfortunately, small businesses are becoming increasingly popular targets for hackers and scammers.
RELATED: 3 Things to Consider Before Investing in New Technology for Your Small Business
3. Business Owners Taking Advantage of Free Educational Resources
it’s never too late to learn. Free educational resources for business owners have greatly improved and proliferated over the years, and many entrepreneurs (at various stages of their business journey) are seeking them out. Last year, we found out that a majority of business owners wish they were more knowledgeable about business finances – including 75% of female business owners – so if you’re looking for tips, here are some resources you can turn to. Might consider:
Educational resources like SCORE and Bank of America’s Small Business Resource site provide answers to many common questions and are great to keep handy.
If you’re interested in pursuing a more formal education, organizations such as LinkedIn and the SBA have online learning platforms. Bank of America also offers a free online program for women to earn a certificate in business from Cornell.
Your local small business banker can also be a vital asset to your success and make your life much easier.
4. Business Ownership Can Be Lonely—Don’t Do It Alone
Starting the new year with the weight of running your business on your shoulders can be stressful. If only one piece of advice stays with you from this article, I hope it’s this: Talk to someone who’s been there before.
Explore organizations such as the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), Luminary, your local Small Business Chamber of Commerce, Entrepreneurs Organization, Business Networking International or similar groups. The return of in-person networking events has also created opportunities to meet other local entrepreneurs and collaborate with mentors who can help you on your journey as an independent business owner. Less formal methods of networking such as LinkedIn groups or coffee/drinks with like-minded individuals can be equally beneficial.
Prioritize building relationships with people and communities you trust, and you’ll reap the rewards for years to come.
It can be tough to set all the goals you have in sight for the year ahead, but by adding the above tips to your game plan, you are actively setting your business up for continued success in 2023 and beyond. Huh.
RELATED: 7 Networking Groups Every Small Business Owner Should Join