Year of the growingAs a small business owner, part of your job is knowing the areas in which your business excels and the areas that could use a little work.

And as the new year draws closer, now is the perfect time to look back on the ups and downs of 2012 so you can start out 2013 stronger – and more profitable – than ever.

Check out the small business advice we have for you below for some great ideas on how you can take your business to the next level in 2013:

Set Goals – and Meet Them

Have you created goals for 2013 yet? It may sound like a simple, not-so-crucial task, but it’s actually an important thing to do because it sets the groundwork for a successful new year. Holly Howard, owner of a small business consulting company, says that laying out your goals will serve as a guide for you in the new year. She notes, “You can’t go blindly into 2013 or you’ll waste time and money. Get clear on what you want out of 2013 now.”

Holly goes on to say that small business owners should give their goals a hard deadline and they should challenge themselves when setting them to make sure they’re reaching their full potential. She says, “I suggest you set three to five goals for the year that will stretch you, but aren’t necessarily out of reach.”

Coming up with actions that can help you meet your goals is an important aspect to making your goals a reality. She notes: “Try to come up with at least three actions you can take per quarter that will help you achieve your goals. Also, goals are useless if they cannot be measured. So for each of the goals you choose, make sure you are able to quantify them.”

2. Refine Your Company’s Customer Service

Customer service is a huge part of a small business’ success. Why? Well, it’s the satisfied customer who becomes a regular buyer and refers their friends and family. Patricia Lotich, a writer for Yahoo’s small business advisor blog Profit Minded, states, “Too many organizations forget that it is the customer who pays the bills and employee salaries. Take some time to better understand the customer experience and develop processes and systems to interact with consumers.”

How can you do this?

  • Use social media to interact with your followers and learn more about them. Post polls to find out what they like about your products or services and what they don’t. Learn from their feedback and revise accordingly.
  • Make it easier for customers to provide you with ongoing feedback. Provide them with follow-up calls after a service, send them emails asking for their feedback and suggestions, and have a simple easy-to-submit form on your website for comments.
  • Patricia also suggests, “Find out what the customer wants and develop products and services to meet their expectations. Remember customer requirements are a moving target so make it a priority to be continually learning what kinds of products and services consumers are looking for.”

3. Embrace New Technology

Do you tend to stay away from new (or new-to-you) technology or changes in your industry? Some of the best small business advice for you to follow in 2013 is to embrace some form of new technology to help move your business forward. By doing this, you may find something that resonates with your target audience, drives them to make more purchases, and turns 2013 into your most profitable year yet.

  • Patricia says, “Keeping up with changing technologies is something that challenges all of us, because if you miss the mark on a key technology, you may find yourself trying to play catch-up. Subscribe to blogs or business website newsletters that can keep you informed on new and changing technologies.”
  • Think about making it your goal to use tools that will help you manage your social media accounts more efficiently in 2013. HootSuite is great free option as well as Grab in Box. With these tools, you’ll be able to schedule posts to your social media accounts, monitor interactions, and handle multiple accounts with ease. Paid versions with more features are also available.
  • Learning more about mobile technology is also something small business owners can benefit from. Whether it’s something as in-depth as having a mobile site developed for your business (after all, 70 percent of mobile searches lead to an action within one hour) or something as simple as having a custom QR code made, you’ll learn more about what your customers want and stay relevant in your industry.

** Side note: If you don’t have a mobile site, don’t link a QR code to your website. Instead, link it to a separate landing page you’ve had created specifically for it, or link it to one of your social media accounts.

As you think about our small business advice for 2013, it’s important, however, that you also don’t forget to celebrate this year’s accomplishments. We highly recommend popping a bottle of champagne (sparkling cider, if you’d rather) and giving a nod to the past year and all the achievements that came with it. Cheers!

What small business advice topic would you like us to discuss next?