A ten-step business checklist for a profitable 2017

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Whether you’re looking to increase brand awareness or cut costs, check out our ten-step checklist for achieving a profitable 2017.

Time really does fly – Christmas is on the horizon meaning 2016 will shortly be drawing to a close and providing businesses with a fantastic opportunity to reflect on the past 12 months and formulate how the organisation could develop throughout next year.

1. Identify profitability drivers through better tracking

Increasing and maintaining profitability is a central goal for the majority of businesses making marketing across several channels a common strategy. You might think that not all of your campaigns will generate similar and consistent levels of income – but the true picture of which channels are driving revenue might be clouded by your lack of marketing attribution. Perhaps you’re failing to track offline conversions against online clicks and forms, or maybe you’re struggling to determine whether an individual contacted your company through your AdWords ad?

Call tracking software, allows you to monitor which individual ads, channels or campaigns, are producing phone call conversions for your business. The power of such software enables you to identify the date and time of a call whilst providing an analysis on the return-on-investment (ROI) for your individual marketing channels. Without call tracking confusion may arise over the performance of your individual marketing campaigns and how to improve them.

2. Create S.M.A.R.T. objectives

Objectives are fundamental for any business – without them how can you measure your key performance indicators (KPIs) against your ROI and the relevant pre-set targets? Ultimately, your success will depend on your ability to set and achieve goals. Creating S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) objectives, for example – ‘Increase market share to 3 per cent in 12 months’ will eliminate vague uncertain resolutions and bring structure and certainty to your business.

3. Conduct market research

Carrying out regular market research provides a clear indication on which new products or services might generate an ROI and whether existing ones are meeting customers’ expectations; this information can be utilised to produce a new marketing plan or evaluate the success of your existing one. Market research is divided into primary research (surveys using questionnaires (online, over the phone or face to face) or monitored and guided discussions with groups of people in a focus group) and secondary research (researching the internet, newspapers and company reports). Remember, if research is ignored or isn’t done properly, it could steer your business in the wrong direction.

4. Review your sales process

The success of a sales process is defined through a sales funnel; it represents the journey of potential customers before they become customers and the conversion rate for each stage in the process. This process allows you to identify whether you have enough leads to meet your marketing goals and if new strategies are required to improve any stages of your sales journey.

Unfortunately, many companies are failing with their sales funnel; in fact 68 per cent of B2B organisations have not even identified their funnel. How can you expect to gain customers if they’re falling out of the sales process?

Consistent follow up on leads through email automation, providing opt-in offers as an incentive and tracking touch-points from the initial enquiry to the full conversion, are some ways you can improve your sales process if you’re suffering from a leaky sales funnel.

5. Innovate to stay competitive

Failing to overcome competition is one of the most common reasons why only one-third of businesses will survive ten years or more. If you’re continually under-estimating your competition’s marketing strategies and failing to improve your own, then your business is definitely at risk of becoming part of this figure.

Innovation is essential for gaining a competitive advantage although this doesn’t just involve creating new products. Collaborating with distributors, offering giveaways in exchange for reviews and seasonal-themed promotions are all possible methods to keep your ideas fresh and original. For example – Cornetto collaborated with Netflix to produce commitment rings which prevent people from watching ahead without their streaming partner being present.

6. Evaluate overheads

Overheads are administrative and manufacturing expenses that aren’t directly linked to your products or services and therefore aren’t responsible for generating any ROI. You’ve haggled with suppliers and utility providers, but what other savings could you make?

Thankfully, there are some changes you could implement to reduce these outgoing costs. Reduce premises costs by moving to a smaller building and encouraging employees to switch off devices instead of using standby. If your company operates using a considerable amount of equipment, you could investigate renting or leasing instead of purchasing it to reduce capital investment. This also provides quick equipment upgrades and saves money on maintenance and repairs.

7. Strive to increase conversions

A strong conversion rate is the foundation of a high sales volume and, considering only 10 per cent of UK shoppers admit they do all of their shopping in store, encouraging visitors to perform a desired action, whether it’s through purchasing a product, filling out a form or signing up to a newsletter, is essential.

Improving the efficiency, relevancy and accessibility of your customers’ journey is key to increasing conversions. The popular social media platform, Facebook, offers sponsored advertisements for brand pages and call-to-action buttons (Book Now, Contact Us or Shop Now) which lead directly to the relevant landing page on your website. Email newsletters are ideal for providing direct links to sales, new releases, specific products and contact information, eliminating the need to navigate through your entire website.

Struggling to answer and respond to all enquiries? Offer a live chat service to fulfil a customer’s desire for urgency and answer any questions that could make or break a sale. If you use pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, ensure your landing pages are tied exactly to what a prospective customer is expecting to see and experience when they click on your paid ad.

8. Focus on customer retention

With customer acquisition costs on the rise, it is that essential businesses move towards regaining the loyalty of lost customers. A study conducted by Bain & Company discovered 70 per cent of existing businesses believe it’s cheaper to retain a customer than trying to attract new ones and a 5 per cent increase in customer retention can increase profitability by 75 per cent. So any former customer that can be won back to your business. could dramatically reduce your marketing spend.

Remarketing ads allow businesses to stay engaged with their target audience as they browse the web. They also target website visitors who haven’t completed a purchase – users who have shown interest in your website are more likely to convert into a sale compared to people who haven’t visited your website, thus remarketing ads can drastically improve your ROI.

In 2015, 44 per cent of email recipients made at least one purchase from a promotional email, making newsletters ideal for sharing personalised content, promotional incentives and cart-abandonment notifications to encourage previous customers to make another purchase.

9. Improve your social media advertising

Currently, Facebook has approximately 1.23 billion monthly active users and 757 million daily users, while Twitter has 313 million monthly active users, meaning it’s unsurprising that 50 million companies, businesses and organisations now have a Facebook brand page for advertising purposes.

Facebook allows you to launch sponsored ads and track how your ‘likes’ have fluctuated before and after launching the ad; an increase in page ‘likes’ would demonstrate your campaign’s success rate and subsequent rise in brand awareness. You can track the success of your Facebook posts and increases in organic and paid ‘likes’ using Facebook Insights. Remember, high reach alone doesn’t equate to brand awareness, purchase intent or a customer relationship, so ensure you are encouraging users to interact with your social media ads.

10. Identify staffing skill gaps

Every workplace requires specific skills to fulfil certain positions, so failing to employ the correct staff or panic-hiring will decrease productivity and potentially increase staff turnover.

Formulate a required skills set for each department in your business. Include personal qualities, previous experience and qualification requirements. For example, if you’re struggling to encourage sales in your customer service department, employing someone with previous relevant experience and an approachable, confident personality is more advantageous than hiring someone who struggles with direct communication and therefore could disgruntle customers.

Alternatively, providing training to existing staff is more cost-effective than hiring new employees, so increasing your levels of training could fix incomplete skill-sets and therefore improve sales, productivity and staff retention.

Source: Ben Lobel - smallbusiness.co.uk

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