Wraping up business at Year End

If you're a small independent business owner it could serve you well to take a birds eye view of your entire money making process for your business.

1. Looking at this year's activity and make sure you've identified your most profitable customer - profile the characteristics that help you identify similar customers in the marketplace so that you develop your message specifically to target the customers with the characteristics you've identified as those of your most profitable customer.

In my promotional products business I want relational customers vs. transactional customers. All of my marketing and sales efforts are designed to attract the client that is looking for a trustworthy, reliable promotional products distributor with great ideas. The customer that wants a cheap transaction with no loyalty on either side of the table is probably not my customer and I'm not offended when they don't want to buy from me. As I've been doing business over the last 15 years I've identified the transactional customer as a time waster for me. I end up doing a lot of research and servicing of an account with very little profit.

2. Establish or fine tune the marketing message to the prospect you've identified with your profile as most likely to be your most profitable customer. Look at everything you are doing, saying and printing about and for your business - Is your message clearly spoken to the target customer?

3. Identify the most effective activity to reach your prospects and schedule that activity so that it happens consistently. If you bring customers in by running ads in your local newspaper then schedule them for the entire year. You get a better rate if you contract for a years worth of advertising.

If the activity that brings you business is your weekly email newsletter then sit down and plan your editorial calendar for the year and begin to write the articles now. You can always edit or add to them before you send them out for those written far in advance. By using autoresponders you can schedule the email newsletter well in advance.

If the activity that builds your customer base is face to face selling then you need to be sure that you are calling on customers to schedule appointments. You should identify how many prospects you need to call to get appointments, and how many appointments you need to create sales for your product.

4. Understand your sales cycle. Whether or not you are running ads, sending email or scheduling appointments you need to understand what happens and how long it takes to finally close the sale. The rule of thumb is "the more costly the investment the longer the sales cycle." No matter what you sales cycle is you need to plan your most productive activity to steadily continue to draw in new prospects while you're finalizing sales for other customers.

I have a few small business owners who ask if they should take the time to do this kind of review of their business plan every year. YES, in fact, do a mini version of this every week to be sure that you're on track and making money consistently. Your income will be consistent if you've

  • Identified your customer
  • Established your most effective message
  • Identified the most productive activity
  • Understand your sales cycle
Take the time to do this review before the end of this year and give yourself the gift of more business next year.

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