After the widespread devastation of 2020, many businesses are going to need a strong 2021 just to survive. Realistically, this is going to mean a combination of growing (or at least maintaining) income and minimizing costs. Now is therefore the time to start thinking about what you’re going to do to make this happen. Here are five tips to help.
Digitize as much as you possibly can
What this is going to mean in practice will depend on your business. No matter what your business, however, work on the basis that if you can digitize it, you should do so. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the more you can digitize, the easier it is to support remote working. Secondly, digitization often helps to streamline your work processes.
These two issues often go hand-in-hand. Digitization allows you to use automated services. It also makes it much easier to use freelancers to supplement your core staff (or instead of having a core staff). You might even want to consider switching to a fully-remote or remote-first business model. This can bring challenges, but it can also bring substantial cost-savings.
If a large-scale digitization project is beyond your resources right now, then start small. At the very least put your old paperwork through a scanner and get rid of as much of it as you can (via a shredder if appropriate). Then work your way forward until all but genuinely essentially paperwork is digitized and has been recycled, stored, or archived.
Alternatively have a digital declutter
If you’re already well down the path to digitization, make a point of checking for digital clutter and dealing with it. Remember that just because you can store vast quantities of data in a very small space, it doesn’t mean that you should. Make sure that everything you have is legal, relevant, and properly organized.
Track your costs effectively
SMBs often fall into the same trap as private individuals. They know that they should track their costs effectively. They know how much it could benefit them to do so. They just never find the time and they never find the money to invest in the software which could save them the time. Make 2021 the year you deal with this.
As a minimum, start by looking at the one cost which makes the most difference to your budget. Track that and make sure that you are getting the best overall value. This may be very different from the lowest headline cost. Whenever you can make savings of time and/or money, invest them in improving your cost-tracking systems.
It’s advisable to track your usage alongside your costs. This will act as a double-check on your cost figures. It can also highlight where resources are not being used effectively. Make sure that your staff knows how to track usage effectively. There’s a big difference between counting boxes and reading a propane tank gauge (if you need help with the latter, please click here).
Update your security
For most businesses, “security” is going to mean a combination of physical security and cybersecurity. For many SMBs, the former is much easier to grasp than the latter. Gates, security doors, metal shutters, alarms, CCTV, and so forth are all fairly easy to understand. That said, it may still be worth having an external consultant double-check your measures.
Understanding cybersecurity, by contrast, can be a major challenge for SMBs. The good news is that you don’t actually have to understand cybersecurity. You just have to understand that cybersecurity matters. Therefore you need to partner with a third-party service provider who can maintain effective cybersecurity for you.
This applies even if you’re in the cloud. The key point you need to understand is that cloud providers only secure their platform from external threats. It’s down to each user to make sure that they use the cloud platform in a secure way. That can be more complicated than it sounds, but a reputable managed IT service provider will take care of this for you.
Assess your income stream(s)
If you only have one income stream, then you should definitely look for ways to diversify it. If, by contrast, you have multiple income streams, then you might actually be better off consolidating them.
As a rule of thumb, if they’re all performing to a similar level and you can manage them comfortably, then it’s probably fine to keep everything as it is. If, however, your income streams have different levels of performance and/or you’re struggling to manage them, then you may want to drop some. In short, think about focusing your resources where they matter most.
In either case, thoroughly investigate all options for marketing, selling, and delivering your product/service through online channels. Also, do whatever you can to build recurring income streams, perhaps dovetailing with your main service. For example, you could look at offering monthly subscription boxes with curated products and/or service vouchers.
Get to grips with search engine optimization
If you’re focussed on a particular niche rather than a geographic area, then you’ve probably mastered SEO already. If, however, you’re a local business in a particular niche, then you may have relied on traditional marketing tactics such as leaflet drops, posters, and print adverts. If that sounds familiar, then 2021 needs to be the year that changes.
Once COVID19 has passed, you can go back to “old-school” marketing if you want to, but you must get used to combining it with modern SEO. What’s more, you’re going to need to meet the specific requirements of local SEO. These are slightly different from regular SEO. As with cybersecurity, you can hand SEO over to a partner, just as long as someone manages it.
There are two reasons why SEO is now a non-negotiable for SMBs, especially local companies. Firstly, it’s now vastly more likely that people will look for companies online than it is that they will look for them through paper business directories and newspaper classified adverts. Secondly, it makes it possible for you to capture qualified leads when they are in buying mode.