20 Ways to Improve Your Business in 2020
(Spoiler: We’re a software company … our 20 ways will be tech related)
It’s going to be an exciting, intense year. The economy’s still kicking. There’s a contentious election brewing. The world continues its march toward further technical complexity—and the business environment becomes that much more competitive. Well, here are some ways that small and medium-sized businesses (SMB’s) can gain (or keep) an edge in whatever it is that they do—improving operational efficiencies, lowering costs and building profit and wealth in the process.
1. Set Goals
Obviously. Yet we continually encounter seemingly mature businesses managed by intelligent, experienced folks so caught up in the day-to-day that they forget to step back just briefly and plan. The beginning of the year is a perfect time to do this. Take a day, or an afternoon even, and clearly define where you want to be: revenues, profits, customer figures, whatever—and then take another day to determine how you’re going to get there. (It will probably involve some of the ways mentioned here.)
2. Use KPIs
Key Performance Indicators. Define these. What are your KPI’s for 2020? Revenue—that one’s a given. The number of clients or customers you might be serving—there’s another. How about sales qualified leads? Or funnel conversion rates? On-time delivery? Stock rotations? You’ll have your own based on your particulars but the point is that you should be identifying KPI’s and then …
3. Measure KPIs
You should be measuring them. Collect data; accurate data on each of your KPIs.
4. Set Clear Evaluation Schedules
Evaluate this data regularly. Set schedules for the evaluation and analysis of this data at regular intervals. Using task management software like Asana to help in scheduling regular evaluation of KPI data might be key.
5. Get Your Books & Product Inventory in Order
Critical. And good software is essential. A lot of businesses use Quickbooks for their bookkeeping, but a lot of still don’t know that it can be used for basic inventory management too. And while basic, there are a ton of pretty good third-party integrations that expand the inventory management capabilities here.
6. Use a Business Coach
Getting an outside perspective can be really beneficial sometimes. We all can get caught-up in the day-to-day and an objective third party can provide the “30,000 ft view” that management needs sometimes to make the tough changes that might be necessary to grow and achieve those 2020 goals. We know a good one at XM Performance.
7. Be Better at Sales (Use a CRM)
Efficient sales processes can have a massive impact on the most important of those KPIs you identified above. If you’re not yet using a good CRM, make this a priority. Because no matter how diligent and effective you might believe your sales team to be, there’s probably room for improvement and without a good CRM a sales manager may not know just how effective the team is. We are constantly seeing customers making massive improvements to their sales figures once they fully embrace a CRM.
8. Be Better at Customer Service
They’re ultimately what this is all about. Treat them well. Treat them better in 2020.
9. Communicate More with Clients
Part of treating customers better naturally means communicating with them more. Again, a CRM here like HubSpot can help. So can a bulk email solution like Mailchimp. Simple, yes, but still under-utilized. Stay in the minds of past customers or sales leads with a good email list, and make it a habit to communicate frequently with current ones on their product or their project.
10. Automate Reporting if Possible
For certain businesses like construction companies that are working on projects for longer periods, keeping customers up-to-date on your progress might be key. There are a lot of software tools out there that can automate this process—keeping folks informed and keeping you accountable. If you have specific reporting requirements in your industry (like OSHA reports in construction), the stakes for this game are even higher.
11. Document, Document, Document
Processes. The ways you do things. What happens if an employee leaves or, as nothing in this life is certain save death or taxes, steps out of a Starbucks and gets hit by a bus? Businesses that make an effort to document what it is that makes them a business, can be flexible in the wake of disaster or change. Of course, like everything here, there are software tools that help with this, but any business can start this process immediately. Keep a Google sheet handy. Or even just start by frequently using comments in places like recurring tasks in Asana. Really good software tools will integrate notes and documentation in the day-to-day operations.
12. Get Better at Digital Marketing
It happens online today and you should know how, to a degree. If you don’t have the time, hire a specialist. Produce good content. Communicate with your customers and your potential sales audience through social media, your site, and more. Carve out your farm, a bit of digital real estate from the thick and overgrown forest, plant your seeds and watch them grow. There’s a lot of overlap here with sales and sales tools, but there’s more too. Content is king in digital marketing and there’s opportunity for the creatives of the world.
13. Use a Dashboarding Tool
This one goes hand-in-hand with number 3, but is also hugely helpful in any SMB’s digital marketing efforts. A good dashboarding tool like Kilpfolio or Cyfe can instantly provide that “30,000 ft view” necessary to market effectively in the digital space, but can also be configured
14. Use Digital Marketing Tools Where Possible
There are some great tools out there to make digital marketing easier. HubSpot has a few for free, Moz does too for SEO and also, Demand Metric (a client of ours) has a ton of free resources for businesses that might need some marketing help.
15. Get Better at Managing Tasks
Everyone and every business can be better at doing whatever it is that they do. We can utilize our time more wisely, and learn to “triage” the tasks that have a more direct and positive affect on our most important KPIs
16. Use Asana
Asana, founded in 2008 by Facebook Co-Founder Dustin Moskovitz, is a versatile task and team and project management platform structured as a SaaS (software-as-a-service) solution to problems facing every organization structured around getting-stuff-done. While it has its limitations, and is best used in conjunction with other SaaS solutions that do other-but-related things, it can be a powerful tool to make things more efficient, help managers keep track of employees’ work, assign further tasks, schedule follow-up and a lot more.
17. Get Better at Integrating Data
For that “30,000 ft view” we like to talk about. Data gets you there. But it can’t be just spread out on a table, written on napkins. It needs to be organized. And if one data-producing solution can communicate with another tool or resource, all the better. Time-tracking data should be used effectively with a billing system, marketing data with a CRM, task-management with a global calendar and scheduling. Data is most effective when its used across multiple areas of a business’ operations.
18. Use Zapier
Zapier is a tool that allows for relatively seamless communication between multiple SaaS platforms. Concerning efforts toward full data integration—Zapier makes a respectable effort. From their own site: “Zapier is an online automation tool that connects your favorite apps, such as Gmail, Slack, Mailchimp, and over 1,500 more. You can connect two or more apps to automate repetitive tasks without coding or relying on developers to build the integration. It's easy enough that anyone can build their own app workflows with just a few clicks.”
Build systems. Systems, organizations, structures can do more at scale. Systems can also in many cases be automated by tech. Business grows by tech, we all know that. So wherever you can, whenever you can create a system to do it and if possible, automate that system.
20. Create a Custom Software Solution—If You’re Ready
Have a problem in your business’ operations you need to solve? Need a more robust way to reach one of those goals you identified for 2020? Your KPIs lagging? Custom software gets you there.
If you’re wondering where all of this comes from, here’s our response: Every time we take on a new client for a custom software solution, we get to dive headlong into their business—their operations, their management, their nitty-gritty. We get to see what’s working, and what isn’t. And then we get to offer solutions that make sense. Sometimes that isn’t a custom solution that we can build—sometimes it’s one of the other tools mentioned here. The point is we love business; we love improving businesses and we love efficiency. For 2020 we want you to resolve to love it too.