It’s January. Time to clean out files. Organize offices. Update software. Make plans. ‘Tis the season of resolutions and new beginnings. That time of year when many of us think about goals and promises and, well, basically just vow to do things better.
Small businesses are not immune to this yearly phenomenon. In fact, it’s the perfect time to step back, review goals and determine what you can do to improve in the coming year. So without further ado, here are a few resolutions to consider during this yearly month of scrutiny.
1. Save the earth (and your bottom line)
Saving energy can start with small changes. If you haven’t already, switch out all incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents and consider LEDs where possible. In 2013, the price of LEDs dropped considerably to $10 to $14 for a standard bulb, compared to nearly $26 per bulb in 2012. Competition, availability and technology can be thanked for the price change, which is pushing adaptation. Consumer Reports states that at $13 per bulb, payback on a 60-watt replacement that uses 9.5 watts is 1.8 years. With an expected lifespan of 20-plus years, LEDs easily pay for themselves.
Also, consider having an energy audit on your business in 2014. Energy audits identify problems, like heat loss, and give you a plan of action for making energy-efficient upgrades. As a bonus, you might qualify for tax credits and incentives along with discounts through organizations like Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy.
And if you’re really going to go big on green energy in 2014, consider solar. Solar panel prices just keep dropping. In fact, according to the U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research, prices were 60 percent less in 2013 than just 18 months prior.
2. Polish your social media profile
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and other social media sites are here to stay. Facebook now touts 1.15 billion users. That’s right, billion. If your business isn’t on social media, make this the year to start. And go where you’re comfortable. If you’re accustomed to using Facebook, start there. It’s all about experimenting, and being, well, social.
And another growing trend to be aware of: mobile devices. According to an infograph by DigitalBuzzBlog.com, 4.2 billion people use mobile devices to check in on social media. This number jives with reports about mobile use in general: Internet traffic from mobile devices doubled in 2013. So consider mobile when addressing social media marketing and any website or newsletter redesigns.
3. Love your customers (even more)
What can you do to improve customer service in 2014? Maybe it’s adding customer loyalty programs, coupons or sending holiday cards, but now is the time to add any new efforts to your budget. Need some inspiration? The companies listed in the 2013 Customer Service Hall of Fame from MSN Money went above and beyond to earn the description of “best customer service in 2013,” and although they represent large corporations, the same truth remains: “Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game.”
Another idea? Examine how you keep tabs on customer concerns and complaints. Whether you choose Excel or something as simple as a Gmail account, make sure you’re tracking correspondence with your customers. Don’t let a call go unreturned, or an email unanswered.
4. Get in the community spirit
And finally, get involved in your community. What’s important where you live? If there’s a large 4th of July parade, make a float, hand out flyers and throw candy to kids. If the local youth soccer league needs sponsors, get your business name on the back of some jerseys. Support the local 4-H, find out if the school PTO needs donations. Join a local business group. The downtown association. The chamber of commerce. Your community relationship can be a crucial part of your success. The impressions you make and the relations you establish make a difference when it comes to securing customers.
And don’t underestimate the power of kindness. Reach out to your community, give back, volunteer, and make 2014 a fantastic year, not just for you, but for your customers and those around you.
Happy 2014. Here’s wishing you all a successful year.