By Bill McBean

On Monday, I shared some ideas for changes you can make to your business internally in 2013 — with processes, employees, yourself, etc. Today, I’ll share what you need to do externally — with customers, marketing campaigns, and so on.

External Resolutions

1. Boost your product/service offerings. The products and services you offer are the core of your business. Think about what you can do to squeeze out another product or service offering with what you already have in place. For example, if you own an auto parts store, there is no law saying you can’t sell fast moving or maintenance parts for the marine industry, especially if you’re located on a lake resort. People need what they need, when they need it. Make it easy for your customers to get what they want. And don’t ignore the power of impulse purchases or convenience items, even if they are not matched up with your core products. Always be looking to make new and better offerings to your customers. Doing so provides added value for your customer and for you–a true win-win.

2. Revamp your marketing campaign. Think about who your customers are. Are you marketing to them in a way that makes sense? For example, if your customers are mostly elderly, email marketing might not be the best way to reach them. Or if they’re younger, advertising on a classical music station might not make sense. Would the money you’re pouring into ad placement be better spent on direct mail? Does a huge social media campaign really make sense for your company, or are you tweeting fruitlessly into cyberspace just because everyone else is doing it?

It takes marketing to bring customers in and it takes marketing to keep them. Many companies see marketing as an expense, but it’s actually an investment and deserves your focused attention. And remember, your attention should be focused on what products are selling, where your customers go for information, who purchases your products, who are the easiest customers to attract, and which products bring the most gross profit.

3. Find new ways to impress loyal customers. In business, few things are as important as your customer base. That’s why it’s essential that you find ways to protect yours by developing very loyal customers. Of course, the first step is offering great products and services and delivering those products and services via a very helpful, engaged staff.

To go a step further, consider what would keep customers continually coming to your business. Remember, habits are hard to break. The more customers come to your business, the stronger relationship they create with it and your employees, and the more comfortable they feel. Find the answers to this and you’ll quickly find your sales and profits are increasing regardless of the market. You can’t ignore the market and what your competitors are doing to keep their customers, but the prize goes to the owners who become more creative and don’t offer just the expected.

4. Get knowledgeable about economic/tax changes and how they’ll affect you. The slow-to-recover economy and the fiscal cliff debacle have taught us the importance of staying one step ahead when it comes to the economy and how it’s going to affect your business. Be proactive and seek out a trusted financial advisor. Ask him or her what upcoming tax changes will mean for your business. He or she will be able to point you in the right direction and uncover ways to save when it comes time to file your taxes. Or, ask your banker about your overall market, which industries are showing strength, and which are struggling. This can give you a look into the future on what products may have increased demand and which ones may lag.

There’s no reason 2013 can’t be the best year yet for your business. But in order for that to happen, you have to look ahead. You have to think about where you need to improve this year and what challenges might pop up to slow your progress. By taking the time right now to plan for the year ahead, you’re making big opportunities possible for your business.

Bill McBean, author of The Facts of Business Life: What Every Successful Business Owner Knows that You Don’t, spent years as a successful business owner in the automobile industry, where he purchased several underperforming dealerships and turned them into a successful business with yearly sales of more than $160 million.
Follow him on Facebook.