2013The beginning of a new year is a great time to renovate your business. People are trained to expect change with a new calendar but you have to act quickly. The window of opportunity where resistance is at a minimum is only open for a short period. The process has to start before the end of January to capitalize on the favorable environment.

What changes need to be made in your organization to maximize sales, productivity, and profitability? The answer to that question depends on four things: the current state of your company; what you want to accomplish in 2013; what happens outside your business; and how people adapt to a changing marketplace.

Successful strategic plans provide alternate paths for moving your company’s current position to where you want it to be at the end of 2013. You have to know where you are and where you want to be before you can map out potential paths to reach your destination. Start by completing a postmortem of 2012. What were your successes? Where did you fail? What could have been done better? Did external factors contribute to your success or failure? What are the specific numbers that affected your company’s growth and profitability?

A detailed postmortem that includes specific metrics, cause and effects, and honest analysis of successes and failures provides a good foundation for the 2013 plan. Schedule completion of the postmortem for January 10 so you will have time to develop a plan and introduce it to your team.

Where do you want to be 12 months from now? What problems need to be solved? Do you have service issues, cash flow challenges, poor employee morale, or is something else holding your company back? How much do you want your company to grow? What needs to happen with your customer retention rates? Are your acquisition rates strong or do they need to improving?

One of the hardest parts of choosing the destination is finding a balance between conservative projections and pipedreams. The goals have to be achievable or employee morale will suffer. Plan for too little and your business won’t reach its potential. Opt for optimistic and realistic objectives that push people to do their best. Complete your goals and objectives by January 21 so you have time to share them with your team before the end of the month.

After all of this introspection, it’s time to look at external factors and how people are adapting to the changing marketplace to find opportunities and pitfalls. While no one can foresee the future, there are trends that provide glimpses into what is to come. Trends to watch include:

  • Mobile will continue to gain traction as devices become more user-friendly and people adapt to using them. Capitalize on this trend by making your website mobile friendly and creating apps that engage users.
  • The battle between Google Plus and Facebook heats up with Google Plus gaining users and Facebook losing traction. Expect continuous change throughout the year as the social platforms develop new features in their quest to win market share.
  • The use of big data becomes available to smaller companies with the development of analytical tools. Consumers will become more privacy conscious as businesses manipulate their information.
  • Customer loyalty becomes more dependent on ease and engagement. Use this to your advantage by making it easy for people to access your information, connect with your team, and buy your products or services.
  • Metrics will matter more. The information gained about customers and prospects from all channels will be utilized to provide custom shopping and service experiences.
  • Social and mobile becomes more scalable as platforms evolve and tools are developed. Plan on blending your marketing across channels to provide an enhanced shopping experience.
  • The desire for on demand entertainment makes it harder for marketers to access substantial market share. This creates the need for highly targeted strategy that connects with consumers at their convenience.
  • Social media will be held accountable and expected to meet corporate objectives. The happy days of everything being all about the conversation have shifted to a demand for conversion.
  • New platforms like RebelMouse and Pinterest will gain traction. If you haven’t already, add them to your marketing mix and watch for new ones to come.
  • Service and relationship will have a greater effect on buying decisions than pricing. Take advantage of this trend by providing services that matches customers’ preferences.

The time invested in planning for success makes the execution more efficient and likely to succeed. When everyone seems like they are ahead of you, it is hard to resist the urge to act now.  Make the effort because taking the time to plan now positions your business for growth and profitably.

Happy New Year! May 2013 be your best year ever.