New Year, New Opportunities

Written by Dave Collins, SoftwarePromotions Ltd.

Time flies. It’s hard to believe that another year has flown by already! The newspapers and magazines will have already started with their usual “this was the year of…” articles and picture-series, so now’s as good an opportunity as any to reflect on the year that was from the perspective of your business.

Even without having to think too hard, there is bound to be an assortment of good and not-so-good aspects to the year as a whole, and certain to be some good and useful lessons to be learnt. The old saying about those who do not learn from history being condemned to repeat its mistakes applies well here.

So now’s a good time to set aside an hour or two, to review and digest, give yourself a clear-headed appraisal of the last twelve months, and leap into the next, armed with a clear and well thought-out plan.

List The Good Things As Well As The Bad
Let’s start with the time-tested pen and paper, and make a list of what was good during the last twelve months. Did you achieve good sales figures? Did you get your name seen and noticed? Are you pleased with your website?

Next is the not-so-good list. Perhaps sales weren’t quite as high as you’d aimed for, or you somehow didn’t manage to get the sort of exposure you were hoping for. Be honest. The plan here is to take what may at first appear to be quite a negative list, and turn it into a strength. Be harsh with yourself!

Next is the more neutral list of factors that have changed this year; both internally and externally. Maybe you acquired a new domain name, set-up a new website, or expanded into new operating systems. Perhaps there’s more (or less) competition within your market, or demand for your software may have changed. Don’t spend any time dwelling on the issues, just get them onto paper.

The penultimate list is that of new opportunities. These could be anything from new sales outlets, advertising, new operating systems, co-branding possibilities and so on. The final list is that of missed opportunities. No need to dwell on these, but it’s important to get them down on paper.

You’ve probably noticed that many of the items in each list overlap with each other. Sales, for example, could easily fall under three or more of the categories. Nothing to worry about there – in fact, far from it.

Now that we’ve looked over the past twelve months, the next stage of the game is easy. We start looking ahead.

Achieve Your Goals
Begin by setting yourself specific goals. These may be to increase sales by at least 25%, to be more visible, to find new co-branding partners and so on. The important thing is to keep them tightly focused and specific.

Next we need to set a method for achieving each goal. We could increase sales by lowering pricing, by finding more outlets, by being on more sites and/or by offering more flexible payment options. We could improve visibility by spending time on the search engines, by contributing to more newsgroups, by writing an article or two for ASPects and/or by offering discounts to specific groups.

The final stage is the most important of all – that of planning how and when to implement each of these ideas. At this point you need to be as specific as possible, and the critical aspect is scheduling. Some examples might be to explore different pricing possibilities in January, bounce the ideas around the ASP members newsgroups, and have the new prices up and running by February 1st. If you want to hit the search engines, decide to buy WebPosition Gold in January, and to schedule two full hours every Friday for search engine work. Work out exactly what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it, and write it in your diary.

And you’re certainly not short of free and low-cost opportunities. There are search-engines, link popularity sites, banner swapping, newsgroup announcements, newsgroup participation, advertising, software giveaway, site chasing, local and trade publications, articles, user groups and so on. The list is almost endless.

Try to bear in mind that there are two types of businesses. Those that are run by their owner, and those that run their owner. Changing from the second category to the first is often as simple as imposing a little structure. It starts with a pad, pen and open diary – stop letting those opportunities pass you by!

Map out your goals, how you’re going to achieve them, and most importantly of all, when you’re going to do so. Leave a little room for flexibility, but be strict with yourself. We’ve all played the game of dragging the mundane jobs from day to day in our PIMs and electronic diaries – isn’t that why we use our computers for this sort of thing? But if the job is worth doing, it’s worth doing today. If it isn’t worth doing, delete it right now. But don’t drag them from day to day. This wastes your time and achieves nothing.

We all know that New Year Resolutions are made to be broken, but forgotten and neglected business opportunities will only hurt and deprive you in the long run. Look back, consider and learn, then jump into the new year with a burst of new, well thought-out ideas. And make next year a happy, healthy and successful year. Be seen, be sold!

Written by Dave Collins, SoftwarePromotions Ltd.