In 2012, the world of small business spread its wings. Companies like ours are continuously working towards building better, more profitable local communities based on old-school loyalty tactics with new-school technology. We're all more aware of how local spending can help our neighborhoods, and our neighbors.
In 2012, customers showed enormous loyalty to businesses who were gracious and humble. "Shop small" and "shop local" campaigns drove $5.5 billion in sales. Farmer's markets grew 9.6% and consumers spent around $80 million per month on goods by artists and small businesses on Etsy.
To help further this movement, we've put together a list of resolutions for small businesses in 2013. You could do them one month at a time, but January is about to start, so get going!
#1 Create a budget.
If you haven't already, start creating a budget. Add new costs in, like website maintenance, an increase in the cost of goods, social media marketing and anything else you plan to ramp up on this year.
Our favorite 2012 posts about creating and using budgets:
- 5 Good Ways to Spend a Tiny Marketing Budget
- The ROI of Social Media: How Much Can You Afford to Spend Each Year?
- Four Ideas for Marketing a Restaurant on a Small Budget
#2 Plan holiday events in advance.
Don't wait until the week before a profitable holiday to put together something innovative. If the summer is usually your peak business time, how can you leverage winter events or activities to boost your business?
Our favorite 2012 posts about holiday marketing ideas:
- 10 Valentine's Day Promotions For Your Restaurant
- 5 Spring Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses
- Mother's Day Marketing Ideas for Restaurants
- Unique 4th of July Promotions to Celebrate with Your Customers
- 5 Halloween Marketing Ideas for Small Business
- Thanksgiving Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses
- 6 Holiday Promotional Ideas for Small Businesses
#3 Get a website.
Seriously, it's 2012 and people will look for your website to find out your menu, hours, phone number, driving directions, and how to contact you on social media. If you don't have a website yet, get one now.
Our favorite 2012 posts about optimizing your website and blog:
- 5 Analytics Tools That Will Tell You What To Change On Your Website
- How to Send Better Emails by Using Tips From Your Web Analytics
- Tools & Tips for Speeding Up Your Small Business Website
- Does Your Small Business Have What it Takes to Blog?
#4 Get customer analytics.
Find out who your loyal customers are and ask them what they want from you. Use customer analytics (we offer them, just sayin') to spend your marketing dollars more effectively.
Our favorite 2012 posts about customer demographics and how to use them:
- Customer Demographics that Every Restaurant Owner Should Dig Into
- Your Customers Are All Millennials, Now What?
- The Dining Habits of Couples with Kids
- What Do Baby Boomers Need in a Restaurant Experience?
- The Dining Habits of Seniors
#5 Prepare for bad weather.
2012 was a bad year for weather. Extreme fall and winter weather can severely affect small businesses. If your area has a tendency to be affected by severe weather, take steps now to mitigate the impact this will have on your business.
Our favorite 2012 posts about planning around the weather:
- How to Transition Through the Seasons with Your Customers
- A 10-Point Fall Checklist for Small Business
- Don’t Let Weather Patterns Get Your Restaurant Down
#6 Re-train your staff.
Passionate and contagiously energetic employees will help you make more money and get better online reviews. If they're not re-energized and shown the way, it will show. Creating a culture of employee happiness and customer satisfaction. Have you seen what Chipotle does? They promote internally 97% of the time, and managers can't get promoted unless 100% of their team has nothing bad to say about them, or each other. Their focus on building an amazing team is inspiring.
Our favorite 2012 posts about training employees to be brand ambassadors:
- 10 Customer Experience Guidelines That Make Everyone Happy
- 12 Things Customers Should Be Saying About Your Business
- Employee Marketing: Do Your Employees Send The Right Message To Customers?
#7 Analyze your online reviews.
Not every reviewer writes down words on the web using a code of ethics, or thinks about how their words can destroy a family business. Still, you can't stop bad online reviews, just like you can't beg for good ones. Use the reviews you have to really look at what people complain about most, and fix those issues. Show people you're paying attention.
Our favorite 2012 posts about analyzing and optimizing online reviews:
- Data with a Destiny: What Local Businesses Should Extract from Yelp Reviews
- Why Do Customers Complain? A Survey of Diners’ Most Popular Complaints
- Keeping Your Cool About Negative Reviews (Lessons Not Learned From Pigalle’s F-Bombs)
#8 Jump on the social media train.
Social media isn't just used to talk to your community, it's used to build it. Become present on social networks and start chatting with your customers and would-be guests.
Our favorite 2012 posts about using social media to build loyalty:
- How Building Customer Loyalty Online Can Help Offline Efforts
- The Big Difference Between Facebook and Twitter Marketing
- How to Get More Instagram Followers for Your Small Business
- Social Advertising: Let Customers Be The Marketing Medium
#9 Find out their Customer Lifetime Value.
How can you accurately please your loyal customers, or plan budgets accordingly, without knowing how much a customer is worth to you? This year, discover it.
Our favorite 2012 posts about determining the different dollar signs in your business:
- What Is Your Restaurant's Customer Lifetime Value?
- The Twitter ROI for Restaurants: Savvy Chefs Say it Pays to Tweet
- How to Increase Your Customer “Repeat Purchase” Rate
#10 Ditch paper punch cards.
...and we're not just saying that because we include a kick-butt loyalty program with our payment processing services. We're saying it because you deserve to get more out of your loyalty program. There's technology available now that will tell you who your best customers are, what they order most, and how much they're worth on a yearly basis. That's data you can't get with a punch card.
Our favorite 2012 posts about paper versus digital loyalty programs:
- Going Digital: Designing Customer Loyalty Cards That They Can’t Lose
- Improve Customer Retention Statistics By Ditching Paper Punch Cards
#11 Develop a better loyalty program.
The way people share their love for businesses has completely evolved with the use of social media. It's created brand evangelists that are further impassioned when businesses recognize their kind words. To get in on this free word of mouth marketing, take a serious look at how you're bringing customers back.
Our favorite 2012 posts about loyalty marketing:
- How to Create A Small Business Loyalty Program with Proven ROI
- What is Remarketing? (Brick-and-Mortar Edition)
- Customer Loyalty Programs That Work: 5 Easy Ways To Keep Customers Coming Back
- 5 Ways to Measure Your Customer Loyalty
#12 Upgrade your payment processing system.
You've probably been with the same payment processor since you first got a terminal. In the past couple of years, payments have gotten smarter, and it's not always the traditional players who are advancing payment systems, it's companies like us. Now you can pay the same amount you normally do, but get intense customer analytics, like whether a rainy day affected sales, how often your most loyal customer dines with you, and how much they spend. Basically, instead of simply paying a bill for taking payments every month, you can now get actionable marketing data back in return. It's a no-brainer, right?
Our favorite 2012 posts about payment processing:
- Breaking Down Payment Processing Fees: 3 Places Your Money Goes With Every Swipe
- Reasons to Avoid ERR Pricing When Choosing a Processor
- The Perks of Interchange Plus vs. Tiered Pricing
- An Integrated Payment System = Customer Analytics + Payments
Your turn. For 2013, what's your small business resolution? What changed for you in 2012 that will make all the difference in 2013? Let us know in the comments.