A Time for Reflection: Looking Back on the Past Year for Your Business

Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.

– Margaret J. Wheatley

The Build Up and Mystery are just as Important as the Event

The Build Up and Mystery are just as Important as the Event

The anticipation of the coming holidays is part of what makes this time of the year so special. If we leapt right into the end of the month, it wouldn’t feel as important.

Children know this the most as they see gifts placed under a tree for weeks. They talk about their lists and discuss an elf on a shelf. This build-up continues as an adult. We attend various holiday parties as we build up to the end of the month. We think about our own wants and needs as the holidays approach.

This is an important part of marketing as well. In a time of instant gratification, going in the opposite direction can be a powerful tool. Some customers are going to respond better to the long, gradual, build-up. These are customers that are going to spend more time with you as well.

As you are thinking about what you should be tweeting or putting on Facebook, also think about a more gradual approach. Ease your customer into your brand by dripping education about your product and services. Slowly reveal what your main selling point is.

Take Some Time to Reflect on This Past Year

Take Some Time to Reflect on This Past Year

This time of year can be incredibly stressful and hectic from a personal and a business perspective. But, let’s not forget to schedule some time to ourselves and reflect on the past year and then use that to think forward to 2017.

Many business owners I talk to have a short-term strategy with no middle or long-term strategy beyond high level thoughts like “we want to use video more in our marketing” or “we want to get into Instagram”. This is understandable. It’s difficult enough to find time to execute your current strategy than it is to think into the future.

Reflection and creating a plan for the future can be very powerful tools. They help you organize your thoughts as a business owner and provide personal clarity and peace of mind. It helps you to become clear with results of the past and use that to decide on a path forward.

The alternative to this is to be reactionary to your customers needs. This only creates uncertainty around the results you are going to achieve and doesn’t provide a way for you to measure your own progress.

Don't Worry About Where to Start - Just Start

Don’t Worry About Where to Start. Just Start!

When I talk to businesses about digital marketing strategies, they often ask “Where do I start?”. I always answer with “Wherever you want”. This is your business and you will be much more involved and passionate about the direction if you believe in it. Start with your business goals and decide how to drive customer interest.

Many people who aren’t familiar with digital marketing have been made to believe that there is a specific “way to do things”. You may see headlines like “10 best ways to drive traffic to your website” or “which social media channel is best for your business”. Although there are some great tips out there for executing marketing tasks, they don’t take into consideration strategy.

It’s the how, not the why or whether you even should.

Digital marketing isn’t a concrete, stepped process. You must be comfortable with experimentation and testing when defining your strategy. The digital landscape is always changing. Therefore, your business will never have a complacent digital marketing strategy that works for an infinite amount of time. A strategy is organic, flexible and always being adjusted.

Every Business is Unique

Every Business is Unique. Use This to Your Advantage Since it is Your Greatest Asset.

Every business is different. You, as a business owner, are different than any other business owner. The roads you have gone down in the past have led to this point in time giving you a unique perspective. This is your best asset, use it to market and grow your business.

Take account of all your successes and failures. Add those up to reflect your experiences and consider how those define your perspective on how a business should operate in this world. Craft this idea into a single two sentence message structured like the following:

[Who your are] [What you do]. [Your values] [Why that helps your customer]

Here are a couple generic examples:

  • Tom’s Train Store creates faithful reproductions of 1950’s era Lionel trains. We are dedicated to precision and craftsmanship because we know that’s what our customer’s want.
  • Nexus IT helps your business grow your internal network. We focus on security and uninterrupted communication throughout your business so you can increase productivity.

At Black Label we work with businesses to discover opportunity based on their values. The most important thing to uncover is why they are in business and what drives them every day. That perspective is what drives the marketing.

Think About Your Business for 2017Grab a comfy chair and put a log on the fire. Pour a finger of whiskey into your eggnog and think about 2017.

2016 has been a crazy year to say the least. It’s refreshing to think that a new year will be starting. It’s an opportunity to rethink how we work and plan personal goals.

Take some time this month to take a pause. Turn off your computer and all devices. Take a deep breath and look to the future.

Think about the following questions:

  • What would you like to do this year that you have never done before as a business?
  • What risks are you willing to take in 2017? How will these risks be exciting? How can you make smart decisions around the risks?
  • What can you do for your customers in 2017 that you have never done for them before?
  • What obstacles do you think you will run into in the new year?
  • What is the first thing you can do in January that will have the biggest short-term effect?
  • What does your business look like in July of next year? September? End of the year?
  • Is there anything you can put into action next year that will have a great effect on 2018?
  • Where do you want to be in 3 years? What does your business look like in 2020?

Author: Brent Hoffmann

Brent has a diverse background in graphic design, software development, and business strategy. With over 15 years of experience in the industry, he helps clients find solutions to technology problems, develop their content strategy and find ways to help them grow.

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