One of the most appreciated aspects of December (aside from it being a time for family and festivities) is that it's a quiet work time that allows home business owners to get the house in order. The phones don't ring so much and emails don't arrive so often. It's a perfect time for some considered business planning. Make plans against these main headings to be sure of starting the New Year with that extra bit of oomph.
The first priority is to take care of existing clients. Send Christmas cards (with personalised notes) to thank them for their custom over the year. For bigger clients, set up New Year meetings to ask for feedback and propose new ideas and activities for the new year.
As for new clients, make a list of those you'd like to work for in 2009. This is your sales pipeline that can be recorded in Excel, in your carry-around note book or via customer relationship software applications. Spend a couple of quiet hours researching contact names and, if you can find the time in between merriment and mince pies, send an introductory email to the contact so the note is waiting for them at the beginning of the year.
Produce a 12 month press schedule and resolve to writing a press release each month. Think about partners who could add weight to the release - maybe through a joint piece of research or a survey - or help with distribution. Set up these alliances now so they're ready to activate when the time comes to release your news.
If you have an online presence, December is the month to spend an hour going through the site as if you were a new visitor. Does the design still reflect the brand/ are there any broken links/ is the press section up to date etc. Give the site a spring clean so it's ready for all the new traffic set to arrive on account of your '09 marketing plan.
Carry out a technology audit. The key questions to ask are:
- Am I spending too much on broadband/wireless access? Are there better deals now on the market? http://www.broadbandgenie.co.uk/ is a great way to check this.
- Are there any new and affordable pieces of software that will help me work smarter? (look out for an article dedicated to this topic in January)
- Is 2009 the year I get set up with an IT support contract so computer security and back-up is taken care of by someone else? http://www.zuumedia.com/ offers this service remotely and at a competitive cost.
The final piece of planning is the finances. Does cashflow look strong and is this the time to consider outside investment to take the company to its next stage of growth. After all this planning, you'll feel fit and ready for the year to come. And will have earned yourself a glass of fine mulled wine!
Emma Jones is Founder of Enterprise Nation [www.enterprisenation.com] and author of ‘Spare Room Start Up - how to start a business from home'