I read this list this afternoon - pretty impressive eh? :cool:
88 Business-Growing Strategies for 2008
Here are 88 activities to schedule for this year to help you increase marketshare, improve profitability, and strengthen your business.
1. Submit online articles: Submitted articles drive traffic to your site when they are distributed to blogs and e-zines, but they also position you very well, especially if they come up in natural searches. Outline 24 articles and write two per month.
2. Create press releases: One of the best ways in 2007 and 2008 to get business information distributed online. Go with a site like PRWeb.com and pay for a higher tier distribution.
3. Develop an offsite blog: If you don't already have a blog, create one. Blogger.com has a free, user-friendly interface. Link back to your website.
4. Create a helpful video: YouTube.com is not just for funny videos caught on camera phones. Search their "How To" section to see many great examples of helpful videos. Once inspired, create one or more of your own related to your industry. Post on YouTube and link back to your site.
5. Advertise with AdWords: Still one of the best online advertising methods around. Drive targeted traffic to your site and use their metrics to measure your effectiveness.
6. Submit to Wikipedia: Wikipedia searches well and helps you to position yourself. Don't make the mistake of creating self-serving entries. Instead, create authoritative, unbiased entries about a topic related to your industry or service. Include a number of service providers (including your site) in the entry, and from your site add the blurb "be sure to see our Wikipedia entry".
7. Submit to Squidoo: Squidoo.com is one of the internet's best kept secrets. Users create "lenses" about topics and pull together blogs, videos, and websites related to that topic. It's Seth Godin's project so you know it will be good.
8. Participate in forums: When used right, forums can help you grow your business. Unfortunately, most business-growth advice related to forums suggests that you post with a footer containing your URL. They ignore the rest of the advice: a forum is a community and its membership is enriched when everyone participates. Find forums related to your industry and become a valuable contributor. When people see the value you give, they'll seek you out for help. Add a URL to your footer... but only if you actually participate and add value to the conversation.
9. Offer a whitepaper: These are presented as researched and unbiased reports, usually in a "problem-solution" format. While the whitepaper provider is typically presenting themselves as the solution (so maybe there is SOME bias!) the supporting research and clear thinking that should be present will help to persuade readers.
10. Get LinkedIn: LinkedIn.com is a networking site for businesspeople. It's a way to connect with the businesspeople you know and then get introduced to the people they know. Unfortunately, people grow their networks but don't seem to use them. Change that habit! Grow your network and commit to arranging an introduction with at least one person every week.
11. Look at your website again: Make 2008 the year that your site becomes stronger than ever. It doesn't matter if you spend all day, every day looking at your site, or you haven't looked at it for some time. Set aside time to log on using a different computer (borrow a friend's if you have to) and see how your website looks with a different connection and screen. Ask friends to click through your site and watch them to see what they look at and where they click.
12. Refine your niche: When was the last time you thought about who your customer is? Take a moment to write down what your typical customer is like. Give them a name and write a paragraph or two about them -- what their interests are, how they spend their time and money, and what stresses exist in their lives.
13. Strengthen your benefits: It's so easy for anyone who sells something to gradually shift the emphasis from the benefits to the features of the product. Take a look at your offering and make sure that every benefit is explicit. And if you haven't tweaked your benefits lately, do so now: Breathe new life into them with updated language.
14. Stop transacting... start building a relationship: A transaction is expensive. A relationship is priceless. A single transaction -- where you sell once and never contact the customer again -- is a very expensive way to do business. Instead, build relationships with customers by offering high value products or services, surprising value beyond what they expect, and an honest, friendly approach.
15. Stop wasting your time with SEO: Business spend way too much time on the least effective search engine optimization techniques. Forget about keyword ratios and buying links. Instead, create value with authoritative content and share it with others.
16. Advertise offline: There's an entire world of customers offline. What's more, local consumers don't necessarily search online for many products and services that they expect to find near their home. Use local radio, local television, or local newspapers, depending on your budget and offering.
17. Offer referral bonuses: Happy customers are good to have. Happy customers who tell their friends about your business are great to have. Sometimes they need incentives to share their good experience with their friends. Offer them a kickback or bonus on future sales you make with their friends.
18. Streamline processes: Identify the five things you do most often and develop ways to do it better. This might mean tweaking how you process a customer order or refining how you assemble raw materials into a finished product.
19. Send out a subscription ezine: Offer extremely helpful information that customers will want to save and reference again and again.
20. Become an authority: Customers want to trust the companies that they do business with and one way to build that trust is to show them that you know what you are talking about. Identify two or three industry-related areas where you can become an expert and share the wealth of knowledge that you already have.
21. Analyze your obvious competition: Most businesses can list their top 3 or 5 competitors very easily. But it's much more difficult to answer the question "why do some people choose the competition instead of you?" Know what you do well, know what your competitors do well, and know more about your competitors than they know about themselves.
22. Analyze your hidden competition: Competition comes from direct sources (like those who offer similar products to you) but it also comes from indirect sources. A direct competitor for a nightclub is another nightclub. An indirect competitor might be the cinema or a night at home with popcorn and a rented movie. Who are your indirect competitors?
23. Analyze the market leaders: They may not have an impact in your marketplace or with your exact niche, but there are well-known market leaders who influence your customer's buying decisions even if they shop at your store instead. Who are your market leaders and what do they sell? How is it similar? How is it different? What are they telling your customers?
24. Survey your customers: Create a simple survey of 3 questions and ask every customer. Identify your top ten customers and give them an incentive to fill out a longer survey (but one that should not take more than 15 minutes). Wring from the results as much information as you can.
25. Look at your differentiators: Think about your top direct and indirect competitors. Ask yourself what makes you different than all the rest. Celebrate those differences in your marketing and your service.
26. Outline current best practices: Whether intentional or not, every business has their own practices. Are yours best practices? Identify what those practices are and strengthen them by making them more efficient and more closely tied to your differentiators.
27. Look at best practices within your industry: Look at your best practices and compare them to other businesses in your industry. Are your practices similar to the standards? When they differ, make sure it's because you do it better than the rest.
28. Look at best practices outside of your industry: Consider best practices outside of your industry. Other companies -- perhaps in an entirely different industry than yours -- have similar challenges: perhaps supply chain issues or keeping customers happy. How do they do it? What can you extrapolate from their efforts to apply to your own business?
29. Brainstorm innovation: If you've been running on autopilot, it's time for something new. Brainstorm new products or services or new ways of doing the same old thing. Frankly, if you haven't failed at something this year, you haven't tried hard enough.
30. Identify what you do best. Outsource the rest: This is a simple matter of doing more of what you do well. There is a cost but the result is more profitable.
31. Identify your 4 core business functions: Every business has just 4 basic functions: strategy, support, value adding, and sales. On a piece of paper, write down each activity you do and which of those 4 functions it falls under. If you can't identify which function an activity falls under, chances are good that the activity is not essential to your success.
32. Strengthen strategy: Set aggressive goals and develop actionable objectives to reach those goals. Schedule each objective immediately.
33. Strengthen support: Review your current supporting activities (payables, receivables, HR, etc.) and identify where your efforts fell short in 2007. Consider those as "red flags" indicating an area where your support efforts could use bolstering.
34. Strengthen Value Add: In order to have a product or service to sell, your business takes something and adds value to it. Think about how you can add more value to it. Some of that value should be free and some of that value should increase the price.
35. Strengthen Sales: One of the best things to do today to grow your sales is to try to do 10% more sales effort this month than you did last month. If you called 10 people a day this month, call 11 people a day next month.
36. Commit to self improvement or training: Identify one area you could improve and get training: take night school courses or enroll in online learning to fit into your business schedule.
37. List customers in descending order from most profitable to least profitable and make a plan for each: For the most profitable customers, ask yourself how you can increase sales to them. For the least profitable customers, consider dropping them or finding ways to improve profitability.
38. Identify your top 10 customers and list value-added service that you can offer that costs them nothing: Your top ten customers are likely your lifeblood and losing them would have a serious impact on your company. Identify something special you can do for them to show them how important they are to you.
39. Start at the top of the list and call each customer: Once you have your list of top ten customers, don't wait for them to come to you. Contact them and proactively offer value-added service.
40. Subscribe to Jeffrey Gitomer's ezine and read it faithfully: Jeffrey Gitomer has one of the best ezines out there. Each issue is full of value that translates into real dollars for you. Subscribe to it at Gitomer.com and read it religiously.
41. Read The Sales Bible by Jeffrey Gitomer
42. Read Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive by Harvey Mackay
43. Read How to Master the art of Selling by Tom Hopkins
44. Read Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Rene Mauborgne
45. Read The Brand Called You by Peter Montoya
46. Read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
47. Read Multiple Streams of Income by Robert G. Allen
48. Read Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi
49. Read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
50. Read E-Myth Mastery by Michael E. Gerber
51. Offer webinars: Make the leap from business-person to business-leader. Identify something that you know and teach others. It might be product or service related, in which case you'll want to teach your customers, or it might be related to the operations side of the business, in which case you'll want to teach other business people. Use a site like WebEx to help you create an excellent production.
52. Build your business network: Your business network is made up of a number of groups, including colleagues. Think about reconnecting with people you haven't spoken to in a while. Tell them that you want to grow your business and offer them an incentive for all business they directly send you.
53. Build your business network: Your business network is made up of a number of groups, including suppliers. Do you have a good relationship with your suppliers? Are you getting the best value from them? Turn the tables and take your suppliers out for lunch. Ask them about new ways to grow your business. You'll be surprised at the help they can offer.
54. Build your business network: Your business network is made up of a number of groups, including distributors. Are you using your distribution network as effectively as possible? Consider adding another distribution channel to increase sales.
55. Build your business network: Your business network is made up of a number of groups, including partners. Think about who your current partners are. Likely they assist you in one of your 4 business functions -- it may include an accountant, independent salespeople, copywriters, or a call center. Can you expand your partnerships? Can you enhance them in some way to get more value from them or to gain exposure to new clients? Ask your partners for referrals.
56. Move your business more fully online: Chances are, your business can become more efficient by moving more of it online. Most frequently, this might mean offering more information about your products and services or it might mean creating a log-in area for your customers to access their accounts.
57. Create or modify your ZoomInfo account: Love it or hate it, ZoomInfo.com scours the net for information and posts it. If it hasn't posted information about you yet, chances are good that it will shortly. Don't wait for it to happen, proactively develop your own profile and monitor it to make sure that any additional information is correct. It searches well, too, so use that to your advantage.
58. Participate in the GoBigNetwork: GoBigNetwork.com is an excellent and underappreciated site that helps businesses and connects them with others. Use their resources and share your knowledge with other businesses.
59. Use coupons, specials, or sales: Create a special offer that is exciting but time limited. Promote it with press releases and other marketing efforts.
60. Create an elevator pitch: Can you describe your business in 10 to 20 seconds... and do it in a way that entices your listener to ask for more information? Write your elevator pitch and practice it, along with compelling responses to frequently asked follow-up questions.
61. Identify your 5 biggest customer challenges and eliminate them: Experience will tell you the typical customer challenges that are repeated again and again. Most businesses keep on selling, ignoring the challenges. Smart businesses, though, will address the challenges before they happen.
62. Identify all of your assets: You have many assets in your business. There are the assets you know about -- probably your computer, your raw materials, your vehicle, and even your employees. And there are also the assets you don't immediately think of: your talents, and all the research and information you've gathered over the years. List all of your assets and place a dollar value beside each one. Should you insure some of them? What happens if you lose one? Can you leverage some assets more effectively?
63. Create a 1 year plan: Think about where you see your business in 1 year. Determine exactly what it will look like (with measurable goals) and create actionable objectives to get you there.
64. Create a 5 year plan: Think about where you see your business in 5 years. Determine exactly what it will look like (with measurable goals) and create actionable objectives to get you there.
65. Create a 10 year plan: Think about where you see your business in 10 years. Determine exactly what it will look like (with measurable goals) and create actionable objectives to get you there.
66. Create a 25 year plan: Think about where you see your business in 25 years. Determine exactly what it will look like (with measurable goals) and create actionable objectives to get you there.
67. Create an exit plan: Think about the circumstances under which you would stop doing business. Is there an economic loss that would trigger you shutting down the business? What would you sell your business for if someone showed up tomorrow and asked you to list your price? Your business has an exit plan, whether or not you've developed an explicitly: For most small business owners the unstated exit plan is "death or destitute... whichever comes first". Be proactive and create your own exit plan.
68. Create a contingency plan: Imagine that the economy weakens or your competitors become more aggressive, and you no longer have the customer base you once did. How will you get more customers quickly? Are there old customers you can call? Is there a proven limited time offer that you can keep in your back pocket for such an occasion?
69. Create a contingency plan: Imagine that your business could not longer provide the service or products it once did: maybe there is a prolonged power outage that keeps you from getting online, or a natural disaster that keeps you from getting the raw material you need, or a change in the local economy that drives your employees away. How will you maintain "business as usual"?
70. Create a contingency plan: Imagine that you woke up one morning and discovered that your product was somehow linked to a tragedy. What would you do? Create a contingency right now for potential bad press related to your offering. Chances are, you'll know what kinds of bad press other people in your industry face. Imagine that it happens to you (whether true or not) and create a plan to deal with it: How should you react? Who will you contact? What will you post on your website? Will you create a press release to rebut the situation?
71. Answer questions: People want to find trusted information and sometimes they don't want to go looking for it. Sign up to a site like Yahoo! Answers to share what you already know about your industry.
72. Develop an upsell or an ancillary product: Are you offering your customers something extra for something extra? Offer an upsell on your product or service with a high value additional purchase.
73. Start a group on Facebook: Facebook is moving beyond being merely a social utility. Start a group that is connected with your industry. However, strive to be better than most Facebook groups and empower participates to participate!
74. Create a Google Group: A Google Group is a discussion that other people can view. Start a group related to your industry, and be sure to participate in other groups as well.
75. Create an additional way for people to find you: Think about another way to help people find you. One of the easiest ways is to create another website. Don't do it if you are struggling to get traffic to your current site, but if you have traffic and want more, develop another (different) website.
76. Improve your call to action: Take a new look at how you ask for a sale. Change it up: talk to successful stock brokers, car salespeople, and insurance salespeople to see how they "ask for the order" in industries that are notoriously tough to sell in.
77. Eliminate procrastination: Of the many vices that people wrestle with, procrastination impacts business the most. Stop putting off the important stuff.
78. Make your website a destination: Many websites are created and left alone while the owner is off marketing; meanwhile, customers transact business on the site and leave. Think about what you can do to draw people back to your site again and again.
79. Network relentlessly: Join all appropriate networking associations in your community. Some good ones include the Chamber of Commerce, Toastmasters, a local community group, and perhaps an industry association as well.
80. Collect testimonials: Do you have recent testimonials or are yours collecting dust? Contact your customer base and ask for testimonials (and while you're at it, offer them a discounted product).
81. Revive your marketing collateral: Think about the last time you looked at your brochures and supporting documentation. Are the people in the pictures still wearing bell bottoms? Update your marketing collateral with new graphics, stronger benefits, and a twenty-first century flavor.
82. Get ready for Google Knol: As of this writing, Google Knol is still in development and is not yet available for public participation. But it will be unveiled soon. Keep an eye out for it and be ready to jump in with your own effort. Talk about your industry and business.
83. Do something that creates buzz: It's easy for marketing to become repetitive. Get people talking with a buzz-creating marketing effort that is different, memorable, and perhaps attention-getting.
84. Take a little vacation: Nothing sharpens your mind, improves productivity, and reduces stress like a good vacation. Even if you just take a long weekend.
85. Do something outside of your industry: It's easy for business owners to walk around with blinders on. Read books that are outside of your industry or take a class in an entirely different field -- just do something to expand your view.
86. Sell to those who turned you down: Contact all the prospects who ever said "no" to you and pitch to them again. (Didn't keep their names? Then your task for 2008 is to keep their names and pitch to them in 2009).
87. Know your numbers: At the end of every week, write down the number of prospects you had and then write down the number of sales you made in order to determine your conversion ratio. From one week to the next, strive to improve your conversion ratio.
88. Do some good: Put it all in perspective and generate some karma by doing good in the world. Don't join a charitable group to explicitly promote your business. But if you actively and selflessly participate in charitable work, you will benefit.
Permission is granted to copy and distribute this article as long as it is distributed in its entirety and is appropriately attributed to Aaron Hoos: http://www.aaronhoos.com/