Don't waste the slow days of December and January - put them to good use with our ten tips to make the summer productive!
|Ten slow time ideas|
Don’t send out Christmas Cards — they get lost in the clutter and are quickly forgotten. Surprise and thank your customers at another time, even if it’s a Happy New Year card a week later or even better, Happy Australia Day. You’ll be remembered, and yet you’re doing no more to stand out; it’s still just one card.
Even if it’s just to a small group of your best customers, it can make a difference. I had a travel agent client who did this one year on Valentine’s Day (using a simple letter, personalised envelope and a tiny attached gift I’d prepared) and got 38 of her 40 best customers to respond and say thank you the same day — and these were customers in charge of some big companies.
Tip by Dean Kennedy, Direct Response Marketing Consultant
Quieter periods are opportunities to prepare your business for growth. Start by analysing how your time is spent and assess what should be cut back on, invested more in, and outsourced to make sure your time leads to profit. As part of this process, create systems and processes for your business which streamline your activity and also make it possible for work to be handed over to extra help when needed.
This is not the time to take a step back in your marketing. In fact, this is the time to use marketing to leverage your current position and generate even more long-term success. Ensure your business is known, liked and trusted by the right people.
Tip by Phoebe Netto, Managing Director, Good Business Consulting
The most important thing to do to set you up for more success in 2012 is conduct a time management style audit to ensure you and your team are working with their strengths.
To conduct the audit, follow these seven steps:
1. Review your goals for the month, quarter and year (you’d be amazed how many people don’t!).
2. Develop a task list to achieve the goals
3. Work with your time management style strategies so that each day, when you write your ‘action list’ for the next day, you’ll deal with your calendar in the way that’s most productive for you.
4. For the first two weeks, be very accurate in keeping a log of how you spend your time so you know your patterns (lawyers use six-minute increments to keep track of their time, but you can use 30-minute ones for this exercise!).
5. Learn your time style strengths and really give these a work out.
6. Be aware of your time management challenges and use strategies to lessen their impact.
7. Enjoy the satisfaction of achieving more with less stress by giving yourself a reward (decide what it will be before you start).
Tip by Valerie McDougall, Time Management Styles
On January 1, 2011, occupational health and safety laws in most states and territories will be replaced by a new federal system. Under those new laws, you may need to change a few things. Here are some of them:
• The old language about employees and employers has changed to worker and PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking). Both new definitions are broader than before.
• There are 35 new Codes of Practice which set out minimum standards of safety for certain high-risk occupations.
• Old employee representative systems are being replaced by a new one with new requirements for training. During the slower periods, the training companies often offer discounts and it is a good way to motivate and set the standards for health and safety in the workplace in the new year.
• Over the next five years, a new system for labelling hazardous chemicals will arrive. Businesses that deal with chemicals/gas/fuels etc. will need to understand the new labels and prepare for the change.
Tip by Therese Ravell, Impact HR Consulting
Congratulate yourself on everything that you have achieved in the last 12 months. Spend an hour or take a day to reflect upon all the things that you’ve achieved — no matter how small, big or challenging, write them down and celebrate. This is a time to pat yourself on the back.
Have fun, hang out and just have some downtime. Give yourself permission to have a lazy day, week or month. When was the last time that you did nothing? Most business owners go and go and go and go and go. This is a time to calm your mind, body and spirit.
Allow yourself to be audacious. When was the last time you stopped to write down a list of all the outrageous, outlandish and audacious ideas you have for your business and your life? How many wild ideas can you come up with when there is nothing to do, nowhere to be and no-one to help?
If there are people in your life who haven’t seen much of you this year, then ring them and organise to catch up. Or if you’ve always thought about how it might feel to donate your time and energy to a charity, then find out how you might help them over this period. The point is that when you give generously, you feel a sense of achievement.
Tip by Louise Woodbury and William de Ora, Co-owners, Quantum Dynamics
Create a marketing calendar — plan your blog posts and social media campaign ideas for 2012. Will you write an article or press release once a month, or once a week for instance, and if so, what themes will you cover? For instance, Valentine’s Day is coming up soon — any press releases, blog posts, or social media competitions you can organise to coincide with this day?
Also take the time to survey your customers. Find out what they love about your offerings; and what could be improved. Ask them if they would refer you to their friends, and if there are any services that they would like you to start providing. Perhaps tie this in with a special Christmas-themed thank you gift?
Kellie Byrnes, Kindred Gifts
Sort through the business cards you collected in 2011. Arrange them by people who are already clients, and those that are not (but are potential clients). Get all the cards into a database.
Use the database to make a list of potential clients from these cards so that you know who to follow up and make coffee catchups with in the New Year.
Tip by Hazel Theocharous, Expert VA
Think back on the year of all the projects you have worked on. You will have probably have a good list of case studies that should be communicated on future proposals to prospective clients. This information provides evidence of how good you are and reduces the perceived risk of clients engaging you.
Spend the time writing up a half-page summary of each of the projects. If you have photos, this would be good, too. The results are good information to use as you update your Website.
Tip by Ben Cusack, Goverment-grant.com.au
Review your social media efforts and get them ready for 2012 by answering the following questions:
• Are all our profiles, pages and channels branded with our logo, taglines and contact information at a minimum?
• Are the information tabs and boxes filled out with engaging, keyworded information that’s appealing to customers, users and to search engine spiders for search ranking?
• Is our business consistent with our posting, commenting and connecting, with a daily schedule and timetable set up to make our social media marketing easy and timely, with minimal input for maximum return on our investment?
• Is someone in our office trained by a professional to be strategic, use proven engagement fomulas and conduct regular SWAT assessments of our digital media promotions and profiles?
• Are our engagement practices working? If not how can we change this?
Tip by Annie Infinite, Saucy Social Media
Put your slow times to good use reviewing some important elements of your business, namely:
• Review pricing structures to ensure competitiveness and profitability. Put formal procedures in place to monitor and proactively respond to competitor pricing changes.
• Review stock levels to make sure you can satisfy customer demand for profitable product and service lines, and identify slow-moving stock that can be liquidated as ‘bargain buys’ or bundled into gift packages.
• Review sales, marketing and promotion plans and make sure they are optimised to help achieve the best results not only during the holiday season but well into the new year. Ensure all staff are aware of the targets for each week and be proactive in addressing shortfalls.
• Review staffing plans and confirm acceptance of the rosters by all staff. For non-retail businesses, annual leave plans need to be balanced and finalised as early as possible to ensure the business continues to operate effectively.
• Review fraud and theft protection systems and ensure all staff are reminded of their responsibility to be vigilant, as customer traffic increases and the pressures of Christmas expectations can motivate increased customer and staff theft.
• Review debtor lists and actively chase all overdue accounts. Any amount not collected by December 23 is unlikely to be collected until February or later. Collecting money owed to you is good business — it does not make you a Grinch.
• Review the use of finance products for effectiveness. Overdrafts, premium funding, lease facilities and cashflow funding products can all be excellent tools to help match a business’s cash supply with planned outlays, and may be especially useful in managing cashflow throughout the holiday season.
• Complete a GST health check. Small businesses are in danger of losing time and money because of unreliable or outdated business systems causing them to incorrectly report GST.
Tip by Andrew Graham, National Head of Business Solutions, RSM Bird Cameron