What better way to start the new year than with some new ideas to grow your business bigger, better and faster than you thought possible? Here are some of my suggestions.

1. Get in the Cloud

You’ve heard it before: The cloud is the place to be. Why? Because you don’t need servers to run software anymore, and most of the software we once spent a ton of money on is now either free or pretty affordable. Use Google Apps for document sharing, presentations or spreadsheets. Use Join.me for presentations with local conference call numbers as well screen sharing, and use Yammer for collaboration with your employees. Use VerticalResponse for your e-mail marketing and Google Analytics to keep track of your website visitors. Use Gmail for your business e-mail and Skype for meetings with outsiders. Use Dropbox to store and access files from anywhere. Stop writing lists on paper and use Evernote to remember everything. Phew, that’s a mouthful!

2. Have Fun With Your Website

These days people want to have a good experience when they visit a website, whether it’s to get information or to purchase a product. Either way, it’s up to you to make it as pleasant an experience as possible. If your business is serious, this may not work, but who knows, it might add a touch of levity. Klout has a fantastic error page when you mistype a URL; they call it an “oops” page with a cute puppy on it. Zappos has a wonderful confirmation page after you make a purchase featuring a picture of a basset hound with a Zappos hat on.

3. Consolidate Your Customer Data

You probably have business cards laying around from people you’ve met; you’ve got information on your paying customers in your e-commerce platform or your point of sale system; you’ve got your opt-in newsletter recipients with your e-mail service provider. The problem? All these contacts are never in one place for you to engage with them. I smell opportunity! Once per month, before you send your e-mail marketing campaigns, consolidate them into one place, whether it’s within your e-mail marketing account or your contact manager. This way, you won’t miss any of these people who could be your next customer.

4. Change Your Facebook “Profile” to a “Page”

A lot of businesses started out with a Facebook “Profile” simply because “Pages” weren’t around back in the day. If you haven’t already, it’s time to switch it up and create a Facebook Page for your business. You should convert your current business profile for a number of reasons. (The biggest one: Businesses that have Profiles are a no-no anyway in Facebook’s terms of service.) With a Facebook Page, Google will find you more easily, there are no limits to the number of “likes” you can get, and you’ll have access to Facebook Insights, which will give you analytics about your engagement with your fans. Not to mention, the more “likes” you get, the more you’ll get out in front of your followers’ followers … follow me?

5. Automate Your Social Media Marketing

If you subscribe to the notion that you need to put your messaging out where your customers want to read them, then bravo! Now you’ve probably got people who want to get your e-mail newsletters, people who follow you on Twitter, and people who check out your posts on Facebook and LinkedIn. This year is the year to consolidate! You don’t want to log in and out of a ton of social networks to talk about a new article or a new sale you’re having, and you don’t have to. Check out Roost or HootSuite to schedule social media campaigns in advance and get reporting on how your audience is engaging with your content.

6. Host a Meetup

Your customers want to “see” you from time to time, so why not go local? If you’ve got a retail location, bring them in for a special customer event. If you don’t have a retail spot, pick a time when it’s not so busy, find a restaurant and rent the private room. Most won’t charge you a room fee; they’ll just charge a minimum for food and beverage. Call it your “Customer Appreciation Party” and serve wine and appetizers. You’ll be surprised at how getting in front of customers physically puts you top of mind when they’re ready to do business.

Twenty eleven went by fast, so don’t let 2012 pass you by!