Are you prepared for success in 2016? We live in a rapidly changing world, and strategies that were successful in years past, such as 2015, may not be good enough in the coming year. Now, before 2016 gets rolling, is a great time to marshal the skills and resources you'll need to stay successful for the next 12 months. Here's what to do:

1. Review your social media strategy.

Very few companies, if any, can succeed without using social media effectively. Unfortunately, social media is a moving target. Just as you master Pinterest, Facebook acquires Instagram and all eyes go there. Just as you master Instagram, everyone starts focusing on SnapChat. 

Rather than drive yourself nuts trying to have a presence on every social platform that seems to matter, consider three basic questions. Which social platforms do your customers tend to use? Which social platforms fit most naturally with you and your company? And how is your use of social media contributing to your larger goals? The purpose of using social media can't be only to build a bigger social media following, although a big following can be a powerful asset. It's what you do with that following--increase sales, raise your brand profile, channel visitors to your website--that makes social media so powerful. 

Once you've considered those questions, it should help you better focus the time and resources you have to spend on social. And if you don't yet have a social media presence or strategy, you need one. Devoting some time to planning and executing a social media strategy should be a high priority in 2016.

2. Master the art of video.

Video is increasingly important to promoting your brand and connecting with customers. If most of your communications thus far have been by text and/or still image, now is the time to start learning to use video effectively. An inexpensive video camera, or even a good smartphone is all you need to get started.

3. Create a content plan.

Content is an increasingly important way for brands, especially non-household-name brands, to find their way into customers' consciousness. No matter what industry you're in, no matter how big or small your company is, you have expertise and a particular point of view to share. 

How you do that sharing is up to you. It might be video, prose, or images. It might be a blog of your own, or you may contribute content to a new site, a publication focused on your industry, or some other relevant site or publication. You may even decide to give talks at local events or offer classes. Any of these approaches and many more can boost your visibility and connection to your customer base. As with social media, the key is to find the intersection between what resonates with them and what comes naturally to you. 

4. Establish a mobile presence.

Whatever type of business you're in, whether consumer or B2B, your customers and employees would like to interact with you using their mobile devices. People in every walk of life are abandoning their desktop and laptop computers in favor of smartphones and tablets. If they can't easily get information and/or place orders in a mobile way, there's a good chance you're leaving money on the table.

Should you create an app or simply a mobile website that's user-friendly, functional, and fun? Or should you piggy-back on a third-party app to reach your customers? Any of these options can be effective, depending on your product and target customers. If you don't yet have a solid mobile presence, plan to create one in the first few months of 2016.

5. Review your hiring pipeline.

Your company's most important asset is its people. This gets repeated so often it's become a tired cliche, and yet it's still true. Having the right employees will often make the difference between success and failure.

That's been true for a long time, but what's changed is the labor market, in which competition for skilled professionals, as well as any employees with intelligence and drive, is getting tougher and tougher. You may have a great team today, but what will you do if business expands and you need to hire new team members? Or if some of your employees leave, which inevitably they will?

If you don't have a strong pipeline in place for identifying and recruiting new employees, now's the time to create one. Depending on your business, this might include forming relationships with local colleges, creating internships and part-time positions, and offering incentives for your existing employees to refer their friends and acquaintances as potential hires.

6. Make sure current employees stay engaged.

Just as it's easier and less costly to retain an existing customer than go out and find a new one, it's easier and less costly to retain an employee who's a good fit for your company rather than have to hire someone new. That means making sure your existing employees are feeling motivated and engaged with your company is a very high priority for 2016.

You should already know what makes your employees happy, what inspires them to work hard, what they need most, what frustrates them, and what they dream about. If you don't know, schedule some time to meet with them one-on-one and find out. 

7. Double check your cyber-security.

There's plenty of evidence that 2016 will be a tough year for cyber-security, for small companies as well as big ones. You already know that there's no such thing as absolute network security, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do anything about it. Make sure you're following simple computer best practices so that you're not a sitting duck for hackers and malware. And consider getting software or a service that will monitor your network and website so that you'll find out quickly about any problems.

8. Preserve cash.

The economy may look strong at the moment, at least in this country, but 2016 is an election year and that always brings uncertainty. Meanwhile, the Fed has finally raised interest rates and more increases may be on the way. All of this may make it more difficult to borrow money in the coming couple of years.

So now is a good time to pay off or pay down debts, keep expenses under control, and build up cash reserves as much as you can. Depending on your business and outlook, it might be a good time to obtain a line of credit at today's still-not-bad interest rates. If you don't need, you don't have to use it. But if things turn south next year, it could keep your business alive.

Published on: Dec 30, 2015
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