5 New Year’s Resolutions for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

October NewslsetterAs the final sentences of 2014 are being written, many are beginning to plan and outline the 2015 chapter of their book. The new year presents a clean slate, an opportunity to turn the page and change the narrative. While most resolutions include ramping up gym attendance, cutting back on the lattes and spending less time binge-watching Netflix, some people are looking to kick start, refine or expand their new businesses. While we can’t run next to you on the treadmill or monitor your caloric intake, we can give you a couple of recommendations on how to make sure the next chapter in your business’ story doesn’t become its epilogue. Below are 5 New Year’s resolutions for the aspiring entrepreneur.

1. Don’t Push a Product, Build a Brand

When you are first conceptualizing your new business, whether it is a software solution, an E-commerce site, a new app opportunity, a retail line or something completely different and innovative, it is common to fall in love with your primary idea or product, rather than first focusing on your presence as a brand.

Most companies, regardless of size or business model, have a staple product or service. Think of Google with its search engine, Apple with iTunes, or Dell with computers. While the development of these products is critical to the success of their respective companies, they all have one thing in common: they have expanded beyond these primary offerings as part of a concerted effort to build a more comprehensive and globally-recognizable brand. Your product is important, but do not neglect defining yourself and defining your company with brand guidelines and culture. As you grow, your brand will be essential as the flag-bearer for your company and a mirror of the values that you represent.

2. Become Data Driven

So often in business, we are faced with defining decisions and are expected to make them based on what we think is best for the company’s bottom line. The “go with your gut” approach, often used by smaller businesses with limited resources, is a dangerous one. Set yourself up to make decisions based on calculated data. Whether it is something as simple as split-testing for marketing conversion rates or as business-critical as modeling out pricing strategies, backing your decisions with informed data is the best way to ensure the decisions you make are moving the needle and lifting your bottom line. Tools such as Google Analytics, KISSmetrics and Adobe Marketing Cloud are very helpful for setting up tests and crunching the numbers for everything from landing page optimization to customer profiling to cost per acquisition and lifetime value. Dedicate human capital to business intelligence to help turn the 50/50 shots in the dark into defining decisions backed by data.

3. Salvation via Automation

Marketing automation has become an essential tool for marketers across all industries. Getting involved with automation at the early stages of business development can set you up for success by guiding you in how to think about your marketing approach. When your marketing efforts are guided by a logical progression of rules, triggers and conversion data, you begin to see the returns of hitting targeted segments of customers and prospects with relevant, specific messaging. Marketing automation can also be a time management savior, especially in regards to communications with daily, weekly or monthly cadences. Rather than pulling lists, sorting through customer journeys and scheduling these emails manually, you can rest assured that the messages you want to send will be done like clockwork, with auto-generated reports to back up your program logic. Automation industry leaders such as Marketo, Oracle Marketing Cloud and Pardot all support these trigger functionalities and have built-in integrations for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, such as Salesforce. Enable your marketing and sales teams with the creative freedom and flexibility provided by marketing automation.

4. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Fitting the right pieces around you as your business evolves is vital to your company’s growth and success. While finding the most talented candidates for each position is ideal, it is also important to surround yourself with individuals that will contribute to and thrive under your company culture. You want people who you will work amicably with, but will also not be afraid to challenge and push you when necessary. This is especially important for smaller businesses with a few core contributors doing the bulk of the grunt work and making the majority of the decisions. You are only as strong as the weakest link in your corporate chain, so make sure you are selecting talented members who fit into your team’s personality and aren’t afraid to innovate and challenge.

5. Bring Your Website out of the Stone Age

Chances are, if you started your company or created your website before 2010, the web has officially outgrown your design. The introduction of responsive design, tailored to fit the device the consumer is viewing your site on, and the adoption of HTML 5 and CSS 3 have given web designers a whole new arsenal to use when creating intuitive, dynamic designs. In a recent piece highlighting key digital trends for 2015, eMarketer underlines consumer tendency shifts to take into account when giving your site a facelift. Focus on the boom of phone and tablet traffic with a responsive redesign. First impressions of your brand are of the utmost importance, so make sure if your potential customers are coming to your site to see what you are all about, they are getting the best possible experience.

We all know that New Year’s Resolutions are made to be broken. Gyms start to thin out by Valentine’s Day, and how long can you really be expected to say no to chocolate? As an aspiring entrepreneur, make 2015 the year your business turned the page on outdated tactics and began a new chapter driven by analytics, marketing automation and a strong brand identity backed by a flawless, responsive web design.

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