I'm guessing that one of your New Year's Resolutions for your small business was to make more money... Great. But now what?
To help you actually achieve your goal, I've got 12 tips to make sure you do make more money this year.
1. Get listed free. Take 30 minutes -- right after you finish reading this column -- and list your business, free, on search engine local listings.
This helps your company show up when a prospective customer searches for a business like yours on the Web or a mobile device. No technical expertise is needed. Get started with Bing business portal, bing.com/businessportal; Foursquare, foursquare.com/business; Google Places, google.com/places; Yahoo Local, local.yahoo.com; and Yelp, biz.yelp.com/claiming.
2. Figure out what makes you money. Businesses have two kinds of money, cash and profits.
Cash comes from making sales. Profits come from selling products or services for more than they cost you to produce. Small businesses generally focus on bringing in cash, and that's OK because cash keeps the doors open.
But to get ahead, you need to focus on the parts of your business that bring you the most profits.
3. Market to current and former customers. Satisfied customers are the ones most likely to be future customers or refer others to you.
Yet small businesses typically neglect to market to them.
When my garbage disposal breaks, will I remember the name of the plumber I used two years ago? Not if the business doesn't keep its name in front of me.
4. Get a contact management system. You need a good way to organize, manage, and stay in touch with your contacts, something easy and that you can access from mobile devices, not just a drawer full of business cards.
My company just switched to Salesforce.com.
5. Create a marketing plan. Spend your marketing dollars and time wisely.
Identify your best prospects and the most effective ways to reach them. Then market consistently. You have to stay in front of prospects.
6. Contact at least three prospects a week. Or seven. Or 20.
Give yourself a realistic quota, make a list of top prospects and referral sources and keep it where you see it. Get out there and sell.
7. Bother people. I mean be persistent, not annoying.
People are busy, including your prospects. Even if they want to buy from you, they may forget you. So stay in touch repeatedly.
8. Close the deal. Marketing is great, but at the end of the day, you also have to make -- and close -- the sale.
Sure, you have to let prospects know about your products or services, but you also have to ask them to make the purchase. Give them incentives to purchase now and make sure they see a strong call to action in your marketing materials.
And ask, directly and in person, to take the order, close the deal.
9. Shop local, shop small. I asked a woman at my gym where she got her workout shoes.
She responded: "Try them on at (name of local small store), then order them online." Yikes!
Small businesses can't survive as showrooms for online retailers. If we want customers to buy from us, we have to shop small.
10. Check out social-media marketing. I'm not saying that Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn will make you money, but you can increase your visibility.
At least know enough to figure out whether it might be right for you.
11. Get a cloud-based email newsletter service. Don't be misled by the word "newsletter." You can use these services to announce sales, new products or services, whatever.
Some choices for small businesses: Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, Vertical Response, Emma. An added bonus of cloud services is analytics. You get far better information about how your sales efforts are performing and who is responding to your emails.
12. Develop a business plan. In many ways, this is the most important.
Yes, I'm biased because I've written two books on developing business plans. But developing a business plan has been the single most important contribution to my company's survival and success. Planning gets everyone moving in the same direction and provides structure for decision-making.
Now is the perfect time to develop a business plan for 2012.
Rhonda Abrams is president of The Planning Shop and publisher of books for entrepreneurs. Her newest is the 5th edition of The Successful Business Plan: Secrets and Strategies. Register for Rhonda's free newsletter at www.PlanningShop.com and "like" The Planning Shop on Facebook for updates. For an index of her columns, go to smallbiz.usatoday.com. Twitter: twitter.com/RhondaAbrams. Copyright Rhonda Abrams 2011.