I’ve had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of entrepreneurs about their goals and ideas for the upcoming year and there are common struggles between all of us that all relate to the following five areas.

1. Know Your Ideal Customers
The expression is that if you try to serve everyone, you end up delighting no one. From the one-person shop owner selling crocheted baby items out of her basement to the CEO of a multi six or seven figure business, if you aren’t clear on who exactly you’re helping, reaching your goals is going to be challenging, if not completely impossible. An exercise I offer my clients to figure out their ideal target client audience is to think about you current customer base. Do you have experiences that have stuck out in your head? What made that experience or that client better? Make a list of the traits you enjoyed about that experience – Did they operate with a certain work style? Were they heavily involved in the process or did they rely on your expertise to get the job done? How far along were they in the development of their own business?

It’s important to have a visual of what your ideal client looks like. If you’re a visual person, scan Pinterest or magazines to create a picture of this person in your head, Marketing giants like HubSpot recommend giving your targeted audience (or buyer persona in their terms) a name, a personality, a job, a family… Dig deep and make this person as real as possible in your head. What do they do for fun? Where do they struggle? Think outside of the box – print pictures off and hang it on a vision board so that you see your targeted audience every time you create a piece of content. Once you know exactly who you are helping and why, your online marketing strategy will become that much easier to grow.

2. Understand Your Performance Indicators
I just finished reading the book “Crush It” by THE Gary Vaynerchuk. (READ IT if you haven’t yet.) In one chapter of the book, he basically says “screw the metrics”. Forget the analytics. If you want your business to grow, stop being hung up on the numbers.” Reading this was a bit ironic for me because two weeks ago, I was considering basing my entire business on teaching people how to study and learn from their analytics.. it was a bit of a pivotal moment in my business. That being said… sure, don’t focus all your efforts on your stats and metrics, but don’t completely ignore them. Don’t obsess over your stats, but understand them. Look at your Google Analytics (PLEASE please email me at allie@alliebjerk.com if you don’t have analytics on your site and I will personally walk you through installation.), review your Facebook stats, Pinterest stats.. any platform you are actively using for your business is bound to have some level of open rates, usage statistics or performance indicators. Know what they mean, and which ones matter. What is going to lead to more customers for you? Email open rates? Ad click-throughs? Webinar conversions? Study your own successes, look at where they came from, and then optimize the hell out of those channels.

3. Focus on Human to Human Interaction
This one is huge. In an age of businesses to business, business to consumer, business to business to consumer (hey, it happens).. think about what really matters at the end of the day; the humans. Your business wants to reach other businesses? There’s a human behind that business. In an age of constant connection, email in the palm of our hands, mobile and tablet mania, I don’t need to tell you that we are more connected than ever before. As we’ve grown accustomed to this connection with our family, friends, and acquaintances, we expect brands to behave the same. Give your business and your brand a human personality and learn to interact with that persona instead of worrying about getting too personal. (See #1. If someone doesn’t like your brand personality, their not your ideal client. And there are plenty of others out there that WILL connect with your brand personality.)

4. Outsource what you avoid
If you find yourself consistently avoiding certain areas of your business, be it the accounting, the social media, the content creation, whatever, it probably means you don’t really love it. Figure out a way to find someone else to take that off your plate, so that you can focus on the good stuff. All of us have areas of our businesses that we really enjoy and areas that we’d rather avoid. For example, my college education is in graphic design, so I’ve got the tools and the background to create printed design materials, but I always ended up putting off my design tasks for my clients.. After seeing myself do this on a consistent basis, I realized that I was better at building relationships with my customers and understanding their design preferences, then translating that to a contracted graphic designer. By understanding your own strengths and watching which tasks you save for last, you may start to notice patterns. Outsource what you avoid and stop distracting your core genius – this will allow you to work ON your business and not just IN your business.

5. Document Your Process
Save time and understand your process. I saw a huge change in my own business when I streamlined and documented my processes. Not only did it make personnel growth easier, but it saved a lot of time by not recreating the wheel every time I bring on a new client. The easiest way to get started with process creation and documentation is a free tool like Google Docs. Take the time to think through every step you take for different tasks within your business, and type it out in your process documentation – the more detailed, the better. As you review your process going forward, you may be able to add or change details, leading to a more streamlined system, rather than bouncing around and starting over on every project. What systems have you set up in your business that have helped save time?

Alright guys, what changes are you going to go out and make in your businesses? I’d love if you’d drop me an email and tell me about your business and what changes you’re going to make after reading this list.

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