19 New Year’s Resolutions for Small Businesses to Make in 2019
Phew. It’s been a busy year. We’ve seen the launch of three new iPhones, celebrity makeups (and breakups) plus net neutrality debates, the rise of women in tech, everything Elon (i.e. Tesla drama and SpaceX’s history-making launch), polarizing politics, another Royal Wedding, growing 5G hype, epic sports wins for the Warriors, Capitals, Eales, the U.S Curling team, and Simone Biles, and new pop culture obsessions (here’s looking at you, Avengers, Fortnite and Queer Eye). And hey, DreamHost turned 21! #OfficiallyLegal
Cheers, 2018. Thanks for the memories.
But now, letting bygones be bygones, we’re ready to ring in 2019 with a bang, starting with some high-powered business goals. What are you resolving to do in the new year? Forget running a marathon or writing a novel. (Okay, those are definitely worthwhile goals, too.) But this year, we want you to commit to taking your small business to the next level — and actually reach your goal. Here are 19 ways you can resolve to build a better, more flourishing business in 2019.
1. Build a Website
The fact of the matter is, if you’re running a business in the 21st century, you need an online presence. Even with your endless list of small business to-dos, prioritizing the presence of your own web content is critical. Web users need to be able to find and connect with you virtually — that fact is elementary, Watson.
But building a website to showcase your business doesn’t have to be a complicated or an expert-level-only endeavor. (And the how-to aspects of creating a website don’t have to keep you up at night!) Any small business can — and should — have a website. Start with a game plan and determine your goals, then dig into the necessary technical tasks:
- Want a blog that’s low maintenance (hey, we so get it — you have enough to do!).
- Prefer to leave it to the experts? DreamHost makes it easy to get a custom designed website.
- If you want some autonomy, but still need some hand-holding, you can get a simple — but snazzy — WordPress site up and running in a jiffy.
The best part? You can usually get a great-looking, functional website in less time than it takes to finish a Netflix episode. Boo-yah.
With a website, you’re reaching people even when you’re asleep — meaning, your business isn’t limited to a brick-and-mortar location. Your site will help you to build your brand and connect with audiences.
Don’t forget: when creating your site, make sure to back things up.
2. Be Social
Sure, it’s good to get out and socialize (and seek new networking opportunities, perhaps?), but the kind of social activity we mean is mainly virtual.
Engaging with audiences on social media is essential to getting your business seen, building your brand, and developing a loyal following. Plus, plugging into social platforms gives you new ways to connect and promote your website.
Not yet fluent in the social jargon of snaps, double-taps, tweets, and apps? We’ve got a few social tips and tricks for your hard-working small business, like advice on writing killer captions, curating content, monitoring competitors, harnessing hashtags, marketing with micro-influencers, and showcasing your brand’s voice. Plus, we’ll ease your mind about biting off more social than you can chew (hint: you don’t have to use all the platforms).
3. Write a Blog
Believe us, blogging is not a thing of the past. Creating your own content on a personal or business blog is still a powerful means of engaging and providing value to consumers, building your brand, and growing your business. Remember the oft-quoted adage: content is king? We’ll even put our own touch on it: we’ll go so far as to say that content is the Beyonce of the internet. Read: The Queen, capital Q. That fact hasn’t changed, no matter the landscape of the internet.
4. Rank Higher Through SEO
Obviously, one of your main goals as a small business is to grow your business. That means you need to start attracting audiences. Promoting your blog on social media and producing great content aren’t the only tactics you need to get found by your target audiences. It’s essential that you prime your site for high ranking in search engines. You need to rank high if you want sales: 61 percent of internet users do research on a product online before making a purchase, but 75 percent of people never scroll past the first page of search engines.
To grow your business, you need to start implementing strategies to drive traffic to your site — SEO is one of the most effective ways to rank higher in search engines and increase visibility.
5. Get Mobile-Friendly
Okay, so maybe we’re a broken record on this topic. But, seriously. If you aren’t optimizing your site for use on mobile devices (more than 90 percent of small biz owners aren’t), you’re seriously harming your business.
It’s true. Forty-eight percent of mobile users who visited a website that wasn’t optimized for mobile believed the company didn’t care about their business. Ouch.
Mobile rules e-commerce: Sixty-six percent of online shopping time is being consumed on smartphones, and that number seems only to be increasing with each year. Not only are consumers using smartphones to search (more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the U.S.) and make purchases (70 percent of all mobile searches result in action within one hour), but they’re not letting mobile devices out of their sight: 91 percent of American adults have their smartphone within arms reach 24/7.
Taking these numbers into account, you can see that mobile optimization affects nearly every aspect of your business, from brand building to traffic generating, to customer service, to establishing relationships. Plus, Google will not be friendly in its rankings to sites that aren’t optimized for mobile, which harms your SEO, and therefore, your traffic-building efforts. You don’t want that.
Having a website optimized for small screens is a thou-shalt that simply has to be a part of your small biz commandments this year if you want a more successful business.
Start thinking mobile by taking a responsiveness test drive, working on improving your site’s load times, redesigning your site pop-ups, enabling AMPs, and making an app — if that works for your business.
And remember, we’re in this together. The DreamHost team has worked to make mobile website construction E-A-S-Y.
6. Find Your Target Audience
Have you ever taken the time to think about who you’re actually trying to reach with your business?
Instead of broadly and ineffectively casting a wide net, take the time to define your target audiences so that your marketing and other efforts are focused enough to have a real, meaningful effect for your business. Determining exactly who your target markets are — starting with the who, when, how, and why — gives your business the benefit of being able to appeal to those most likely to engage with you. Your business can’t be everything for everyone, so don’t try.
Do the research, identify your niche, and run your business with its target audiences in mind. This focus will give purpose and meaning to every business decision you make — from the design of your site to the kind of content you produce to the way you market that content — and yourself.
Then, once you’ve zeroed in on your target audiences, ask them to do something with your winningest CTAs.
FYI: even with a target audience bullseye in mind, it’s necessary to make your website accessible for all users, including audiences with disabilities, LGBTQ+ groups and those who speak languages other than English. Inclusivity is just good business.
7. Improve Your Email Marketing
Sure, it’s oft’-overlooked if you’re not in a 90s Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks rom-com, but truth be told, email can be very powerful. Especially where marketing is concerned. How powerful?
Well, a whopping 89 percent of marketers say that email is their primary channel for lead generation — and they consistently rank email as the single-most-effective tactic for meeting their awareness, acquisition, conversion, and retention goals. They’ve branded it, fittingly, “the workhorse” and prove your marketing budget should include more $$$ allotted for an invested email strategy. This seemingly-archaic medium (which was predicted to decline, btw) is increasingly relevant — unlike screen names or Myspace pages — for site owners looking to build customer relationships and augment sales.
And marketers aren’t the only ones cheering on Team Email: 72 percent of consumers say email is their favorite method of communication with companies they do business with, and 61 percent say they like to receive promotional emails every week from businesses.
So educate yourself: get the 411 on dodging the spam folder and providing valuable content that customers want to see enter their inboxes. Learn about the types of emails you should be sending your followers, (like the increasingly prevalent email newsletter), work on building your ever-important email list, and start connecting with more of your customers in their inboxes.
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8. Fine Tune Your Customer Service
You probably already know this, but excellent customer service doesn’t just take place from behind a counter anymore. Like most things in the business of the online age, customer service interactions are increasingly transparent and web-based, with virtual-word-of-mouth effects that have the power to make or break your business. In fact, good customer service practices are essential to modern and future businesses: By 2020—less than two years from now—customer service is expected to become more significant than price or product when customers decide who gets their business. No pressure, right?
Let’s raise the stakes a little more. As it turns out, bad customer service does some serious damage to your business. Data evidence shows that 71 percent of consumers — yep, nearly three-quarters of ‘em — have terminated their relationship with a company due to poor customer service. Yikes.
That’s not all. You’re actually helping out your competitors when you don’t prioritize top-notch customer service experiences: 61 percent of customers will take their business to a competitor after a negative customer service experience.
Building strong customer service principles — like professionalism, communication, and active listening — help you to be more profitable, for one. Get this: it’s seven times more expensive to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones, and 58 percent of consumers are willing to spend more on those companies that provide excellent customer service. That makes more than dollars and sense.
What’s more, by providing customers — and those elusive potential buyers — with a killer customer service experience, you’re setting your business up for success: better sales, repeat customers, strong relationships, a distinguished brand reputation, and those coveted five-star reviews. So start putting your best (virtual) face forward by demanding gold-star customer service experiences from your business.
9. Build Your Brand
With the influx of social media and e-businesses, we see the word brand tossed around haphazardly, with an almost amorphous quality. What really is a brand? Why is it so crucial to build one? How can you establish your business’ brand?
Inherent to branding is your business identity: getting seen — and becoming known — by your target audiences. With strong branding, you have the opportunity to become an authority in your field or industry and build loyal customer followings. Think of building your brand awareness as establishing your e-reputation.
Like we talked about with target audiences (see No. 6), your niche — and the brand you ultimately build — determine your business decisions; it impacts the voice, feel, style, and substance of your content and website, and on a more technical level, your operations, management, interactions, and marketing efforts. Think about some of the most popular brands out there: Nike, Disney, Coca-Cola, for example. They all have recognizable and unique brands. You may not be setting your sights on global domination (yet), but these big-wigs prove that building your brand is an crucial to-do for excelling in business.
10. Run A/B Tests
Talk to any experienced web owner and they’ll likely let you in on a little small biz secret: no one gets it right the first time. This applies to multiple aspects of your business (hello, learning curve), but especially your website. A fine-tuned, well-performing site requires time and tweaking to perfect.
You’ll want to regularly run tests on your site to see what is — and what isn’t — working best for your visitors and your bottom line.
This important trial and error process doesn’t have to be overwhelmingly technical; simple A/B testing (aka: the comparison of two variations of a single webpage, design, ad, or other marketing media to determine which version converts more successfully), when strategized, can give you valuable insight on performance to help you adjust and refine the various aspects your website — everything from CTAs to images to copy length. What results is valuable insight that you can analyze to help your site — and ultimately, your business — improve. Three cheers for progress! (That’s what resolutions are all about, right?)
11. Meet Customers in Person
The day and age in which we do business are replete with 21st-century benefits: new and innovative technology, evolving e-commerce landscapes, and the unique opportunity of being able to connect with anyone, anywhere. Talk about living in the iGeneration!
But even with all the technological latest-and-greatest and virtual advancements, the truth is: you need some quality, in-person face time with your customers. Step out from behind your .com and interact with those supporting and championing your small biz.
Work to host meetups, workshops, or even informal get-togethers, and spend time on the ground floor of your brick-and-mortar (if you have one). Express genuine gratitude to customers for their patronage and support, and seek to get to know them. Not only will this boost your customer service rep, but it will give you insight on how to better serve your audiences. In both respects, you’re building a better business. And that’s what 2019 is all about.
12. Get Involved in Your Community
Trust in this knowledge: you have something of value to contribute to your community — whether it be your purely virtual e-community or IRL associations. Get involved and lift your business — and society you live in — together.
Some ideas? Learn from others. Collaborate, crowdfund, pitch in together for noble causes, and share knowledge. Another life- and business-altering effort? Support and champion those on whom the spotlight isn’t often shined — especially women and minorities — and help them to get involved in business and tech, and help your community diversify.
The effects of your efforts will be far-reaching both for your business and the communities you are a part of. We really are all in this together.
13. Research Web Design Trends
As a small business and website owner, you need to stay on top of the trends. No, we’re not talking about the in-season looks gracing the catwalks of NYFW. We mean web design trends.
DYK? Design on the web goes through phases and fads, too. Keep tabs on what’s in style (minimalism and asymmetry, anyone?) and what is sooo 2018 to keep your site relevant, engaging, and looking fresh with a capital F.
Some website design fundamentals are basic and some design to-dos never go out of style, while other design trends vary from year to year. Do your research to stay in the know; then consult your design checklist, channel your inner Chip and Joanna, and build a beautiful — and en vogue — website. Shiplap not required.
14. Create a Staging Site
Like we talked about with goal No. 10, often the best websites take time — and testing — to really get right. Setting up a staging site is a great way to test your site and fix errors — without letting your live site miss a beat (or risking unnecessary or unanticipated downtime).
How does a staging site work? Well, it’s pretty simple.
Also know as a testing or development site, a staging site is a standalone copy of your website (whether that be a blank site or carbon copy of your existing one) that you can use to try out site fixes or changes — like new plugins or themes or bug fixes before implementing them on your live, or public, site. Your staging site is for your eyes and testing purposes only — it’s a private site that only you can access. Staging sites can be offline and stored on a local computer or hosted online but marked as private.
As you can guess, staging sites are beneficial for many reasons. First, it provides you with a safe environment to experiment with site changes before implementing them on your live website. Whether you’re a perfectionist or simply want to improve your website, a staging environment allows you to tweak until you get it just right.
Second, staging sites facilitate the learning process. You’re not going to know everything about WordPress (or whatever CMS you use) right away, so staging sites give you a way to learn as you experiment incorporating plugins, themes, or custom code on the platform. Think of it as your website playground.
Lastly, staging sites provide you with the perfect place to test solutions for bugs and fix any troublesome site errors. You can, of course, maintain and tweak your website on your public site, but live maintenance creates the risk of something on your site breaking, slowing loading times, or causing other interferences in your visitors’ experience on your website. Not ideal.
This year, resolve to simplify and streamline your live website maintenance. Create a staging site to make sure everything on your website is working correctly — and to your liking — before implementing changes to your live site and welcoming traffic to it.
15. Stay Up to Date on Marketing Innovations
Just like design trends (No. 13), marketing tactics are ever-evolving. The small business owners of yesteryear looking to get eyes on their goods weren’t pushing new podcast episodes, managing micro-influencers, or fishing for Facebook likes. Marketing really has come a long way since the early 2000s.
The way you build traffic and promote your content is likely to transform as industries and digital landscapes change, and as your business grows. Plus, things change as marketers are continually discovering new, innovative ways to connect with customers, giving you new opportunities to learn and engage with your audiences. Sometimes these new strategies are merely building off of foundational tried-and-true tactics, like implementing seasonal or niche-related touches onto your current marketing efforts of developing a social media presence, growing and maintaining an email list, advertising, and running a company blog. And other times, they’re completely new approaches to reaching customers — like the recent developments in virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and voice search.
Keeping up with current marketing innovations means doing your research and implementing the latest marketing tactics that make the most sense for your business. Guided by your overall business goals, you can develop an up-to-date marketing strategy that couples the best of old and new marketing innovations.
16. Use PPC Advertising
There really is a lot to small biz advertising, and it can be overwhelming for newbies — and beginner budgets. But promoting your site and attracting audiences through advertising doesn’t have to be overly-complicated — or pricey. This year, give PPC advertising a go. PPC, or pay-per-click, works like this:
A search engine query displays both organic results (the sites that come up because they are relevant based on their keywords, SEO strategy, fresh content, and responsive design) and paid search results. You’ve likely seen this second type of result identified with an “Ad” or “Sponsored” label.
Paid search — as the name suggests — involves dishing out dollars to have your website appear in the sponsored sections of search engine results and corresponding partner sites. Both organic and paid searches appear in search results, just in different locations. PPC allows you to have your website appear in the sponsored/ad results, but the best part? You only pay for it when someone clicks on your ad. With PPC, your business can take advantage of the web’s virtual rush hour of clicks in a wallet-friendly and low-risk way.
17. Try Out Some New Tools
A new year means new opportunities for trying things that are, well, new. The end of one 365 and the beginning of another can motivate you to run, skip, or hop out of your comfort zone and expand your range of skills and knowledge. Start by experimenting with some new tools that help you build your business.
Let’s get some ideas flowing:
- Want to boost your SEO in big ways? Easy. There are tons of tools for that.
- Want to open up your own e-shop? Test out WooCommerce, Shopify, or Magneto. We’ll show you how.
- Are you a WordPress groupie (hey, join the club!) looking to take advantage of the platform’s latest and greatest features? Give Gutenberg a gander.
- Want to become a coding master? We’ve compiled more than seventy tools to help you with that.
- Looking to explore other CMS options? Check out Drupal or Joomla!
Whether you’re learning a new (digital) language, familiarizing yourself with the ins-and-outs of WordPress, or meeting millennials on their turf of a new social networking site, trying out new tools will help you become a more well-rounded and knowledgeable small biz owner — an advantage that’s bound to help you build a better business in 2019.
18. Give Back
Just because you’re a business looking to make $$$ doesn’t mean you can’t also give back to the communities and customers helping you grow — or to those causes that resonate with you personally. Seek out opportunities to flex your business’ philanthropic muscles and give back in meaningful ways — and not just during the holidays.
For our 20th birthday last year, we celebrated by gifting more clean water to the world — with your help! Our joint efforts to bankroll more community-owned clean water projects around the world resulted in a $9,500+ donation. And you know what? Giving back felt good. Really good.
Whether your giving efforts tie into tech or not, joining with your community and offering of your time or substance will not only result in a return of positive juju, but it will give more meaning to your day-to-day work.
19. Subscribe to the DreamHost Blog
In addition to being your hosting gurus, one of our goals (not just this year, but every year) is to provide you with relevant, useful content that helps you reach your small business and website goals. Follow along with us on our DreamHost blog for a continued stream of valuable articles designed to keep you learning and improving your business all year long.
We do it all — for you! We love watching you succeed. In fact, we live for it.
Here’s to a happy, healthy, and business-booming new year!