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The small business year-end checklist: New Year’s Resolutions to prepare for 2021

As we start counting down the weeks and days to January 1st, 2021, it’s time to set a New Year’s Resolution or two for your small business.

With so much uncertainty heading into the upcoming year, having attainable and quantifiable goals is a good way to stay motivated. Here are three New Year’s Resolutions you should consider as we sail ahead into 2021 to stay creative, proactive and engaging (note that they all potentially tie into each other):

  1. Form a creative partnership
  2. Secure your website
  3. Engage with customers in new ways

Form a creative partnership

The Beatles once said that we could get by with a little help from our friends, and their words still ring true as we approach 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a lot of change for both people and businesses, and while much of the change in 2020 has been bad, there has been good as well. 

One of the few silver linings of this year is that communities have been compelled to come together. For instance, many small businesses have formed creative partnerships to help each other out while simultaneously addressing pressure points they were already facing due to the pandemic.

As you work on your year-end checklist, think about ways you could work together with other small businesses in your area. 

If you run a store with a physical location, look into local small businesses that focus more on ecommerce and see if there are partnership opportunities there. If your business is completely online, explore ways you could increase brand awareness by connecting with more visible brick-and-mortar businesses. 

Secure your website

Regardless if you’re running a high-end cocktail bar or selling handmade products, the importance of a strong online presence in 2021 has never been more apparent. And although laws related to the pandemic vary from state to state, everyone has been forced to move some (or most) of their livelihoods to the digital world. 

Yet many entrepreneurs put so much energy into their product and relationships with customers that they overlook the importance of running a secure (and legally compliant) website. With privacy laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) coming into effect in 2020, it’s time to ensure your website and the data you store there is safe.

30 year IT veteran Dave McKay explains the term cybersecurity as the process of “keeping the data in and the bad guys out.” With most people working from home today, cybersecurity is a big issue, and small businesses with unsecured websites are susceptible to data (their own and that of their customers) falling into the wrong hands.

Some ways to secure your small business website include:

  1. Using antivirus software and vulnerability scanners to detect problems
  2. Disallowing Google to crawl sensitive pages in your robots.txt file
  3. Getting SSL certification for your website (HTTPS instead of HTTP in your URL is more trusted by both customers and Google)
  4. Having a clear privacy policy that outlines the data your website collects from customers (if you don’t know how online data tracking works, the FTC explains it in plain English)

They wouldn’t be New Year’s Resolutions if they didn’t require a bit of work, right?

Engage with customers in new ways

In 2021, make it your resolution to interact with customers (old and new) in at least one way you’ve never tried before. 

Earlier, we mentioned teaming up with another small business to create or offer something new. But even just getting more active on social media or boosting your outreach efforts could mean a lot to customers who are fatigued and looking for positive outlets at home.

One great method is to create interesting content and publish it online. 

If you have a restaurant, post mouthwatering photos on Instagram and make videos explaining how to cook interesting dishes. If you own a coffee shop, team up with a courier business to deliver beans to customers, and then post Facebook stories every Monday about your top-selling beans of the week.

And if you haven’t gotten into the SEO basics, it’s time to start. Look into the terms people type into Google when looking for things related to your products (you can try using a tool like Semrush which provides 10 free keyword checks each day). Once you’ve narrowed some down, write specific blog posts addressing different needs and questions these potential customers have.

If you create great content (particularly videos, images, and blog posts), Google, and eventually your customers, will find it.

What’s your New Year’s Resolution?

People miss normalcy, but even with hopes for a vaccine looking up, the new normal is here to stay for now. Prepare yourself and your small business for 2021 with strong New Year’s Resolutions. Be:

  1. Creative (working with other business owners)
  2. Proactive (protecting your online assets before they become a liability) 
  3. Engaging (your customers want to engage, the ball is in your court to drive that engagement)

Check out more resources on OpenWeStand.org for additional guidance and strategies as we wrap up 2020 and head into the new year.