A Small Business Owners Guide to Setting Meaningful Goals  

You’ve spent time and energy growing your business. When it comes to work, you cross one finish line after another. Sure, you get a daily sense of accomplishment, but you can also hit “the arrival fallacy” - where you enter into a state of sadness after reaching a goal. This state can bring you to a halt.   So, what’s the solution?   Luckily, you can avoid this state and feel the motivation to keep going! The secret is in continuous goals that get you excited about your business and bring meaning to your life.    

Effective goals help you focus on what’s important - your desired result/achievement.   Consider this: When you have goals you are achieving. When you have no goals you are merely operating.

What do you want to achieve in the future?

Most small business owners think about goals only in terms of the numbers: more sales, more customers, more money. That's okay if numbers are what motivate you. But what if you want a more fulfilling and rewarding business life? How do you set meaningful goals - the kind that makes you want to jump out of bed each morning?   Try these strategies:  

  1. Think about what’s important to you. Go beyond business: what work/life balance do you want to have?
  2. Consider: family, community life, service, spirituality, fitness
  3. How can you shape your business so that it supports your work/life balance desires? What’s your objective? For your best results, the objective should be inspirational, ambitious, and qualitative. It should describe an outcome that you look forward to with excitement.
  4. Think about your business plan. How can your business best support the lifestyle you want?  
  5. Consider both your immediate and long-term goals.
  6. Use measurable benchmarks (“key results”) to track progress towards each goal. Key results are measurable and quantitative. The key results are the specific, measurable part of the goal-setting - the steps that make things achievable. What key results will you need to hit in order to achieve your inspirational objectives?
  7. Set 3-4 measurable results based on growth, performance, revenue, or engagement. How can you bring that into your daily, weekly and monthly routine/activities? What tasks need to be done on the micro scale?
  8. Make quarterly and annual time deadlines for your key results.  

Ask yourself: what is the one thing you can focus on that will have the biggest impact on your business and on your life? Make a plan to maintain this focus in all aspects of your planning.

Check in with your goals in a timely manner  

Embrace the Process

Setting goals doesn’t have to feel like a chore! Let yourself dream. Imagine your best, most satisfying life. What do you do each day? What would your perfect day be like? What are you feeling? Who are you with? These are your inspirational goals.   Then, determine specific actions you can take that will lead you to these goals.   Lastly, follow your plan and enjoy the results!

Do You Have A Growth Mindset?

Do you have dreams and goals that you haven’t achieved? Are you frustrated and overwhelmed? If so, you’re not alone. Sometimes, it feels like there are a select few people who reach great heights – and then there’s the rest of us.

What separates the people who realize their aspirations from those who always seem to struggle? The difference is that successful people are in control of their thoughts, beliefs, and the way they view the world.

They have mastered the key mindsets essential to success. No one is born with this success-oriented attitude. You can achieve it by uncovering the way you think, mastering new skills and techniques, and taking control of your outlook.

Before you start setting goals for your business, it's important to make sure that you have the right mindset to successfully achieve those goals!

What Is a “Mindset” and How Can It Help?

A mindset is a set of related beliefs that shape how you see the world and function in it. For example, if you have a positive mindset, you focus on the good things and stay optimistic, rather than dwelling on the negative.

Mindset is important because it influences how you act. Your behaviors are based on what you think and believe. We all operate from a certain mindset, even if we’re not aware of it. Mastering these patterns of thought is a matter of choice.

An important thing to remember about mindsets is that they’re learned. You’re not born thinking a certain way, you pick it up from others and from your experiences in the world. This is great news. It means that anyone can purposely transform their mindset.

The Benefits of Having the Right Mindset

Making a mindset shift can have a huge impact on your personal and professional life. Benefits include:

What is a Growth Mindset?

A Growth Mindset is the foundation for all change. Without it, you’ll have difficulty adopting other positive mindsets. If you have a growth mindset, you tend to believe that your talents, intelligence, and skills can be developed through a combination of hard work, effective practice, and guidance from others.

How to Develop a Growth Mindset

Here are 5 ways to build your own growth mindset:

  1. Determine where you are now and where you want to be. Be honest with yourself about your current state of business. Write it down - let your imagination and desires take flight to visualize where you want your business to be.
  2. Be a daily learner. Find people you want to emulate and follow them on social media, subscribe to newsletters and blog posts from people you want to be like. Identify the skills you need to develop in order to achieve your goals and make a commitment to learn that skill.
  3. Step out of your comfort zone. This is hard - very hard - especially when you're already busy doing what you do every day. However, real growth only comes when you find the courage to step out of that comfort zone and do things differently.
  4. Start using time blocks. Growth is an ongoing process and requires regular planning, review, and adaptation. Find an hour or two a week in your schedule where you can be alone and quiet to work on the tasks that will lead to growth for your business.
  5. Persevere. Growth doesn't happen overnight; it takes patience and continued diligence to stay on track. You will probably have bad days or even bad weeks - we all do. Don't spend too much time beating yourself up if you get off track - go back to where you left off and start again!

Mindset = Success

Do you set goals and then wonder why you didn't achieve them? Maybe you have the wrong mindset. Having the right mindset is the first step to finding the success you desire!

You Have To Know Where You're At Right Now To Figure Out Where You're Going

Are you ready to take your business to the next level and watch some explosive growth unfold over the coming months? Great! Before you start to plan what you want to do to make that happen, it’s important to stop and look at where you’re at right now.

Business planning for future success is all about data. You can work most efficiently and spend your time and money most effectively if you know exactly where you are starting from. By recording data, you can start to see what’s working, what isn’t, and what trends are starting to play out. And it all starts with recording where you’re at right now.

Let’s take a look at some of the things you want to record. First though, you should decide how you want to record this information.  You can write it down by hand in a notebook, open up a Word document to do it digitally, or use a spreadsheet. I prefer a spreadsheet because I have the option to have it calculate fun additional information like weekly and monthly averages and even map it all out in graphics to help me get a clearer picture.

How Much Traffic Are You Getting?

To grow you need to expand your reach. That means getting more traffic, but also engaging the people that come to your social media profiles and website by encouraging them to click around and read more. On your social media, you want to keep track of the reach and engagement of your posts, and the analytics of who your followers are. On your website, look at total visitors, unique visitors, bounce rate, and of course where the the traffic is coming from.

The Money Is In Your List

Your next goal is always to get these people on your list. Here you want to track total number of subscribers, conversion rates for each of your opt-in forms and pages, open rates for your emails, and also unsubscribes. As you start to collect and review this data regularly, you’ll get a much better picture of your subscribers.

Who is Buying?

Subscribers are great, customers are better. Start by keeping track of how many total customers you have and how many purchases per day, week, and month. Other good numbers to look at are total lifetime value of your average customer, repeat purchases, and refund rates.

What Do Your Financials Say?

Last but not least, look at your bottom line. This is your typical accounting data. You want to keep track of your income as well as your expenses. With those two sets of numbers, you can easily calculate your overall profit. I find it helpful to look at profit for the month, but track income on a daily basis.

Yes, you can look at most of this data in various different places like Google Analytics, your CRM, and your autoresponder service for example, but it’s important to have it all in one place. This makes it much easier to connect the dots and see the relationships between the different sets of numbers.

What Does All of This Have To Do With Marketing?

The best Marketing Plans are data driven. When you know WHO your customers are - their level of engagement with your business through your social media and website, their buying habits, and the profitability of the products or services that you sell, it is much easier to define the strategies and tactics you will use to replicate your ideal customer into new prospects and customers. You will know what content will most appeal to them, when the best time to communicate with them is, how to reach them cost effectively, and so much more.

Now that you have your initial data collection set up, make it a habit to update the numbers regularly so you can see what’s working, what isn’t, and how much you’re growing as you move through the coming months and years. Let the data drive your marketing decisions, adjust your plan accordingly, and watch your business grow!

To your success ~

Laura

Why Planning Is The Secret To Success For The Coming Year

Do you set aside time regularly to plan what you want to do in your business? If it’s not something you currently do, I strongly encourage you to embrace it for the remainder of this year as well as the one coming up. Setting aside time at the end of the year, to plan out what I want to do and more importantly what growth I want to achieve in the coming year has been crucial to my own success. Once I have a clear picture of what I want to accomplish in my business, it's time to put those goals into a marketing plan that will guide the strategies and tactics that I will use to achieve my goals.

Sounds great, right? It is - but it is also hard. Most of the small business owners I meet don't have either a business plan or a marketing plan, even though they know that they should. Here are a few of the reasons I have heard over the years:

• "I don't have time to focus on my marketing."
• "I'm not sure what to do to get in front of my ideal clients."
• "I'm overwhelmed and struggle to be consistent."
• "I don't know where to start."

All of these marketing challenges can be fixed by creating a plan.

Why Planning Is So Important

Let’s start off by taking a look at why planning is “the secret” to success. There are a few different factors that come into play here. The first is efficiency. When you go in with a clear plan, you can focus on what’s most important. Instead of spending time trying to figure out what you should be working on, what pieces of the puzzle are missing from your sales program, or what you need to do to break through to the next income level, you know exactly what needs to come next.

With a clear goal in mind and a plan for the year, it becomes easy to walk backwards to create effective and efficient daily to-do lists. Work on what needs to get done each day and you will reach your goals.

Get Outside The Box

Next, setting a big goal for yourself helps you think outside the box. If you don’t believe me, try it. Decide on a big income goal for the coming month. Write it down. Keep it in front of you. Then get to work and start to notice what happens next. You start to think of things that didn’t occur to you before. You come up with creative ways to get more traffic. You decide to run a fun promo that adds dollars to your bank account. The same happens when an important deadline comes up unexpectedly. Think back on that time in college when finals rolled around, or the last time your in-laws told you they would stop by later in the day. You got very creative about studying and cleaning respectively.

Planning Is The Key To Business Growth

To put it very simply: A marketing plan is the bridge between where you're at now and where you want to be. Planning and setting goals is important because it helps you grow faster. That means you end up with more time and money for yourself and your loved ones while spending less time slaving away at your desk and wondering what to do next.

Help Is Available

Need some help? Visit the Next Level U Resource Library and download my Marketing Plan Template. Don't want to tackle it alone? Call me at 316-223-1921 or email me ([email protected]) to start a conversation about how I can help you through the process of creating a simple strategy, effective tactics for how your business will accommodate growth, and a set of action steps to get it done. I'll walk you through the whole thing.

To your success ~

Laura

What is a SMART goal?

When making goals, it’s important to learn about the acronym S.M.A.R.T. It can help you make better goals. Each letter stands for a different area of the goal. If you create a smart goal, you have created a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Reasonable, and Timely. Using SMART goals can set you up for success in your goal setting.

S – Stands for SPECIFIC, which means that your goal needs to be spelled out very precisely. Using language that leaves no doubt as to what the goal is, why you want to achieve the goal, and how you will get there is very important. If you are not able to be detailed in your description of the goal, it will be hard to meet it. Take the time to do this part right.

Example: Instead of saying that you want to increase sales, let's say that you want to increase sales 20% by June 30, 2020.

M – Stands for MEASURABLE, which means that you should be able to use this as a metric for which to determine success. If your goal can’t be quantified, then it’s not a full goal and you won’t know how to tell when you’ve succeeded. The SPECIFIC goal in the example above is MEASURABLE: you know where you are now and can easily measure the 20% increase.

A – There are different things that “a” can stand for but it’s usually ACTIONABLE or ACHIEVABLE. The preference to really get something good done is to make your goal actionable, meaning something where you can do something for each day that will eventually result in an accomplished goal. Goals should also be achievable or you will only get frustrated. Be accurate about the time it takes to reach a goal, and what actions it takes to get there. Also, know who will be responsible for doing it. Again using the SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE goal from above, what ACTION will you take today, tomorrow, and the next day to increase your sales by 20%?

R – This can stand for REALISTIC or RELEVANT, and either or both are important and are true. If you want your goal to succeed, it should most certainly be something that is realistic or you will fail. It should also be relevant to your life’s vision and match with your values. It's much more REALISTIC to achieve a 20% increase in sales than to, say, triple your sales in the same period of time.

T – Various authors refer to the “T” in the S.M.A.R.T. acronym as TIME-BOUND, TIMELY, or TRACKABLE. All of these t’s are important parts of the goal creating and setting process. If you don’t set a time limit and you can’t track what is happening, your goal will be hard to quantified or show as achieved. I personally prefer using the word TIME-BOUND for goal setting - having an end date for achieving my goal creates a sense of urgency and keeps me on task. Our example above sets a date for accomplishing the 20% increase in sales.

Whichever words you use to help you craft your goals, the important thing is to set those S.M.A.R.T. goals and work every day to achieve them.

To your success!

Laura

P.S. If you are a small business owner (or want to be one), whether you are just starting out, or have been in business for awhile, I hope you will become part of the Next Level family.  Visit our Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/NextLevelAd) for tips, tools, and resources to help grow your business.  We now have a Facebook Group, Next Level U, for those who are interested in joining a private community of small business owners and marketers.

Build A Business - Not Another Job

Many people dream of working for themselves, being their own boss, and having the freedom to only take on clients and projects they love.

What they don’t realize, though, is that there is a huge difference between building a business and being self-employed.

Business owners scale their income. Self-employed people trade dollars for hours.

Business owners leverage the skills and talents of others. Self-employed people rely only on their own skills.

Discouraged yet? Don’t be. Every business owner started out self-employed. Just don’t stay there. These tips will help you build a sustainable business instead of just another job.

Don’t Try to Do It All Yourself

Building a sustainable business requires that you leverage the talents and time of others. While it might seem cost-effective to simply do everything yourself—especially in the start-up phase when you likely have more time than money—it’s a path to burnout and stress.

Instead, separate your tasks into those that you love and are especially suited for (such as marketing or client services) and those you dislike and aren’t good at (such as bookkeeping). Then make a solid plan to get those that you aren’t good at off your list of things to do. If you feel like you can’t afford to outsource it all right now, start with what you tend to procrastinate the most on, even if it’s just a few hours each month.

Don’t Allow Yourself to Work All the Time

When it's your name on the door, it's hard to walk away at 5:00 or on the weekends when there is always so much more that could be done. For home based businesses, the trouble is that you live at work. And that means that there’s no clear line in the sand between your work day and your home life.

Since there’s always work to do, it’s easy to find yourself working every available moment—often to the detriment of your family relationships, and eventually your health.

You can help avoid this by:

Vacations and Downtime Are Important

Don’t create a business that requires you to be “in the office” every day. At the start, you may need to be available more, but you should definitely be planning for the day when you can be “off the grid” for extended periods of time.

While you might not be able to hit the road with no internet access for weeks at a time, at the very least you should be able to reduce your workload to a daily check-in.

Sound impossible? It’s not. With some forethought and planning, you can create a team—and the systems they need—to successfully run your business without becoming overwhelmed and overworked.

To your success!

Laura

P.S. If you are a small business owner (or want to be one), whether you are just starting out, or have been in business for awhile, I hope you will become part of the Next Level family.  Visit our Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/NextLevelAd) for tips, tools, and resources to help grow your business.  We now have a Facebook Group, Next Level U, for those who are interested in joining a private community of small business owners and marketers.

What's Your Why?

When you first hung out your shingle, you likely were thinking:

These and many, many other thoughts go through the heads of every would-be business owner, and are often the driving force behind that final, “I quit.”

But while they’re great for lighting a fire and inspiring you to make a scary jump to business ownership, they’re not so fabulous at motivating you to grow and improve. They won’t inspire you to increase your skills and raise your rates and be brave and authentic in your marketing. They won’t help you find the courage to hire a new employee or launch a brand new program.

To find the inspiration to make your business thrive, you have to identify the real why behind what you do. If you don't know what drives you, what you own is a job, not a business.

Passionate Whys

“Passion based” is a phrase that’s found a massive following in the past few years, and seems to be the holy grail of entrepreneurial adventures. And for business owners with a true passion for their field, it can be a strong motivator.

Some business owners are passionate about a subject, spending all their waking hours learning about the topic. Some are passionate about a market, and would do anything to help their ideal client achieve his or her goals.

Whichever type of passion-based business owner you are, learning to harness that passion will help take your business to the next level.

Financial Whys

Maybe you want to retire at 40 to travel the world, or send your kids to an elite private school. Maybe you love fast cars, and dream of driving a brand new sports car. Maybe you dream of a lake house. Maybe you are responsible for caring for a parent or other relative.

Whatever your big dream, you knew you’d never make it while putting in time at the day job. While everyone seems to go on and on about those passion-based dreams, the truth is there’s nothing wrong with wanting financial fulfillment. Money is a necessary tool. We need it, and the more we have, the easier life is. And wanting more of it is nothing to be ashamed of, as long as you maintain your integrity and authenticity in pursuit of it.

Philanthropic Whys

Plenty of online business owners go into business so they can have more to give. You’ve no doubt heard of—or maybe even know—marketers who use their earnings to fund mission trips, build schools in war-torn, third world countries, and support a variety of charities at home and abroad. Others use the time freedom they’ve built into their business to volunteer with local hospitals, animal shelters and children’s organizations.

If you have a heart for a cause, a philanthropic why might be the driving force that takes your business to the next level.

To find your own why, consider your biggest dreams. If money were no object, what would you be doing? Don't just think about it - write it down and go after it!

To your success!

Laura

P.S. If you are a small business owner (or want to be one), whether you are just starting out, or have been in business for awhile, I hope you will become part of the Next Level family.  Visit our Facebook page for tips, tools, and resources to help grow your business.  We also have a Facebook Group, Next Level U, for those who are interested in joining a private community of small business owners and marketers.

Build your marketing program as if you were building a house

Building a house is a process – there are specific steps that need to be completed in a specific order to ensure that the house is a solid structure capable of standing up to time, weather, and everyday living.  Building a marketing and advertising program for your small business is very similar – there are four distinct steps that need to be taken so that your business stands up over time.  The good news is that, unlike building a house, you can go back and fix any of the steps in your marketing program you may have missed along the way without the whole thing falling down!  Let’s take a look at each step in the process:

START WITH A GOOD SET OF PLANS

Every small business should have three plans:  a Business Plan, a Marketing Plan (that is separate from your Business Plan), and a Budget.  Unless you are seeking bank or investment funding, these plans do not need to be massive, minutely detailed documents.  They can and should be used as a tool for you, the owner, to lay out your vision for the business, your short and long term goals, the action steps you will need to take in order to achieve your goals, and how much money you will need to allocate toward achieving those goals. 

LAY A SOLID FOUNDATION

A solid foundation for your marketing program includes five (5) elements:  your logo, brand standard, website, social media profiles, and business collaterals. These are the items that make your program stand strong across all of your strategies, campaigns, events, printed materials, media, apparel, and promotional products.  It is your company identity and usually the first impression a prospect has of your company. 

BUILD YOUR FRAMEWORK

Think of your framework as all of the elements you will need to build your house.  Make sure everything you do incorporates your brand and shows your company in the best possible light.  Included in your framework are:

ADD THE FINISHING TOUCHES

Finishing touches are the things that make your house a home, so to speak.  Your house won’t fall down if you don’t have these things, but when you can afford them, you should incorporate them!   Included would be things like promotional products and apparel, but should also include things like your building exterior signage, parking lot and landscaping, your showroom or lobby area (any place that customers are allowed to be in), vehicle graphics, and client gifts.  Incorporate your brand colors and your business personality into these items to further grow your customer and prospect relationships.

Overwhelmed? Don't be! Chances are you already have most of this done - somewhere. Take the time to organize your thoughts, put it in writing, and share it with your team so that everyone is one the same page!

To your success!

Laura

P.S. If you are a small business owner (or want to be one), whether you are just starting out, or have been in business for awhile, I hope you will become part of the Next Level family.  Visit our website (www.marketingforsmallbiz.com) or check out our Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/NextLevelAd) for tips, tools, and resources to help grow your business.  We now have a Facebook Group, Next Level U, for those who are interested in joining a private community of small business owners and marketers.