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Article updated: 12/9/2011 11:25 AM

Carve out holiday time to map a successful 2012

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By Jim Kendall

Unless you're in retail, where the next two weeks may be your last chance to make 2011 profitable, it's tempting this time of year to kick back, put your feet up and relax.

Tempting, but maybe not a good idea.

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Instead, carve some time from your shopping and holiday party schedule to get ready for a good business start next year. For example:

• Spend some time with your senior management team, or outside advisers, and review what worked for your business in 2011 -- and what didn't. Make plans to shore up the weak spots and build on the strengths.

• Don't buy into the "everyone's taking time off so I won't make any sales calls before January syndrome." It's true that some contacts will be harder to reach, but it's also true that spending time talking with your best customers and prospects about how you can help them achieve their 2012 goals will be time well spent.

• Take a customer view of the products, or services, you're selling. Do they need freshening? A new approach to even longtime successful services can make your business look contemporary and aggressive.

• Although recessions hurt many businesses, downturns also turn up some growth opportunities. Could you roll out a new product to fill a hole? Can you fill a marketplace gap by buying a competitor?

• Think about financing. Assuming you've tapped out family and friends, talk to your accountant about private investors. Look for angels. Even be friendly to your banker.

• Review staffing needs. Do you have the right people in the right positions, either on the shop floor or in the management suite? Would some specialized training help? Local and industry job centers remain a good source of the formerly employed; you might find skills and experience that will fit your needs.

• If you haven't done so, put together an email marketing list that you can use next year for e-newsletters, coupons and other marketing-sales messages. Cover the opt-in provisions by asking customers, prospects, referral sources and others you want to reach for their email addresses "so I can keep you up to date on the exciting things we'll be doing next year."

Don't waste time or dollars on purchased e-lists.

• Even if you already use social media, review the options at LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Think about a class or two to get things going to fill any knowledge gaps. First, of course, make some decisions about whether social media will benefit your company.

Revisit that decision in the summer.

• Start thinking about an exit strategy, even if you've just started up. If your new business clicks, it may be salable. Know what you'd want if you're offered the chance to "put our two businesses together."

•Jim Kendall welcomes comments at JKendall@121MarketingResources.com.

© 2011 121 Marketing Resources Inc.

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