How to conduct your small business annual review

If you haven’t already thought about what you want your business to achieve in 2022, now is the time to review the past year, so you can plan for next year.

It’s a bit like having your annual performance review when you work for an employer, only you conduct it on your small business. When you run your own business, you need to keep track of so many things, it’s normal for things to sometimes slide. But as we are getting close to the end of 2021, it’s important to be thinking about what your goals will be for next year and how you’re going to achieve that. But you can’t do that until you know how you’ve done this year.

Your business performance review should cover everything your business has been through over the past 12 months and include your successes as well as those not so successful moments.

Look at your 2021 goals

Did you write down your goals last year? If you did, did you achieve what you set out to do?

This is the time to look at both your short term goals for last year – and the more long-term goals to see where you are. You could ask questions such as:

  • What went well in 2021?
  • What challenges did you face?
  • What didn’t go so well?
  • What did you learn from the things that didn’t go so well?
  • Did you learn any new skills or take any courses?
  • How can you repeat the successes you had for next year?
  • How can you avoid any mistakes you made this year?

If you employ anyone, such as VA, it’s time to have a conversation with them and ask them the same questions. You can brainstorm ideas, give, and receive constructive criticism for improvements and come up with a few good goals for 2022.

Look at your business practices

All of us small business owners offer either a service or products to our customers. This is the time to look at how your business practices are working…and if you are aiming all your sales/content etc. to the right audience.

  • Look at your customers. Do you know what your customers’ pain points are? Do you know what your customers’ needs are?
    Once you know this, you can identify how your business is going to provide solutions.
  • Are you giving your customers a good service? If you set your standards high at the beginning of the year, are you still delivering the same standard of service at the end of the year?
  • Are your products or services good value for money?
  • Look at feedback and reviews from your customers so you can identify what products or services were most popular and why.
    If you can identify why a particular product or service is so popular, you can look at how you can replicate that in 2022.

Look at the financials

We all hate looking at our figures, but it’s important to make financial evaluations to determine where you are…if you’re making a profit etc.

Cash flow is the obvious one. You take money in; you pay money out. Sales and expenses are important to understand how you’ve done this year. Compare your sales and expenses to the previous year and see where there are improvements, or losses. Doing this, you’ll be able to have an idea of what you might be able to do next year.

What do you pay out? All businesses must pay out to buy materials, stock, stationery etc. Are you getting the best deals for those items? Have they increased in price this year? Do you need to take that into account for next year? You might need to raise or lower your prices to compensate.

Look at your business insurance. This is often overlooked. Does it cover you for everything you need to be covered for or do you need to have a conversation with your financial adviser?

Are all your relevant licenses and safety certificates up to date?

Expansion – As your business grows, you may have to think about expansion. Do you need to take on an assistant? Do you need bigger premises? Do you need to have a larger stock to cover your increasing client base?

If you are expanding quickly, now is the time to be thinking about employing an accountant ready for those all important, but pain in the wotsit tax returns.

Look at all your social media data

This might seem obvious, but if you’re on social media, it’s really important to look at all your insights for the year. Here are the areas that are worth looking at:

Engagement – yes, you might be getting loads of ‘likes’ on your content, but does it actually get followers to click on your website, or your profile. And do you get sales from those clicks?

You can use this information to help you look at your marketing strategy for next year.

Location – you can see where your followers are from in your insights. We often assume our most engaged followers are local and buy from us. You might be surprised…and if you find you have a following from another country or area, you can customise your content accordingly.

Feedback/Reviews – You will be able to see if any customers have left reviews or feedback on social media, but what about all the other people you’ve sold to this year. If you haven’t had complaints from them, you can assume that they must have been happy with your product or services. You could send out a survey to ask questions about your products or services. If a customer has bought a specific item, ask them what they liked about it. If you put a clause in the survey to say that you can use comments on your website or for promotion – any complimentary reviews you get, you can use. (I still always check if it’s OK to use anyway, but worth including the wording.)

You could offer an incentive to reply, such a 10% off voucher to use in January. This is a brilliant way to get more replies as people just love getting something for nothing – a freebie or money-off voucher.

Take note of any feedback you get and act upon it. If there is a criticism, ask more questions so you can understand what a problem might be – you may be able to solve it simply and quickly with a tweak to your products or services.

Visibility – Where did your customers find you? Did they discover your business on social media? Did they come across you on a Google Search? Was it a personal referral or something else?

This is useful data as you know which areas to work on and you can see which area works best. Every business is different, so what works well for one, won’t work well for another.

Market analysis   

When you first started in business, did you do a business plan or marketing plan? If you did, you will have conducted research into your ideal market. However, this can change so quickly, so it’s always worth including this in your review.

  • This is where you’ll look at your customers’ needs and how you can best serve them. Have your customers’ needs changed since the last time you looked?
  • Look at your existing customers – what do they like/dislike. Is there something they need that you can supply – or do they have a problem that you can solve?

Check out your competitors

This is always worth doing to see what they are up to and how you can compete.

  • Can you offer something unique, that they don’t offer?
  • Is your customer service up to scratch?
  • Look at why your customers choose you over your competitors and make sure you include something around this advantage in your marketing plan for next year.

Celebrate your successes

The point of doing a review is to find out how your business has done against the plans and goals you set. But it’s also important to celebrate all your hard work. Shout about any wins you’ve had and let your customers know how successful your business has been.

You could share the highlights of your year in a social media post for example. Then also give your audience a little teaser about what’s to come in the New Year.

Your 2022 strategy

Once you have completed your 2021 review and have all the data, you’ll be in a better position to know what works well for your business and what doesn’t.

With this in mind, you can now go on to plan your business and marketing strategy for 2022.

If you have some big or challenging goals you want to aim for, why not think about breaking them down into more manageable chunks?

Good luck with your marketing planning and strategy. If you would like a free marketing strategy workbook, that takes you through your marketing plan, step-by-step, please click on the link below and sign up to my monthly marketing tips email. You will receive your free workbook into your inbox.

As always, if you need any help, please feel free to contact me…my inbox is always open.

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