Get off to a running start in 2012

The first of the year is a great time for reviewing and revising your business model and practices. Make sure 2012 is your most successful year yet and follow these suggestions to perform a business evaluation.

***Review the goals you set at the beginning of 2011 – if you have reached them, congratulations! If not, do you need to change your approach or has the goal evolved?

***Track finances over the past year – did you spend more than expected on one area, less in another – why? Having the proper program or system that allows you to easily track income and expenses makes this process much easier. If you don’t have a suitable system in place, maybe that could be goal #1 for this year.

***Shipping – Have you negotiated your shipping rates and/or assessed your couriers? If you are still using published rates, look into negotiating the best rate available. If you currently use negotiated rates, make sure you are getting the best rate available.

***Sales Performance – Identify your best and worst performing products, there is a lesson to be learned there. Optimize your inventory for maximum profits.

***Marketing Plan – Evaluate your online reputation; are you doing enough to be present in social media circles, do customers view you in a positive light?  Make the most of email campaigns, track their progress over the year and zero in on your best performing promotions. Tweak and adjust PPC campaigns compare to previous year and compare performances. What did you do right, what did you do wrong and what can you do better?

***Business Operations – Did you notice any deficiencies in a particular area of operations? Can you make improvements to the way you handle order processing, inventory or shipping management?

***Review any vendors, suppliers or dropshippers you use and see if new fees and/or rates can be negotiated, or if there are better options for your business.

***Staffing Needs – Even in this market, it can take a long time to find and train the right person. Don’t wait until you are forced into hiring someone quickly – you will probably regret it later.

***Insurance – Good time to review policy rates and coverage and possibly save on premiums or get more for your money.

***Payment processing – The bane of retailers everywhere, credit card processing is a must for e-commerce merchant. Check your current rates, ask colleagues who they use and see what else is out there; you may be able to get a better rate than the one you currently have.

On a final note, be sure to keep an eye on your competition AND on what the “big guys” are doing. Although you probably don’t have their budget, the top internet retailers can be a great resource to see what features and functionalities you need to start adopting in order to stay competitive.

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