May 2012 be your strongest year yet

It’s hard to believe that another year has gone by – don’t know if it’s the same for you but 2011 seems to have flown. As I look back, it’s with real pleasure at how the business has grown, welcoming two fantastic members of staff, and the great campaigns and projects the team at Sarah Hall Consulting has been involved with. From a personal perspective, I feel privileged to have recently been accorded the status of Fellow by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations for my contribution to the industry – a real honour and something I am very proud of, not least because I am the youngest practitioner to have achieved this within the region.

Commercially, launching luxury footwear website, www.swanblanc.com, Indian Street Food provider Dabbawal, cost reduction specialists March ThirtyOne and preparing for the launch of bespoke gift provider, www.a-musing.co.uk has been a real privilege, as has supporting up and coming personal training company, Storm Fitness and the unique and innovative Embleys Estate Agents. Our involvement with the launch of the highly-feted Vivienne Westwood shoe exhibition at The Bowes Museum pretty much made my decade.

Hugely important to us, our retained clients (they know who they are!) have been a joy to work with and I thank each of them wholeheartedly for making work much less like work and more of a pleasure.

Despite all this, looking forward and from keeping abreast of the news, I am aware that (without talking us into a double dip recession), 2012 may well provide us all with its fair share of challenges. So to help ease us in gently, here are a few things I’m already thinking about to try and safeguard my business and that we should perhaps all consider to keep us in shape for the year ahead.

Top 2012 tips

1)    Monitor cash flow

Although the economy may well perk up, general uncertainty is a useful prompt to closely monitor cash flow, review terms, and assess general creditworthiness. Any changes should be clearly communicated both internally and externally to avoid any confusion. A little ongoing effort can save a huge amount of heartache in the long run - after all, you can’t always prevent client issues but this might help nip them in the bud sooner rather than later.

2)    Take care of those that matter

There’s a reason why the Pareto Principle is quoted a lot – you can go far by paying it attention. If 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients, look after those that matter. Exceed expectation wherever possible and you may well find existing customers become ambassadors for you and help bring new business in at a time when it’s much needed (a nice thing to happen, even when it’s not).

3)    Don’t be distracted

When it comes to marketing, work smarter and not harder.  Go back to your business strategy and remind yourself of who your core audiences are. Evaluate all your activity and if necessary, strip back all the nice-to-haves until you can reinstate them. Whatever you do, don’t cost cut where it’s important. This means be true to your brand – don’t move to flimsy stationery or do things that will make you look cheap. Do this and you’re at risk of starting people chatting about the viability of the business – the type of word of mouth you really don’t want!

4)    Invest in growing your reputation

Surprise, surprise, I would say this but you’d be astonished by the number of firms that stop shouting about themselves when times get harder or the perception is they are about to. Sharpen your USP and tell the world clearly and carefully what this is (take advice where necessary) or how else will people know to choose your product or service above any other.

Of course much of this is just best practice and common sense but a reminder from time to time never hurts. Whatever you have planned, I hope 2012 is your best year yet and you fulfil all your greatest ambitions.