Female Apparel Store Owner smiling

Your Guide to Making More Money in 2021

10+ min read • Jan 29, 2021 • Grant Olsen

Sometimes New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap. You know the drill: January 1 arrives and people feel compelled to come up with a challenge that isn’t even realistic. They stick to the goal for about 72 hours, then immediately go back to their old ways.

So if your goal were to watch less television, you’d diligently avoid the tube for 3–4 days. Then you’d realize that your favorite show has a new episode and treat yourself to watching it. Once the final credits roll on that episode, you’d lose all control, finding yourself rewatching the show’s entire season from the earlier year.

If this scenario sounds familiar, there’s no shame in it. We’ve all been therewhich is why we should be as strategic as possible when creating goals. It’s no good to strive for things if we aren’t really set up for success.

The same can be said for your business. Goals (whether they are set on January 1 or August 15 or September 5) are always an important element of your success. In order to reach important milestones, you must identify them. Once you’ve outlined where you want to go, you need to put in the effort to get thereand that requires tracking and reporting.

“Small business owners must set goals to operate and grow a successful business, despite the products or services offered,” says The Balance Small Business. “Business owners must set both short-term and long-term goals that include everything from funding and income to expanding the business and reaching customers. In addition, both short-term and long-term goals must be realistic, specific, and measurable so the business owner can measure success on a monthly and yearly basis.”

Planning for Financial Success

Female store owner looking at product

As you lay out crucial goals for your business, there will undoubtedly be some related to your finances. Making more money is always the dream, as it empowers you to do so many other important things. In a nutshell, when you make more money, you make more possibilities.

Here are some tips to help you make 2021 a year to remember:

Make Your Invoices Accurate and Clear

Let’s start with one of the most direct ways to make more money: asking for it. Many small business owners undercharge on their bills, which leads to less money coming through the door and awkward conversations down the road.

On the other end of the spectrum, it also does you no good to overbill. While you may get a quick jolt to your cash flow, there’s no lasting benefit. Take the time to bill as accurately as possible and you’ll streamline the processand reduce the need for collections and drama on the back end.

Make Your Invoices Helpful

Never rely on prior conversations to carry important information regarding how much is due and when it needs to be paid. Your invoices should contain every possible detail, ensuring that someone who viewed it for the first time, without prior information regarding the transaction, would still understand exactly what is expected.

“Creating invoice policies and sticking to them is a part of the game,” explains business expert John Rampton. “For example, if your last invoice said ‘due in 30’ but the latest invoice states ‘due on receipt,’ then clients may feel rushed and confused. Don’t surprise your clients with things like fluctuating due dates or having no tax on one invoice but tax on another. If for some reason you must make a change, then inform them before sending the invoice. This is a common courtesy that shows you’re both a professional and considerate individual.”

It’s not enough simply to tell people that they owe you money—even with the purest of intentions, they’ll often forget to make a prompt payment. When you reach an invoicing deadline, be sure to reach out with a helpful reminder. If the payment still doesn’t materialize, continue your correspondence. Persistent reminders are often the only difference between late payment and nonpayment.

Increase Your Payment Accessibility

You want to get paid, right? Then never allow obstacles to get between your debtors and their ability to send you money.

To make life easier for your customers and payers, set up your business to accept every major form of electronic payments. Overstock.com and other select retailers actually accept Bitcoin, but there’s no reason to take it that far. Just make sure that you can accommodate nearly any legitimate payment method that your target audience would attempt to use.

Leverage the Power of Customer Service

A powerful way to spur more sales is to deliver a better experience to shoppersand your customer service is the frontline where this happens on a daily basis.

“Customer service isn’t just about being courteous to your customers—it’s a vital element of business operations that can impact your bottom line and affect how your company is viewed in the public eye,” says business tech guru Lisa McQuerrey. “Several high-profile companies have been in the news of late, finding themselves in the spotlight because of poor customer service policies. The good news is, it’s relatively simple to implement a customer service improvement plan that keeps your business on top.”

Your service should distinguish your brand, which in turn will lead to more sales. Customers are loyal to businesses that treat them with respect and elevate their shopping experience. These kinds of positive experiences also make them more likely to refer your business to friends and family.

When issues arise, act fast to seek out resolutions. The longer you let complaints fester, the larger they become. You’ll be surprised how often you can diffuse anger with a sincere apology—and every time you bring peace to a tense situation is likely a scathing review dodged.

Mind Your Reviews

Speaking of reviews, you’d better be actively responding to what people are saying about your business online. A glowing review is pure gold and should be showcased on your website and social channels. Be sure to comment on the review, thanking the individual for sharing their thoughts on your business. Everyone expects a business to respond to the negative reviews, but it’s a sign of a great brand when every review warrants an authentic reaction.

Modern consumers rely on reviews for nearly every type of purchase. The number of reviews actually matters as much, or more, than the content of the review. So you should make it easy for your customers to leave feedback.

“Researchers at the Association for Psychological Science tasked 120 adults who were comparing pairs of phone cases on Amazon and found the participants routinely picked the phone case with the most reviews—even if the ratings for both products were low,” says a business report from MarketWatch. “The researchers repeated the experiment, following the same design and procedure, and produced similar results. The study concluded that consumers see products with more reviews as being more popular, and they’re more comfortable having what everyone else is having, regardless of quality.”

With 97% of consumers reporting that they base their buying behaviors on reviews, you’d better be nurturing reviews as much as possible. And when negative opinions arise, reach out to the reviewer with humility. There might be times when the review seems unfair and it’s valid to offer your perspective. But you should always avoid a mudslinging argument on the internet’s public forums. Your goal is to show how personal and authentic your business is.

Extend Your Personalization to Your Advertising

Store owner shows customer jeans

Just as consumers want to connect with you thorough reviews, they also want that personal touch to come through in your advertising. Generic ads simply won’t move the needle in this modern world of business touchpoints.

According to research, 80% of shoppers say that they’re more likely to choose the businesses that promote a personalized experience for them. You can do this by targeting your ads and segmenting your emails.

Here’s a litmus test you can apply to your next piece of advertising: read the messaging and then ask yourself if it applies equally to a retiree in Florida and a college student in Oregon. If the answer is yes, you’re the proud owner of an overly generic message. Work on rewriting it until there’s a profound meaning that’ll come through for your target audience.

This same principle applies to the photography you use in your branding and marketing. Certain stock photo models seem to appear in ads for nearly every business out there. Their poses almost always involve their arms crossed confidently across their chests, their perfect smiles beaming for all the world to see.

There’s nothing wrong with crossing your arms in a photo, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with a beautiful smile. But you should look past these common choices for stock photos and seek out images that represent the nuances of your audience and reflect your brand.

Take Care of Your Employees

It’s easy for small business owners to find themselves focusing their energy and headspace on customersbut we also need to pay attention to our own people. First of all, employees deserve to be treated with respect. Second, doing so brings a wide array of benefits. When your employees are content, they’re as much as 12% more productive, which helps to make your customers happier.

“No matter how great your product or how brilliant your idea, if no one is buying it, your business will fail,” says HR consultant Susan M. Heathfield. “A study…found that customers’ loyalty increased when employees were happy and engaged. Think about how you feel when you must meet with a person who is unhappy and doesn’t like their job. This attitude makes the meeting tedious and unpleasant. If the salesperson or account manager is genuinely cheerful and pleasant, you may find that you are looking forward to the meeting. When a customer wants to work with your business, you will find that they are more likely to purchase your products.”

If you’re unsure of how to keep your people happy, sit down and ask them. A candid conversation is a great way to learn their motivations and create an engagement plan.

Make Sure Your Brand Content Is Fresh

People often talk about Google’s mysterious algorithms and ominous-sounding “spiders” as though they’re impossible to understand. Yes, there are secretive aspectsbut one of the main ways that Google decides rankings is relevancy. So the algorithms are actually just like us: they prefer content that’s timely and connected to our interests. When your business creates quality content that’s relevant to your audience, it simultaneously boosts audience engagement and your rankings.

“Regardless of the type of content you choose, remember that all of your content should be relevant, interesting, actionable, and informative,” says The Balance Small Business. “And it should be consistent. That means you need to set a schedule for creating new content on a regular basis and stick with it. For some businesses and some types of content, this may mean every day, while for others it may mean once a week or even once a month. Take time to figure out what is realistic early in the process.” 

Don’t focus all your efforts solely on a certain section of your website or specific social channelyou should consistently update all areas of your business’s web presence. If there’s a social channel that doesn’t seem worthwhile to maintain, maybe you should reconsider why you have it in the first place. It hurts your business to have blogs or webpages that haven’t been updated since November 2019.

A great strategy is to create compelling content for your blog, then promote that content on your social channels and website. In this way, you can streamline your efforts and get the maximum impact from your hard work on the blog.

Announce a Contest

Two workers shopping

It’s an indisputable fact that people love winning things. Surgeons who make 7 figures a year still anxiously line up to spin a wheel for prizes like yo-yos and stress balls at healthcare conventions. Regardless of the value of the prize, it’s a thrill to hear your name announced as the winner.

Your business should create an exciting contest that resonates with your target audience. Don’t just give away 1 prizeit’s almost always better to split the budget amongst multiple prizes so that people will be more motivated to participate.

When done correctly, your contest can help to drive sales. Perhaps you use the contest to launch a new product, or it could simply drive engagement during a slow season. Whatever your strategy, just make sure it’s fun enough to get people talking.

Talk Like an Expert

A good friend once said that any person can become a guru on any topic they desire. To prove his point, he shared numerous videos of himself being interviewed on national and international news programs during the Tour de France.

“I really like cycling,” he said. “But it’s not like I know that much more about it than any other fan of the tour. I just put my name out there as someone worth talking to, and the interview requests started to trickle in. Now I get interviewed every year and am considered an expert on it.”

How exactly do you go about establishing yourself as a subject matter expert? Start by creating an account with Help a Reporter Out. This platform connects reporters from top news agencies with people who know what they’re talking about. As a business owner, you obviously have experience and skills in your fieldso don’t neglect this chance to showcase your talents and draw new customers to your business.

Another way to reach new audiences with your expertise is through tutorials and other helpful digital content. For example, you could create YouTube videos that show how to use your products and offer insights into common questions related to your industry.

Putting Your Ideas Into Money-Making Practice

Store Owner and her two assistants

This list of money-making strategies is far from comprehensive—there are hundreds of quality ideas that would be a perfect fit for your business goals. Nor should you assume that all the things shared here would work for your specific business because it all comes down to your unique brand and business model.

But there are absolutely some ideas in this guide that could yield strong results for your business. Make a list of the top contenders and then create a timeline for implementing them in 2021. Whether you try 4 new strategies or 44 doesn’t matter as much as choosing the right option and implementing it successfully.

Your secret weapon in these experiments will always be tracking. Ensure that you have a plan in place to keep tabs on the results of your new strategies. If they aren’t working, look for ways to refine your approach. When positive results are still elusive, don’t hesitate to discontinue the idea and move on to the next.

It’s truly fulfilling to see a new strategy take flight. And if you dedicate 2021 to helping your business make more money, you’ll experience this phenomenon again and again!

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Grant Olsen

Grant Olsen is a writer specializing in small business loans, leadership skills, and growth strategies. He is a contributing writer for KSL 5 TV, where his articles have generated more than 6 million page views, and has been featured on FitSmallBusiness.com and ModernHealthcare.com. Grant is also the author of the book "Rhino Trouble." He has a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University.