Search Engine Optimization – What is it and why is it so important for Small Businesses?

SEO Search Engine Optimization for Small BusinessesThe internet has been around for a while now, and so has Google… Yet, most small businesses have no idea how the internet or Google work, leading to one of the major reasons for business failure in today’s market.

There is no escaping the fact that almost all sales (business and consumer) start with an online search, and this isn’t new. About ten years ago, we used to share a stat that around 50% of sales start with an online search—and this was ten years ago. Since then, that percentage has grown exponentially to 87%, quickly making online search one of the top facilitators for how buyers find and conduct research around items they are looking to purchase. This quite simply means, regardless of your business type, size, or industry, if you do not have a proper online presence or have a key understanding of how online search platforms such as Google work, you are losing business (not a little amount of business, but a lot). There are plenty of businesses that have embraced the internet and online search full-heartedly, making it a core part of their business functionality. As a result, they close a significant amount of business and are thriving where others are failing! Some have even created models where their entire online presence is geared around a touchless sale, allowing customers to find, research, and place orders for their products and services 100% online without ever having to interact with a representative. However, there are still 36% of small businesses that still do not even have a website. And the number of businesses that just have improperly formatted websites or a complete lack of understanding of how Google works, is quite staggering. Why is this the case? Well, it’s a reoccurring theme that comes up in most of our writings but comes down to the lack of understanding of how the internet really works, or just a general resistance to change. In this article, we’ll cover some of the basics of developing an online search presence.

As a starting point, we need to drive home the point that almost all business and consumer purchases start with an online search. Furthermore, when online search is solely used to start the process, there has been a transition to continue to use online search throughout the entire lifecycle of the buying process. Essentially, what this means is once a buyer has locked in on a prospective company, they will continue to conduct research on that company, industry, competition, along with the various product and solutions offerings. Again, this all boils down to the fact that if your business is not focused on online search, you are setting yourself up for failure. The starting point for all these searches and research efforts is Google! Google currently directs 92.81% of all online search traffic, making Google one of the most single important strategies businesses should be focused on from a marketing perspective. The strategy in relationship to Google, is what is commonly referred to as Search Engine Optimization or SEO. Search Engine Optimization is quite honestly a very simple strategy for optimizing your website and online presences to be properly found (or indexed) by Google and showcased in their search results. Although fairly simple in its nature, even bigger Fortune 500 companies do not know how to properly deploy SEO strategies and often get it wrong (Toys R Us pays $5.1 million for Toys.com domain name, forgets to set up 301 redirects).

With all of that said, let’s focus on the basics of Search Engine Optimization:

The very first item to understand is that there are two types of SEO: Paid and Organic… This leads to the biggest myth/issue when it comes to SEO strategy, as many believe the only way to properly rank in Google, is to pay Google. This is not entirely true as Google showcases results that are both paid and organic… Paid results are indicated as “Ads” and typically live in the first few results of a Google search, but then just below are the organic results. Let us break out the difference a bit:

Paid Search: Google Paid Search, has been Google’s bread and butter for revenue generation since the beginning. Essentially, Google allows individuals to bid on very specific keywords, so that their business will be ranked in Google searches. As an example, pull up Google and search “Search Engine Optimization.” The first three or four results in that search with the little “ad” box next to them are all paid results. Each business in this section has paid Google for their ranking… How it works: each keyword essentially has a value associated to it and Google will assess its value on how popular a keyword might be. Keywords that are more popular cost more money… But it doesn’t stop there; Google has created a bidding process around each of these keywords. Meaning, for example, if you wanted to outrank a competitor within Google’s paid search results, all you need to do is outbid them. Then, as people see your results and click on your links, you pay Google… Here is the catch: the minute you stop paying Google, you are completely dropped from their paid placement. The easiest way to think of this concept is renting a billboard on a super busy highway getting your business a lot of attention until your ad is removed… This also has the tendency to get expensive real quick, and remember, you are only renting this space.

Organic Search: Organic Search is the other way Google profiles businesses in their search results. Again, pull up Google and search “Search Engine Optimization.” The results that show up just below those paid ads were 100% free… That’s right, the companies that rank for that term did not pay Google a dime for that placement. What is even better, is unlike paid search where you are dropped the minute you stop paying Google, they maintain those rankings as long as they maintain a higher authority ranking in the eyes of Google… In the simplest of terms: where Paid search is like renting for that placement billboard, Organic search is like owning the placement… But like anything, there is a catch. Organic rankings take effort to properly rank within Google, and in some cases, organically ranking for super popular keywords such as “Search Engine Optimization” are almost impossible for newcomers. Ranking in Google organically doesn’t happen overnight—it takes time and effort combined with the knowledge of how SEO works to build up what Google referrers to as Authority. How Organic Search works is instead of paying Google for placement, Google looks at a series of characteristics of your online presences, and more importantly your website, and compares it to competing websites to determine which keywords you should rank for and where. In this article we will not cover the specifics of how that works, as there are plenty of articles online that cover the specifics of SEO in great detail.

Again, understanding how Google search works is quite honestly one of the most misunderstood aspects of online marketing for any business… If Google is so simple, why is it so misunderstood? Again, it comes down to a lack of understanding of how the internet works and just a general resistance to change, especially in small businesses. However, there is another aspect that comes into place as well: the website development community. When you look at small businesses, they typically have zero knowledge regarding how to develop a website, so they look to website developers to create a site for them with the thinking they know best. Unfortunately this couldn’t be further from the truth as most designers are taught how to develop a site for looks and functionality, but not for Google. It’s not their fault as colleges and other website design courses are historically slow to adapt to change. This results in website design courses that are built around how to develop a website for looks and functionality, not Google Search… Sure, slowly but surely, more colleges are adding Google SEO to the curriculum, but it is too late for a decent amount of the website development population as they are already out in the field building websites… All of this is a long-winded way of saying that most developers (not all), when building out a website for small businesses, build websites for looks and functionality and not Google. What this all boils down to is that the minute most websites publish, they are already at a disadvantage.

All is not lost… Unless you have a Flash-enabled site (Google does not like Flash sites), most existing websites can be modified with little effort to be optimized for Google. And then from there, it just takes time an effort to build up the proper elements that Google looks for to properly rank a website… Again, it just takes time and education to develop a proper SEO strategy. Spend some time searching Google around Search Engine Optimization Strategy or look at our recommendations: https://blog.hubspot.com/, https://moz.com/, and https://searchengineland.com/. This is also something 3SixtySMB can help with… Regardless of how you develop a strategy, it is important to get started sooner and not later! Your business’s future depends on it…

The Importance of Having an Online Digital Presence for Local Small Businesses

Online and Digital PresenceI was reminded the other day of exactly why it is important to have an online digital presence in this day and age… Even though online and digital mediums have been around for more than 20 years, it seems that many local small businesses are still slow to pick up on the trend. We do understand why, as it was not too long ago that all a local small business needed for marketing was a good Yellow Page advertisement, a good direct local mail flyer, and maybe a well-placed radio ad. These worked extremely well for decades… However, from a traditional marketing perspective, times have changed. For example, Yellow Pages have gone from the must have item for every home, to getting thrown in the recycling bin before even making it into the house. Why has this happened? Well, for one, Google has virtually changed the way people look for various goods and services. Looking for an electrician, carpenter, pizza, or even a restaurant? You no longer need to flip through various ads in the Yellow Pages—you can just search directly in Google. Not only will Google pull the most relevant results, but they also pull other various important details regarding these businesses including address, phone number, website, Google, Yelp and Facebook Reviews, Facebook profiles, and other endless information. These elements alone have factored into the demise of the Yellow Pages. Again, this is not a new concept, as this shift has been happening over the past 20 years… In fact, HubSpot’s founders, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, revolutionized how people look at this shift almost 10 years ago when they published their book on Inbound Marketing and founded HubSpot. They haven’t stopped preaching the word around Inbound Marketing since…

This begs the question, why haven’t local small businesses caught up to their times of creating and maintaining an online digital presence? The reasons vary from anything from ownership not accustomed to change, to lack of understanding and education around how a local small business can create and maintain an online digital presence. Regardless of the reason, if a local business wants to continue to be in business for the foreseeable future, they need to embrace going online and digital. Let me share a personal experience to why this matters so much.

Residential construction has historically been one of the industries reliant on Yellow Pages, advertisement flyers, or word of mouth to help run their businesses. Looking back maybe ten years ago, the Yellow Pages alone were enough to keep phones ringing off the hooks… but those times have come and gone. Now it is a feast or famine industry, with some businesses still maintaining a strong revenue stream, while others that have resisted change are failing. When inviting a construction company into your home, people want to ensure that they are inviting someone that they can trust to do quality work in a timely manner. As a result, they tend to do research on these companies before calling… which is what happened with me, and it reminded me why a strong online digital presence is so important. My wife and I are personally looking into having some major work done on our home. Like any household, we receive various local advertisement flyers and ValPaks in the mail. This past week, I decided to take a look and see if there were any businesses we should be considering as part to the process. Interestingly enough, in both the local flyer and ValPak, I found a construction company’s very well-made flyer, advertising the exact service we were looking into having done. However, there was an instant red flag for us: the price. The price on the flyer was too good to be true, but I’ve come to learn to never judge a book by its cover. So we did some digging… Naturally, we started with a Google search and then looked at other resources such as Facebook and Yelp. What we found was beyond a website—they had zero online digital presence. No Google or Yelp reviews, nothing on Angie’s List, not even a Facebook profile. This was a bit concerning, so we took our search one step further creating a post on both Nextdoor.com and Facebook asking if anyone in our community has ever worked with this company. We received no feedback on the business at all. When performing our search, we had been hoping to come across reviews from others who have had a great experience with this contractor, or maybe even a Facebook profile showcasing some of their latest work. We were looking for anything to give us the confidence in their business and that we could welcome them into our home—but nothing. As result, I moved on to the next candidate on the list.

Therein lies the problem for small businesses today. If you are not working on building an online digital presence, you are guaranteed to lose revenue to competition… Interestingly enough, while searching for information on this particular construction company, I stumbled upon several other businesses with fantastic online presence, and they were the ones that received a phone call.

Websites are not enough anymore, especially for local small businesses. Building an online digital presence isn’t entirely that difficult, and in most cases, has a zero-dollar investment to get started; it just takes effort and time. We’ve actually been writing about various tactics to improving one’s online digital presence… Here are a few recent articles to help you get started:

We also recognize that creating a strategy to develop or improve your online digital presence is easier said than done… 3SixtySMB is happy to help. Through our 3SixtyAssessments, we will not only evaluate your current online digital presence state, but we will also provide actionable recommendations to developing your own strategy. Feel free to contact us directly via 3sixtysmb@3sixtysmb.com if you need help. As always, we welcome comments or questions below in the comments section of this article. Again, if you have been resistant to adopting an online digital strategy, and you don’t act fast, you could be risking the future of your business.

 

The Industry and Technology are Killing the Industry, not Millennials

Millennials are killingThere is a fundamental shift in consumer-driven businesses that has been emerging over the past few years, and it’s shaking up industries and businesses that once stood as giants for decades. Almost daily, an industry giant is either declaring bankruptcy, layoffs, closing locations, or reporting yet another quarter of subpar numbers. The writing is on the wall…. Yet, most industry leaders are refusing to accept reality. Instead, they choose to blame millennials for their demise… Along with these bankruptcies, layoffs, and store closings, we also see newly published articles regarding how “millennials” are completely decimating industries, businesses, and traditions that have stood the test of time. Here’s the thing: are millennials really to blame? We think not… We are believers that the industry and businesses themselves are the cause of their ow demise—not millennials, or any age group, for that matter.

Let’s elaborate on what we mean by that… The reality is that a majority of businesses are failing to recognize the changing time and focusing on “business as usual”. Looking back on twenty years ago during downtimes, “business as usual” typically meant finding areas of cutting cost to increase margins or creating a few more marketing promotions with the hopes of increasing sales just enough to ride out the lulls in the economy. Those strategies typically worked for most businesses because, looking back at those times, there were only so many places to shop, eat, or consume entertainment. Each industry essentially had a handful of businesses that monopolized their respective industries, which lead to their economic ebbs and flows with the economy. At those times, there were only so many places consumers could spend their money… Great for businesses in those days, right? Here lies the problem—most executive leaders within long-established consumer-oriented businesses are continuing to run their businesses as if it was the 1980s or 90s. However, the market has drastically changed since then. First, in the age of technology and consumer preferences, the 80s & 90s were essentially a 100 years ago. A very millennial statement, but here’s the reality: the market is truly changing at the speed of light, and even looking five years back has shown drastic changes in both technology and consumers preferences. Technology has enabled consumers to essentially have the knowledge of the internet at their fingertips, and forward-thinking businesses have capitalized on this fact enabling an “On-Demand Economy”. Technology has also enabled almost anyone to start up their own online business with the same technological capabilities of a multimillion-dollar business. Never mind the fact that a small startup with a little knowledge of how Search Engine Marketing works can easily outrank a multimillion-dollar organization in a matter of weeks by using the right Google industry keywords. Technology and increased competition are the real reasons these consumer-facing industries are struggling, not millennials… Businesses just can’t cut cost and rely on a few promotions to ride out the lulls anymore, as competition is all too eager to steal that business away. 

While corporations are looking at their calculators, small businesses & startups are focusing on

  • Creating a digital marketing strategy to essentially make the big brands completely irrelevant online.
  • Providing consumers with exactly what they need in the easiest way possible.
  • Creating flexible pricing and packages that match what consumers really want, not finding ways to charge more for the same (or lesser) service
  • Providing value for free when others want to charge for it.
  • Increasing quality, not cutting it.
  • Working on loyalty reward programs that actually provide real value and rewards

When you begin to peel back the layers of the onion, millennials almost have nothing to do with the demise of these industries and businesses at all… Failure lies solely on their shoulders. Let’s take for example Sears… Sears was once an industry giant that had stood for more than 100 years, and for a majority of the time in business, they were the gold standard in retail. In their early days, when obtaining certain items for the general population was almost impossible, they created a first-of-its-kind catalogue of thousands of items that could be delivered to your front door. Then in the 1960s when consumer need for faster access to consumable goods became more prevalent, it led to the blossoming business of malls and Sears was quick to capitalize. Looking back to the 1980s, there probably wasn’t a mall in the country without a Sears taking up some major real-estate. As Sears grew, they made investments in Craftsman tools, DieHard batteries, Kenmore appliances, and others. All of this led to Sears being a formidable industry giant, and they enjoyed that success for decades… However, in the early 90s, Sears decided to focus more on cost-cutting metrics instead of innovation. We called attention to this in another article. As an example, in January 1993, Sears announced the closing of the catalogue, eliminating 50,000 jobs as they didn’t see a market in delivering items directly to consumers’ front doors, and keeping that business running was “too expensive”. Interestingly enough, in July of 1994, Amazon was born, which ended up being a company that could deliver items directly to consumers’ front doors. Yes, really, had Sears thought about where technology was going like Amazon did, they literally could have been the Amazon of today. However, Sears’s cost-cutting didn’t stop there, and for thirty years now Sears has been focusing on cost-saving metrics across the board… Anyone that has been at a Sears in the past few years has come across stores in disrepair, sub-par inventory levels, long lines, and employees that generally don’t seem to care. It’s no surprise that Sears is now closing stores almost daily and in bankruptcy litigation.

However, on the flip slide, you have Target, Best Buy, Walmart and others all seeing great success in today’s tough economy. The reason why is simple: they have all been focusing on innovation, bringing choices and convenience to the consumer. Best Buy, from the beginning, has strived to have a strong ecommerce presence, becoming one of the first big-box retail organizations to have a true website with online purchasing availability. They were also one of the primary innovators of ecommerce purchasing with in-store pickups. Target has focused on innovative payment methods, allowing consumers to skip the line and pay for items in the aisle instead. Target also recently launched a new program to use local stores as virtual ecommerce warehouses decreasing overhead while speeding up the entire delivery process to consumers. Walmart recently announced strong revenues directly related to curbside pickup… These are just a few areas of innovation that has allowed other big-box retailers to stay on top. In contrast, Sears has attempted nothing even remotely close to these innovative methods to save their business.

However, big companies are also not the only businesses thriving. In fact, only 53 companies have been on the Fortune 500 since 1955, including 17 newcomers to the list in 2018. Companies such as Uber, Yelp, Spotify, DoorDash, Zapos, Salesforce.com, Amazon, Facebook, Google were all startups less than twenty years ago. They are not alone; almost daily, a new startup comes from almost nowhere to be a new industry-leading giant… The reality of the whole situation is that millennials are not killing industries… The big-business thinking of yesteryear is.  We’re in a climate where most of the consumer industries that are in the midst of major shake-ups, such as Retail, Cable, General Medical Care, Transportation, Food, and Entertainment, are all struggling… Each are struggling with their own issues of conducting business as if it was still the 1980s or 90s while pointing fingers at millennials for their changing buying habits and lack of brand loyalty. Here is the reality—they are doing it to themselves for all the reasons listed earlier in this article, and it is up to them to recognize the writing on the wall. However, we are in favor of the small businesses and startups! 

CRM The Equivalent Of A Paperweight In Small Businesses

How to Improve CRM Usage

A few months back, we wrote on the importance of a CRM in a small business, but still, we frequently come across executive leadership that is frustrated with their staff’s inability to properly use the tool (or use it at all in some cases), making CRM the software equivalent of a paperweight in many organizations. We understand the frustration, as with most software purchases, CRM comes with significant time and financial investments along with the best intentions in mind for helping a business become more efficient. Yet, regardless of how hard management pushes, usage is essentially zero for many organizations. But, why? In this article, we’ll review some of the reasons why one of the most important tools in any business goes unused and ways to increase overall adoption.

Let’s first start with a few reasons your team might not be using the system:

Lack of Management Use – That’s right: they learned it from watching you. At times, we do see various teams making an honest effort to use the CRM tools in the way they are meant to be used. However, over time, the team has begun to notice the management team’s lack of use. The question of, “Why bother?” then comes into play. As an example, a core use of CRM is around sales pipeline management, but what is the point of keeping a CRM updated when sales leadership continues to run around asking reps for pipeline updates via email, scratch sheets, or Excel spreadsheets instead of running reports with the exact same information from the CRM? Over time, they start to realize there is no value to keeping their CRMs updated because management certainly isn’t using it. Why take the time to update a system when you’re only going to be asked to provide the exact same information via Excel or some other method?

Other Departments’ Lack of Use – We’ve previously talked about the benefits of interdepartmental use of a CRM. When a CRM is not at the core of a team’s daily job function, it becomes less important, and as a result, the usage drops. We recommend that all departments integrate capabilities for their job functions inside the CRM… This means Sales, Marketing, Support, and Finance all need to have critical job functions built into the CRM. Without this integrated functionality, your team will be relying on direct interdepartmental communication for simple client information… The end result is having, for example, customer support or finance continuously pinging the sales department for simple client information… information that should already be in a CRM. Over time, teams start to realize there is almost no point to having that information in the CRM because no one is actually using it, and again, what is the point of all that extra time and effort keeping information updated?

Lack of Proper Functionality – Great CRMs that are properly set up can allow sales and any other department to complete their daily tasks effectively and efficiently. However, out-of-the-box CRMs are inherently generic, and they take some time and effort to customize to make them useful for your business. However, increasingly, we find that when organizations deploy their CRM, they are deployed with zero customization. This results in a generic setup of the tool that doesn’t match the functions of the various teams or business which makes the tool difficult to use… On the flipside, we’ve also seen when management has over-engineered their CRM instance, creating an over-complicated beast of a software solution. This typically results in what management may think of as a “work of art” but is really an extremely complex, inefficient, and painful system to use.

Lack of Usage Visibility ¬ – This kind of goes in line with some of the above, but it needs to be called out… When you have people putting time and effort into properly managing their CRM worlds, yet it goes completely unnoticed, then why bother?

Lack of Accountability – You have two reps: one has their CRM in tip-top shape and constantly up-to-date, and another one that barely uses it and management never seems to care. What do you think is going to happen over time?

Mentioned here are just a few but critical examples of why we see a lack of CRM usage in small businesses. Again, most are truly aligned around the lack of visibility and usage from the management level down to the various departments within a business, leading to the “why bother?” mentality… However, all is not lost as there are tactics that can easily be deployed in any business to increase overall usage. Here are a few:

Complete Management Usage – It starts from the top down. Management needs to start using CRM immediately and continue to use it without exception. You’ll quickly find that once management begins pulling reports and pipeline updates straight out of their CRMs during meetings, within the first few meetings, everyone’s CRMs will be up-to-date as no one wants to be the one with missing or out-of-date information when reports are being reviewed in front of management or their peers. Furthermore, it is important to continuously use it… CRM usage needs to become a habit, and there is a bit of a routine adjustment to using it regularly. All too often, we see executive leadership get on a “CRM kick” for a month or so, only to have them go back to their Excel spreadsheets shortly after. Again, going back to the points we made above, nothing will demotivate a team more than putting in effort for nothing.

Corporate-wide Usage – CRM is not just for sales anymore as it can be integrated across every department within a small business. Make your CRM a central point of departmental information and the only way team members can complete their daily job functions. Once you have complete business-wide integration, there will be zero reason not to use it at that point.

Make it Seamless ¬ Again, a tool that is painful to use will not be used in any business… Take the time to properly customize your setup. Most CRMs are fairly easy to customize, but if you are uncomfortable with customizing yourself, there are plenty of consultants on the market that can do it for you. It is also important to ensure you are taking in feedback from your end-users and constantly working to refine the system. As mentioned previously, all too often, management believes they “know” what is best for their teams, but in reality, they are so far-removed from the process, they couldn’t be more wrong. A painful-to-use tool will not be used—period.

Increase Visibility ¬ Develop and use the reporting system built into the CRM… Most CRMs have fairly comprehensive reporting capabilities out of the box and, with slight customization, can be a very powerful tool for the business and something to ensure that your team is keeping their CRMs up-to-date. Some businesses go as far to have automated reports sent out at preset times (hourly, daily, or monthly). Regardless of the frequency, it is important to remember “what gets measured, gets done”. Furthermore, we highly suggest using your reporting in meetings as well. Have a sales pipeline meeting? Pull up the pipeline in real-time during the meeting. Again, no sales rep wants to be in a pipeline meeting where their pipeline is either out-of-date or missing information… This can be done for essentially every department.

Tie in Compensation – Fairly simple… Sales, do you want to get your commission? No deal gets paid commission unless it is properly tracked within the CRM… This can be done for other departments as well. Things such as lead counts, collections, customer service calls stats and other metrics can all be tracked and tied together with compensation. Quite honestly, this is one of the easiest ways to getting a team to use a CRM as no one wants to miss out on their commission or bonus. However, let’s not forget that you want to ensure you’ve made the proper steps to making the CRM a useful tool in the first place. Let’s remember the old saying “junk in, junk out”, as you do not want your employees wasting time inputting information into the CRM just for the sake of compensation and nothing else.

CRMs are incredibly powerful tools for any small business. When properly implemented and used across all departments, they can drastically increase the efficiency of any team or organization. Efficiency can lead to increased cost savings and revenue while keeping your organization running like a well-oil machine.

The Small Business Sales Quota Dilemma

Same Old QuotasEarlier today, I read “Why are Half of All Sales Reps Still Missing Quota in a Booming US Economy?” and found the article itself, and the comments within LinkedIn around the article, a little disturbing. Almost all the points were towards the reps themselves and not the businesses… Let’s face it: if any business is having more than 50% of their reps miss their sales quota, something is very wrong! No business should ever have 50% or more of their reps missing numbers, and if they are, that is a failure on the business’s part—period.

As many businesses gear up for their yearly planning sessions, now is the time to really look in the mirror before developing new quotas and truly understand the business itself. Again, if 50% or more of your sales team missed their quotas last year and are going to miss this year, you truly need to ask “why?” Is it talent, training, something else within their business, or were their quotas improperly set to begin with? As leadership, it is critical to look beyond your own thoughts of what a revenue target “should be” and bring into consideration other items such as the industry, economy, and job market. Setting the stage, it is safe to say that most leadership believe that the reason reps miss their number comes down to the rep’s ability to hit their personal quotas and not that targets were improperly set to begin with. This is a scenario we play out year over year… As a result, leadership’s plan for hitting the next year’s revenue target simply comes down to either cutting staff and bringing in new talent or increasing headcount. Regardless of the strategy, is it really viable? Well, like we said earlier, it’s a strategy that plays out year over year in small businesses, with the same unfortunate results. This is almost the definition of insanity, yet the cycle always continues.

A majority of reps missing their quotas is not a talent issue. Plain and simple: there is a fault in the business that leads to the miss. Again, starting backwards, most business leadership create a revenue target number based on what they think is a viable revenue target. Some literally make up a revenue number based on what “they believe” is a proper revenue target for the business to hit, and others slap a percentage increase over last year’s numbers and then essentially break up quotas based on a number they created… Very few truly take a look in the mirror to reflect on last year’s performance, industry, economy, and other items before coming up with a realistic revenue target. Regardless of the method, here are a few things that should be considered before coming up with a revenue target.

Current Situation – It starts with understanding the current team and the “why?” around performance. Again, we believe that if 50% or more of your reps are not hitting there number, there is something fundamentally broken within the business. Now is the time to reflect and try to understand the reason. You should ask yourself: Is it truly a talent thing? Did your sales management hire the right quality reps? Is the proper training in place? Is there a brand perception problem? Is there a broken process? The key is to identify areas of improvement for the year ahead, but to also recognize that changes do not happen overnight… Meaning, when creating a revenue target, the ramp up time for these changes need to be taken into consideration.

Talent Acquisition – Talent is a big one. Going back to some of the comments we saw around this article shared on LinkedIn, most pointed to talent or lack of talent for the reason reps are missing their numbers. Honestly, this could be the case, but that means that changes must be made around the way your organization does talent acquisition moving forward. However, you also have to recognize the current job market as well… We are in a time where there are more open positions than unemployed looking for jobs. This essentially translates into the hard fact that finding good talent is difficult to do. This means that if part of your plan going into the New Year is to either trim current reps and replace them with newer “A” talent, or simply increase head count, it is going to take time… Again, something that needs to be taken into consideration.

Current Economy – It is astounding that even the biggest companies out there do not really take the economy into consideration. As an example, in the economic downturn of 2009, most businesses quite frankly ignored the signs of a down economy and stuck to their guns for revenue targets. As a result, they missed—and some missed by large margins. This was a disaster for the stock market, as investors were quick to pull their investments from these organizations. And the rest is history. Not that something like 2009 could have been completely avoided, but the companies that truly looked at the economy and made proper adjustments did do much better from a numbers standpoint at the end of the day.

Current Industry ­– Again, it truly amazes us when businesses refuse to look at their current industry’s performance. A perfect example is the cable industry… Consumers are cutting the cord at alarming rates, and businesses such as Comcast are all but completely ignoring the fact and continuing to raise rates year over year. Time will tell the true fate of the cable industry, but it’s not a good outlook. Sometimes there are external pressures that come into play with specific industries, and unfortunately, too many businesses ignore the signs which, at times, can devastate them completely. Could this be the root cause of a decline in numbers? If so, simply increasing quotas or finding new talent is not going to fix the issue.

Pricing – We cringe at this strategy. Some businesses believe that in order to make up the gap in revenue loss, they should simply increase the price for their products and services. There is a right way and a wrong way to do price increases… We do believe that, at times, you do need to increase prices; if Coke was still going for a nickel, they would have gone out of business a long time ago… but there needs to be a strategy to the increase. Also, you need to understand how your market will respond. Going back to the example of Comcast, their market simply is not responding well to their annual price increases, and they are losing customers in record numbers.

At the end of the day, every business wants to see increasing numbers year over year, and no business wants to set a target lower than the year before. However, the way your business sets its yearly revenue targets has more of an effect on the business than you may think. First is the overall attitude of a business, as a business that is winning acts much different vs. when they are losing; a winning attitude is just as contagious as a losing one. This brings us back to the fact that if you are having a majority of your team missing their numbers, you can guarantee the morale of the team is low—negativity breeds negativity. Then there are the financial repercussions, as when you have a losing team, you have employee turnover. Well, those lost reps need replacing, training, and ramp up time…all things that cost money and take attention away from things that could be moving the business in a forward direction. So again, if more than 50% of your reps are missing their numbers, take a deep look in the mirror and find out why. Then, put the ego aside and set proper expectations for the business… A winning team will outperform a losing team 100% of the time and will put less strain on the business as a whole.