With the New Year right around the corner, most business owners have already began thinking about a strategy to make 2014 much better than the past year. Some have even gone as far as to create a realistic plan to move their businesses forward. If you haven’t gotten that far as of yet, there’s still hope. The following are some tips to help fuel your creative powers and get your business off to an even better start than you may have imagined possible.

There is no doubt that running a business- any type of business- takes a considerable amount of discipline and effort. If you are a busy entrepreneur like me, then you know very well how difficult it can be to get things done without some sort of system or an adequate structure in place. With that in mind, I would like to share five simple tips may help you start to think about moving ahead in 2014 in a more practical and systematic way as you strive to move your business to the next level.

Create and Maintain a Business Journal

Writing down your thoughts, challenges, progress and goals as they pertain to your business is one of the easiest and most thorough ways to keep track of your business history from a personal and honest perspective. No one else needs to have access to this. So you may include as much or as little as you please. As the days, weeks, and months move forward you can reflect on where you are now verses where you started. This is also a healthy exercise in leaving work at work and not bringing it to the dinner table.

To get started, use whatever writing platform you prefer, write down the date and get started writing about right where you are! I use Microsoft Word and date each entry. My goal is to write daily about “what I accomplished for my business today.” – a phrase that will help you start to become more goal oriented if you aren’t already. Include successes, ideas, upcoming events, promotions, goals, frustrations, hopes, plans of action, and anything else you feel belongs or simply want to add.  You can easily incorporate a bulleted list which you can later refer to easily and check off as you make progress.

Commit to participating in Two to Three Networking Groups that Meet Regularly

As solopreneurs, the mere suggestion that we need to get maintain social interaction sounds insane. However, social interaction can have tremendous benefits. We actually need to interact and break out of our comfort/creative zone more often in order to keep us sane. True, some of us went into this because we wanted to work alone or to be our own boss, but, we still need to know how to relate to people because it is people (satisfied clients) who help keep your business alive. Furthermore, networking opens up doors to unlimited and unknown possibilities. Plant seeds now so that will reap new business and connections in the future.  

Whether it is a Meetup group, Chamber of Commerce, or another organized networking group you are affiliated with, make it a point to connect with people at least once a week. It is simple to search online for local groups. Some groups meet as frequently as once a week while others meet less frequently. Getting out of your house and your comfort zone on a regular basis will help get you past a rut, meet new people, give you an opportunity to gain some valuable feedback, and may just help you see things from a new perspective.

Get Busy Developing Mobile and Social Media Strategies

Today, more than ever, business owners are putting more effort into marketing their businesses online. The reality is people are on mobile devices all the time, and that’s where retailers and brands need to connect with them much more than in the past. Phones, tablets and social media are where and how customers spend their time. This is relevant whether your focus is business-to-business or business-to-consumer. If you want to be seen, you have to make a concerted effort to get online using both mobile and social strategies. The numbers back them up. Smartphone ownership has grown to 61%, up from 42% in 2011, according to Deloitte, a national consulting firm. Consumers of all ages are constantly plugged in, so it’s clear – regardless of your target audience, online is the place to make a name for yourself.

Create a plan of action: Spend some time discovering which social media sites are relevant to your business and enable you to best reach your target audience. About 128 million people access Facebook every day in the U.S., and more than 100 million of them are doing so on their phones or tablets, says Nicolas Franchet, Facebook’s head of retail and e-commerce. Facebook accounts for 23% of time spent on apps, according to ComScore data. However, there is no limit to the number of sites that will enable you to reach potential customers, yet you are only limited in your reach by how creative you want to be. It is also important to keep in mind you don’t want to hard sell your audience. Circulate content that allows them to get to know you and what your business stands for. Once they know and trust you, they’ll come to you and make their purchases and referrals.

Take a Contact out for Coffee

Because so much of our time is spent online, personal touch has almost become a thing of the past. Taking time – one of our most valuable commodities – and spending it with a potential client or potential partner is a class act. It will be discussed with their friends, will be well remembered, and could well be the standard against which other professionals are held.

You can get started by simply flipping through your portfolio of business cards and contacts. Who have you been meaning to call or email to follow-up with? Go ahead and make the call or send an email- but invite them to coffee, tea, or brunch for the full follow-up. Don’t turn the follow up into a sales call. Let them know that you are interested in learning more about their business and how you might be able to work together in the very near future.

Afterwards, be sure to think about how you will make a lasting impression. Instead of a follow up email, send a hand written card thanking them for taking time out of their busy schedule to meet with you and make a point to mention something personal about them that stood out to you. That will plant a lasting impression in their minds and separate you from the bunch.

Update Your Website and/or Blog Regularly

We live in a fast-paced culture where things are constantly changing and moving. If your webpage is like a photograph that never changes or gets updated, your clients and any potential clients will have no reason to come back to visit. They won’t be tuned in to anticipate any updates or new offerings you may have because the last three times they stopped by, there was nothing new. If you sell products, offer services, or host events – you may want to seriously consider the implications of losing website traffic. If things are going as they could for you, your website should be the hub for all of your marketing efforts.

Website changes do not have to be omplicated. The primary changes should be made on your homepage and perhaps on your product or services pages to mix it up a bit. On the home page, add or change an infographic or video.  You might also update the content on your page to reflect any upcoming events promotions or new product launches. On your product or services pages, make a goal to add at least one new product or service every quarter. Another way to enhance your current offerings is to redesign your covers to your e-books or audio downloads. You may also consider changing the order of your product/service offerings in order to give visitors a fresh perspective and force them to have to look for what they saw before.

Going forward, try to make time to get out of your office or workspace and do some networking. Try to incorporate this and some of these other simple steps into your New Year’s resolutions as you start to think about what lies ahead for your business. I, for one, I plan to incorporate each of these myself. It may be the best thing you can do for your business in 2014 as well!

James Rounds is the founder and principal advisor of Integrated Corporate Solutions, a business development and advisory services firm which specializes in business development, entity formation and corporate compliance. He is an expert business advisor who helps early stage entrepreneurs and solo professionals gain more clarity and confidence to experience even-greater impact, influence and income. To find out how he can help you to develop your business and take it to the next level, visit his site at http://www.mycorporatesolutions.net.