While the 9-to-5'ers out there measure out their lives in coffee spoons, online business owners measure theirs in cans of Red Bull. Can we get an amen?
If you're not putting out fires, you're capitalizing on sudden sales opportunities. If you're not in the final days of a seasonal promotion, you're busting your butt to meet affiliate stretch goals. And for the online retailers, it doesn't help that the Amazon seems to be launching a cool new feature every two days lately. How are you supposed to make the most of these great promotional tools when you don't even have time to learn them?
With all these, who has time to plan ahead for the quarter?
You do. That is, if you want your business to succeed.
The Importance of Quarterly Planning
With all the ups and downs of doing business online, it's all too easy to fall victim to last-minute, after-the-fact quarterly preparation. How often do you find yourself scrambling to put together a holiday promotion schedule when the season is halfway through? Or rushing to get extra inventory when one of your items suddenly becomes a must-have?
We get how easy it is, as an online business owner, to look down the barrel of your fast-approaching quarter and think, “I just don't have time to plan!” But in our experience, the real obstacle to quarterly planning isn't lack of time. It's lack of knowing exactly what you're supposed to be planning around.
So much of our learning curve in online business happens by the seat of our pants. We make a mistake or run up against an unforeseen obstacle, we nearly lose our mind figuring it out
And that's fine. But wouldn't it be nice if somebody could just tell you, ahead of time, what the essentials could make your next quarter extra-successful and maybe even help it run a little smoother?
We thought you might say yes. Here you go: 5 can’t-miss touchpoints for a successful quarter. You're welcome.
1. Schedule your quarterly planning session ahead of time.
Getting your quarterly planning session on a calendar doubles the likelihood that you’ll actually sit down and do it. This doesn't mean that you have to plan everything in one go. Do it in the way that makes the most sense for you. Block out a full day if it suits your working style to drill down and get it all done in one fell swoop. But if you focus better by doing a little bit at a time, block out an hour each day for a week.
Don't forget that planning your quarter involves a lot of other planning subtasks, like scheduling, filing, creating templates. So make sure you include those on your calendar, as well.
2. Start considering business expansion costs early.
Q4 is usually when the big push takes place, particularly when it comes to online retail businesses, such as Amazon sellers. Business owners see the new year approaching the way a pro surfer sees an epic wave building on the horizon–no matter how tired they might be, their entire being wants to catch that wave and make every moment of it count.
If you want to ride that wave and score a record number of sales, no matter what that number looks like for you, you’ve got to have the planning in place well ahead of that quarter. The way you plan today will allow you to secure the money and the right amount of inventory to pull off the curve-busting quarter you’re dreaming of.
3. Think beyond your quarterly sales.
Operations and leadership are two critical factors that impact your business’ bottom line WAY more than you can possible imagine. Use this quarterly planning session to bring the things you can't see or feel to the front of the room. Take a long hard look at your team dynamic, your logistics, your relationships with vendors, your customer service. Once you’ve honestly evaluated it, you can apply the techniques from what’s working really well to the areas that need to be massaged.
4. Don't load up on quarterly goals.
If you’re a sporadic planner, it’s easy to sit down and think you’re going to create a path from the present to your entire future as an online business owner. Needless to say, that doesn’t usually happen in one planning session. Instead of mapping out a 20-year plan, choose 1-3 key things that are strategic to your vision and goals for the year. (Believe us, 1-3 goals are more than enough to keep you busy!)
Once you’ve created a system and stuck to it, you’ll find it much easier to build on those goals next quarter. Before you know it, you'll be much farther along than if you tried to map out the whole lifespan of your business in advance.
5. Engage a profit partner.
Want to make doubly sure you invest this planning time? Getting an accountability partner is key, not only to a successful planning session but also to following the plan you’ve created. The last thing you want to do is invest all this time, thought and effort into creating a master plan for your quarter, only to let the ups and downs of online business life make you fall off the wagon. Getting a Profit Partner (AKA a financial coach) will keep you on track and help you with priceless insights along the way.
The Bottom Line
Online business success means playing the long game in a series of short-term goals. Believe us, we know that doing business online has a way of interrupting the best-laid plans. But we promise that the more often you make these plans and follow them the best you can, the more those plans will sink in as intuitive business habits. Before long, you'll be hitting your goals without even thinking about them.