The New Year has arrived, and many people have been making
resolutions they most likely will keep for only a few weeks or at best,
months. That doesn’t have to be you. For your consulting business, you
need to make resolutions you can keep — especially ones that will help
increase your business. But how? There is always something new to try
that can help build your business. Here are a few possibilities.
1: Go social
Let’s face it: The "networking” of today is all about social
networking. This means Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You and your
business need a presence on these sites to expand into markets you
wouldn’t reach otherwise. One outstanding trick is to offer special
deals via Twitter. Post something like, "The next person who responds to
this tweet gets 15% off their next visit.” Just make sure you let the
winner know this does not include the cost of any hardware or software.
2: Include open source and Linux
As much as the media and Microsoft do not want to admit it, Linux
adoption is going to continue increasing. So you should start picking up
Linux and open source skills. Even if you don’t focus on the Linux
operating system, you can add LibreOffice, Apache, Samba, or a number of
other open source technologies to your toolkit. The more you add, the
more powerful and marketable you will be.
3: Focus on mobile platforms
If you add mobile platforms to your toolkit, your business will boom.
Anyone who knows anything about the IT industry knows the future is
mobile. This means you are going to be taking on more and more clients
who have mobile help needs. This does not just mean iOS. You need to
know Android as well as Blackberry. Of course, knowing the Android OS
means you’ll need a solid understanding of the different Android
platforms: Droid, Samsung, HTC, etc. All of the Android platforms are
fundamentally similar, with the biggest differences being at the
4: Learn a new skill that will increase your clients
If you are a small shop, you might want to consider adding something
like Web site design. If you are a larger shop, you could add
virtualization or cloud computing. Regardless of your size, the
important thing is to diversify your toolkit. This goes along with
knowing the mobile platform or open source, but you want this to be
something that goes beyond what you already do. If you are primarily a
desktop service, add a level of server work. If you are a
server-specific shop, add some desktop work. Whatever it takes to add
business and success to your bottom line.
5: Spend a few dollars on traditional advertising
The beginning of the fiscal year (regardless of whether that’s the
beginning of the calendar year) is a great time to run an advertising
campaign, no matter the size. This could consist of a run of fliers you
can hand out at shopping malls or plaster cars or mailboxes with. Or you
might buy a small advertising slot on your local newspaper’s Web site.
Yes, you’ll have to incur the cost up front, but prospective clients
(who may not have known about you before) will become aware of your
presence. You should recover the cost of that campaign fairly quickly.
6: Offer specials for referrals
Word of mouth is the best source of advertising. Why? Because new
clients are being referred to you by satisfied customers, so those new
clients will have positive expectations for your work. For customers you
trust to give positive references, offer discounts for every referral
they make that results in a new client. This will perpetuate itself, as
those clients learn that sending you referrals benefits them as well.
7: Get (and stay) better organized
Most of us could stand a little improvement in this area. Let this be
the year you successfully become an organizational machine! The more
organized you are, the more efficient your work will be. The more
efficient your work is, the more work you can do. Finally — the more
work you can do, the more money you will make. If you aren’t motivated
by that, just think how happy your clients will be when they see how
organized you are.
8: Reevaluate the tools you use
The firm I work for recently reevaluated the anti-virus solution we
deploy and made a fairly big change away from the tool we had used for
years. This decision was based not only on issues we had experienced
with the software in the past, but also with advancements by other
companies. You should never just assume the products you use are the
best for the job. Always be on the lookout for newer, better tools.
9: Get a new certification
Although it seems that certifications are so very 90s, they’re still
valuable business-enhancing tools. But instead of adding onto your MCSE,
consider a Cisco or network security certification to broaden your
horizons and your marketability. The Cisco certification may be a bigger
challenge than you’re used to, but it will certainly be worth it in the
long run. You could also consider a RHCE (Red Hat Certified Engineer) or Ubuntu Professional Certification.
10: Hand out your business cards more often
If people don’t know about your business, they won’t call you. One of
the easiest ways to get your name (and number) out there is to
distribute business cards. You can do this in many ways. Hand them out
at network meetings, pin them to the corkboards at coffee shops…
anything you can do to get those cards into the hands of the public.
Always have a stack of cards with you (in your purse or wallet) in case
you overhear someone talking about computer or network problems. Then,
hand them a card with a smile.
Resolutions that work
What was the one key resolution you made in the past that helped your
business the most? Share your thoughts with your fellow TechRepublic