August 18, 2021 By SmartBiz Team

The 2nd quarter 2021 MetLife and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index (SBI), finds that as more Americans receive the COVID-19 vaccine, states lift restrictions, and businesses continue to reopen, a majority (65%) of small business owners are more optimistic that the worst of the pandemic is over.

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According to the poll taken April 21 – May 6, the dominant emotion small business owners are feeling about their current operating strategy is “hopeful” (44%). Thirty-one percent say they are “comfortable” and 24% say they are “concerned,” rounding out the top three current feelings.

Planning for Q4 is key to success as we move into the last half of 2021. The fourth quarter is packed with holidays and other opportunities. Confidence heading into panning for Q4 is a good sign. It’s not time to take your foot off the gas now that the economy is improving. Here are important steps to take to get started and implement Q4 planning.

What is business planning?

A business planning is basically constructing a road map for your business. You’ll have to adjust for the new normal in your industry, but you’ll be ahead of the game. To get started, follow these steps:

  • Research, research, research
  • Determine the purpose of your plan
  • Create a company profile
  • Document all aspects of your business
  • Have a strategic marketing plan in place
  • Make it adaptable based on your audience
  • Include financial projections

The pandemic and economic downturn may call for edits to your business plan. This important document has two primary purposes. First, it acts as an organized roadmap to help you analyze your plans for marketing, sales, production, distribution, etc. The second purpose is the reason many entrepreneurs put together a plan-seeking funding from a bank, credit union, or another type of lender. You might need capital to help rebuild, attract new customers, consolidate debt, and more.

If you need help getting started, we’ve outlined key elements here: The Ultimate Guide to Business Plans.

A best practice is to include the economic impact on your business. Here’s a guide to help: Disaster Planning for Your Small Business.

According to Harvard Business Review, entrepreneurs who write formal business plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than otherwise identical non-planning entrepreneurs

Review the last three quarters

Look at the last list of goals you made for 2021. Take the pandemic into consideration as you may have to revise your strategies and measures. Don’t ignore the books. Review cash flow, debt obligations, department budgets, and payroll. Which projects provided the biggest return on investment (ROI) for your business this year? Which ones went down in flames.

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Look forward to Q4

Look at current trends, probably shaped by the pandemic. Adjust your products, services, or operations accordingly. Think of one or two opportunity areas for your business and focus on how you can reach them during Q4. Tie up any loose ends so you can start fresh. anything left to tie up that you may have forgotten about?

Get your team on board

If you have staff, share your review of Q3 and planning for Q4 with the team. Feedback from those in the trenches can be valuable. Embrace new ideas and encourage engagement between departments. Have some fun – here are 10 Employee Icebreakers for Teambuilding.

Perform a social media refresh

A Harris Poll conducted between late March and early May, found that between 46% and 51% of US adults were using social media more since the coronavirus of 2020 began.

Review your current offerings and perform a short competitive analysis to assess similar businesses in your space. Getting creative and being proactive can pay off, especially as the holiday season approaches. Check out our article here for easy ideas to implement: Social Media Guide for Small Business 2021.

Take advantage of the calendar

A marketing calendar can help spark promotion ideas. Observations like Small Business Saturday and Black Friday present opportunities to increase marketing, attract new customers, and spike sales. Here are important dates in Q4: Marketing Calendar 2021 - Strategies to Engage.

Budget marketing

Don’t make the mistake of severely slashing your marketing budget. Elevating your business is key to future success. Review 15 Business Low Budget Marketing Ideas for how to lower your advertising budget. In light of the pandemic, you may have to shift your messaging and branding.

Plan gifts for clients/customers and employee bonuses

Year-end bonuses are usually lump-sum payments given to employees for their hard work and dedication throughout the year. If you had to furlough or cut employee pay, a bonus can greatly increase morale. Recognizing and thanking long-time, loyal customers or clients is a good strategy to stay top-of-mind. For a list of gifts, check out these Customer Appreciation Gift Ideas.

Final thoughts

Sports fans can attest to one truth: anything is possible in the 4th quarter. The game isn’t over. Business is the same way. While it might feel like the year is coming to an end, you still have an entire quarter of the year left to work on accomplishing your goals. Stay focused to succeed.

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