Hot Topics:

Give Your Online Business a Mid-Year Checkup

Use this checklist to ensure your business moves in the right direction.

The health of your online business is very similar to your personal health: It benefits from regular checkups to ensure it stays on a strong path. While many business owners rightly begin each year with a refreshed annual business plan, some forget the all-important mid-year checkup.

To be certain you’re moving your online business in the best direction, and to determine if you’ve unwittingly taken on any “unhealthy” habits since Jan. 1, here’s a list of checkup points to review, helping to keep your business healthy, wealthy and strong.

Why a checkup when there’s already a plan in place?

Just as each of us needs to monitor our health for preventive reasons, your online business also stands to perform to your expectations—or beyond—when you regularly give it a mid-year once-over.

As mentioned, your start-of-year planning helped you get off to a good beginning but, oftentimes, the business situation changes as the months progress. In fact, while you want to use this time to make necessary corrections to head off bad situations, this is also a time to take advantage of any new opportunities you might not have anticipated six months ago.

A business checkup can be run at any time of the year but doing one in the middle of the year provides you with six months of trend data to look back on, while offering enough time to alter your course going forward.

This is also a time to take advantage of any new opportunities you might not have anticipated six months ago

The checklist

So, without further ado, here’s a concise list of key items you should check at this mid-year point.

  • Check your tax situation: Begin by visiting your tax adviser to see how your business is performing in comparison to your original projections. Mid-year allows plenty of time to adjust your estimated tax payments (higher or lower), determine the impact of purchases and expenses to your bottom line, and generally ensure you’ll avoid any end-of-year surprises.

  • Check your cash flow: Here’s where you determine if your cash flow is positive or negative—that is, if you have more money that’s flowing in (from revenues) compared to the money that’s flowing out (from expenses).

    Determine if your original cash flow planning is coming to fruition and, if not, find out why. This might be the best time to adjust your activities to positively impact your cash flow, or to take advantage of the opportunity to grow your original goals, if your results have been better than previously expected.

  • Check your marketing plan’s effectiveness: As you track your customer activity, determine if it’s aligned to what you originally planned in your start-of-year marketing plan. Are you attracting the number of customers you expected? Are you attracting the right customers—those you deemed would become your most loyal? Maybe you’ve discovered you’re serving a different segment of customers you hadn’t expected but whom you should definitely serve.

    Here’s your chance to adjust your marketing approach—where, when and how—to attract and retain more customers for the remainder of the year ahead.

  • Check your brand message: How many times have you heard the term “reinvention” in the business world? It’s that wise philosophy that encourages business owners to keep up with the times.

    As you monitor your marketing effectiveness, see if any areas for improvement point to your brand identity. While you needn’t try to present your online business as something it’s not, you can sharpen your message—sometimes with a new or more focused brand premise or promise—to better communicate what your business is and what it has to offer. Try on an adjustment here, if it makes sense, and see how that plays for the remainder of the year (with special attention being given to how it plays during the holiday seasons).

  • Don’t worry if you’ve discovered some areas that need adjustment or improvement—that’s the whole point of the checkup
  • Check your customer loyalty: As noted in the previous item, this is a good time to step up your customer interaction. Do your customers find it easy to do business with you, or do they have some issues with making purchases, receiving goods or services and seeking out follow-up engagement? If you’re receiving messages from your customers—written or spoken—check now to see if you’re addressing their concerns.

    Most often, your customers will tell you what they want and, inversely, what they don’t want. This is your opportunity to take action on that feedback, and show them how you’ll adjust within the coming six months. Often this is the sort of response level that keeps customers coming back—they love to be heard, and appreciate seeing that their input has been valued.

After the checkup, take action

So how did your online business stand up to the checklist? Don’t worry if you’ve discovered some areas that need adjustment or improvement—that’s the whole point of the checkup. By performing this check at least by mid-year (though it makes best sense to check some items quarterly), you give yourself time and opportunity to make imperative as well as opportunistic changes in your plan.

Be sure to compare this mid-year health of your online business with that of last year. Determine if there’s anything you’ve begun for this year that has had negative impact on your results—and stop doing it. On the other hand, look for those areas where your business is improving, and see if it makes sense to increase those efforts. Just be aware that too much spice can spoil a recipe.

When you take the time to perform a mid-year checkup on your online business, you help to maintain clarity of your goals while determining that your business approach is working. Now is the time to modify your path to success without having to make radical changes, nor ignoring situations that could bring unwanted surprises in the coming six months. Treat your business health as you would your own. When your business feels good, you feel good about it.

Now that’s preventive medicine that’s always easy to swallow.

About the author

Dennis L. Prince
Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay...and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • Great read. Our business needs to have their check ups in, cash flow marketing plans, brand message, customer loyalty and then take action on the loose ends.

Newsletter Signup