How to set New Year goals for 2021 that will help your business

7 min read
Chidinma Nnamani

We can all agree that 2020 has not been the best year for small businesses. From forced closures to massive layoffs and lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses have had it tough this year. If 2020 has been gloomy for your business, then you may be looking forward to 2021. But how do you create New Year goals you can meet in 2021?

Whether you plan to celebrate the New Year or not, it's wise to define New Year goals for your business.

Setting clear business goals can help you:

  • Stay focused on what’s important
  • Make better decisions throughout the year
  • Boost performance and motivation

As you look forward to 2021, here are the steps you can take to set effective New Year goals for your small business.

Step 1: Assess your business performance in 2020

One way to ensure success in the coming year is to look back at how your business has performed in 2020.

  • What were the most significant challenges your business faced in 2020?
  • Was your business prepared for the disruption caused by the pandemic? Did you have an emergency plan in place?
  • Is your business headed in the right direction or do you need a change in direction?
  • How did your business fare financially in 2020?

Be sure to take note of the most critical areas that need improvement.

Related: 6 reasons why you need an email domain for your business

Step 2: Ask your customers how you did

Customers are the heart of your business. If they are unhappy with your products or services, it will hurt business growth.

This is why you should get customer feedback when setting your business goals.

One way to gather useful information from your customers about the areas to improve is by conducting a customer satisfaction survey. You can use an online survey, mail a paper questionnaire, or call your most important customers and ask for their opinions one-on-one.

Hand marking a checkbox on a survey with a pen

Here are some of the key areas you should inquire about:

Which products or services they use

How often do customers use your products or services? Does your solution meet their needs? How have their needs changed following the events of 2020?

Their level of satisfaction with them

Are customers satisfied with your products or services? Ask open-ended questions rather than yes/no questions only so that enthusiastic (or angry) customers can provide useful comments on their experiences.

You’ll want to resolve any issues your research uncovers to the customer’s satisfaction.


Ask your customers about the areas where they would like to see improvements. This can give you ideas for new products or service offerings to work on in 2021.

In addition, you can request demographic information, such as age and employment status. These details can help you better understand your customers. If you don’t have personas for your business, this is a good time to create them.

Step 3: Outline goals based on Steps 1 and 2

Once you have completed your internal assessment and received feedback from your customers, you can set New Year goals for your business based on your findings.

For example, if you had a hard time connecting with your customers online during the events of 2020, then it would be wise to pay more attention to your marketing and communications in the coming year.

If your supply chain was interrupted, making it harder for you to keep running during the pandemic, you might want to make a plan so you are ready for the next time supplies are disrupted.

Related: 5 direct marketing tools to try this year

Suggested New Year goals you can set for 2021

If you followed the steps above, then you are likely to have very specific goals for your business.

However, if you need some inspiration, below are five areas you can consider:

1. New product development

If your customers have hinted at new services or products they would like to see, you could make that a priority in the coming year.

Your customer satisfaction survey can help you pinpoint what your customers exactly want.

The pandemic also put the spotlight on touch-free services like digital courses, eBooks, webinars, and membership programs. These are services you could explore adding in 2021, as appropriate.

2. Customer service improvement

By far, the most significant lesson for businesses in 2020 was the need to stay connected to their customers in whatever way possible while delivering products and services, especially in an emergency.

If your business struggled to serve customers during the pandemic, then you should consider creating a new customer service process or improving your existing process. Pinpoint the areas customers mentioned as disappointments and address them in the new process.

3. Employee satisfaction

Steel worker wearing protective face shield

You may have had to lay off some employees or introduce salary cuts to keep your business afloat in 2020. In the coming year, you could consider setting up an employee rewards program to boost employee morale.

Keep in mind that rewards do not have to be monetary. Think of creative ways to thank employees for staying loyal and sticking with your business through hard times.

Related: How to retain young workers with employee benefits

4. Business direction

Your business direction may have changed following the events of 2020. The new year would be a good time to revisit your business plan and make adjustments as needed.

5. Online marketing

Many small ventures had trouble staying in touch with customers during the pandemic. Here’s one way to improve your online marketing game:

  • Create a business account on the social media platform where your customers spend the most time.
  • Map out an editorial calendar and commit to publishing posts to it weekly.
  • Build a new website or refresh your existing website to reflect the latest information about your business.

The businesses that performed best during the pandemic were those that had a solid online foundation and strategy. An online marketing plan gives you better control over your online image.

Tips for setting effective New Year goals for your business

One technique that many business owners use is what’s called SMART goals. These are goals that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

For example, “grow social media following” is not a SMART goal because it is too vague and broad. However, “grow Instagram following to 500 followers by August 2021” is a SMART goal that checks all the points. Be sure to break that goal up into smaller steps and write them into your plan for January through August.

Think about how much your plans will cost

You should set a budget for key improvements based on your financial assessment. This is particularly important if your business has been negatively impacted by the pandemic.

You may not be able to make all the changes you want to in 2021. Be patient.

Since marketing is a critical business area, it would be wise to maintain a baseline promotional plan through the downturn rather than not spending on marketing activities at all.

Closeup of a calculator with large buttons

Here’s to New Year goals you surpass in 2021

Running a business is no small feat, and some years will undoubtedly be worse than others because of circumstances beyond your control.

To set effective New Year goals, start by assessing the performance of your business in the previous year.

Gather feedback from your customers, and then set New Year goals based on what you’ve learned.

Some of the areas where you can set goals include product development, customer service, employee satisfaction, and online marketing. For best results, all goals should be specific, measurable, time-bound, and fit your budget.

Best of luck in 2021!

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