This year, it’s not about reinventing the wheel. Instead, it’s about leaning further into the strategies and processes that save time, improve client experience, and ultimately grow your revenue.
As you work on your annual planning this year, you might be asking yourself what you should change about your business or what new strategies are worth leaning into in order to maximize profitability.
We already know the common questions that are popping up in business owners’ minds: ‘Do I really need to implement AI?,’ ‘How can I diversify my revenue this year?’ And of course, ‘What are other business owners doing?’
To help, we surveyed a variety of HoneyBook members in all different industries and asked what their top business priorities are in 2024. Their answers were business efficiency, client experience, and increasing revenue.
We also got actionable tips and identified 5 trends other business owners are following to help you set your 2024 goals and know what’s worth focusing on this year.
- Automation: turning your time savings into making money
- Digital products: generating passive income with your expertise
- AI: using new tools to work smarter
- Authenticity and personalization where it matters the most
- Refreshing your marketing strategy
- Clientflow management: using one system to run your business
- How to set your 2024 business goals
Organize your business today
Automation: turning your time savings into making money
91% of businesses we surveyed would consider using automation and AI over the next 12 months to elevate their business over competitors. We all know time is money, and automation is saving businesses hours’ of time each week.
Automation is nothing new, but this year it’s becoming table stakes to make sure it’s a part of your business.
The easiest way to implement automation is to start paying attention to the tasks on your plate that you repeat over and over again and don’t require your skills or focused attention. That might include responding to inquiries, following up with clients before and after sessions, and even booking some of your services.
One of the easiest things to automate for business owners is payment reminders. As soon as you create an invoice and payment schedule, you should also set up automated payment reminders that let your clients know what’s upcoming and what’s overdue. This removes the hassle of having to personally bother your clients for money, and it helps you stay professional while getting paid.
Once you have tasks in mind, you can build your automations using a system like HoneyBook. It’s important to think of automation as an evolving process– over time, you should continually review any tasks you could automate and update the ways you do that in your business. When you have a good workflow, you’ll find that you can increase your bookings with less work, take on more clients, and focus more on revenue-building activities. On the client side, you’ll remove friction from the payment process, which instills more confidence in your business.
HoneyBook has helped me set up strong boundaries in my business, allowing me to automate so many processes including, booking, inquiries, and follow-ups.
– Kat Tepylo Murphy, CEO and Head of Strategy at Social Kat Media
Another aspect of automation is making sure your systems work together to take admin work off your plate through integrations. For instance, you can set up a Zapier trigger that adds all of your new HoneyBook inquiries to your Mailchimp lists. Oftentimes, integrations can remove the busywork of managing lists, creating projects, setting up files, and more.
Digital products: generating passive income with your expertise
One of the best ways to maximize profitability in general is to develop new revenue streams for your business, and offering on-demand digital products and resources is a great strategy for independent businesses.
As an independent, you’re not only selling your services, you’re selling your expertise. Your clients book with you because they trust you above all of the other options, and your knowledge is something you can monetize.
Since the pandemic, digital product usage hit a boom that’s remained high. Between 2020 and 2021, daily active users of digital products increased by 54%. If you haven’t taken advantage of them, it isn’t too late. Out of all types of digital products, courses and ebooks are the top two sold today, which are especially relevant for business owners.
Consider if there’s industry knowledge you can provide to either your clients or other business owners in your space. Or, is there an aspect of your services that you can templatize? If you provide marketing services, for example, you might be able to package your social media templates into a gated product that clients can pay for and instantly download.
HoneyBook lead forms provide an easy way to sell digital products. Your lead forms are shareable on any public channel, and you can provide your digital product options as well as services that people can select from. Then, collect payment and automatically share your product–all via the same form.
AI: using new tools to work smarter
In 2024, AI is crucial as more and more businesses incorporate it into their processes. But, it’s still important to take the time to understand how it should fit into your business, rather than implementing it with no set strategy.
Similar to automation, consider how AI can help remove manual, repetitive tasks from your workflows.
With HoneyBook AI, for example, you can identify valuable leads faster and potentially remove your manual qualification process. From there, you can also respond instantly to leads using an AI-generated message that incorporates lead information to personalize the message. You can also choose the right tone for your AI messages so they mimic your voice and ensure it sounds more like you.
AI can also become a valuable resource that business owners can use to get unstuck. You can use it to write emails, edit content, develop copy ideas, and more.
If you’re not sure how to move forward with AI, start thinking of it as a helpful assistant who can help you perfect your work and move faster.
Authenticity and customization where it matters the most
Though the rise of AI might seem like it will remove personalization, it can actually help you personalize faster. Plus, when used successfully, it will also give business owners more time to spend on authenticity and customization where it matters the most.
With the rise of AI, I think authenticity will be more valuable than ever. I plan to show my face more in my marketing to allow potential clients to find out if I’m the right fit for them.
– Katie Whittington, Online Business Manager and Systems Strategist at The Whit Workflows
For example, AI and automation can help you quickly respond to leads and gather their information. From there, you might enter a discovery phase that’s all about getting to know clients and their needs. If you save time up front, you can focus your energy on making this process as smooth as possible. Wow your clients with a custom project proposal, create an onboarding plan that suits their needs, structure their project timeline, and more. Spend more time on the steps where your clients will feel heard and understood.
Personalization is also essential earlier in your sales funnel when you’re marketing your services. Especially if you’re working directly with clients, they’ll want to get a feel for your working style and personality. Taking the time to create sales videos and other personalized collateral can be a big benefit in 2024.
Refreshing your marketing strategy
Refreshing your marketing strategy isn’t a trend unique to 2024–instead, it’s something you should consider each year.
Take a look back at the strategies you’ve been using throughout the past year and pull all of the reports you have access to. Then, assess what’s working and what isn’t.
AI can help! Paste some of your marketing metrics into ChatGPT and ask for it to average your results, identify your highest-engaging metrics, and more.
Social media serves a purpose but email marketing is definitely where it’s at in terms of return on investment. I’m excited to start leaning into other avenues that feel like they’re worth the time and energy going into them.
– Sandra Henderson, Systems Strategist at Simply Sandra Yvonne
If you have additional marketing budget, it can also be a good opportunity to test new channels or formats. These days, what works for one business doesn’t always work for another, and there are so many options to choose from. Aside from what’s trending, consider what you haven’t tried yet and create a plan to test and assess. It might also be a good time to expand your customer base and test your marketing with new target markets.
Clientflow management: using one system to run your business
With business efficiency top of mind, 2024 is the year to consolidate more of your systems and prioritize organization. To do so, focus on clientflow management.
Your clientflow is the entire process of selling and delivering your services, from capturing and qualifying leads, booking, managing projects, and maintaining lasting client relationships. Most businesses manage this process in disparate systems–you might have one tool for scheduling, but you have three others for invoices, contracts, and project management.
Instead, invest in a clientflow management platform that can help you manage most of your work in one place. Alongside integrations, you can ensure your processes are working in synergy. With greater organization and efficiency, it also makes it easier to maximize profitability.
HoneyBook successfully synchronizes all avenues of our business. We plan to utilize more back-end reporting and optimize our digital assets within the platform to help keep our clients as happy as possible.
– Hillary Shearing, Owner of TMC Weddings
How to set your 2024 business goals
To maximize profitability while setting your business goals, take a look back at 2023 and envision what you want out of your business moving forward.
If you have HoneyBook setup, your year-end reports will give you insight into where your leads came from this past year, what your cash flow looked like, and where your most valuable bookings came from. Heading into 2024, it’s also important to establish a reporting process ASAP so you can have more insights again at the end of the year–don’t wait and make things more complicated.
Trends and goals aside, you should also keep your business mission and vision at the forefront. Consider these tips from other business owners who are prioritizing what they want out of their businesses in 2024:
- “Start by envisioning how you want your days to look and feel. Determine how your business needs to operate in order to support that lifestyle. Then, develop your specific offerings and your marketing strategy.” – Kat Tepylo Murphy, CEO and Head of Strategy at Social Kat Media
- “Focus on where you want to go, but don’t be so focused on that goal that you lose sight of what fills you with joy as a business owner. Set frequent check-ins with yourself and track your metrics.” – Catherine Perez, Founder and Principal Designer at Peacock & Dahlia Interiors
- “When it comes to planning and strategy, my advice is to start slow and honor your energy. If you don’t do well with annual planning, start with sticking to your weekly plan, then monthly, quarterly, etc. I like to give myself overarching themes and intentions instead of making an official annual plan.” – Katie Whittington, Online Business Manager and Systems Strategist at The Whit Workflows
- “Review the last 12-18 months in your business. Look at what went well, what was challenging, and what you would love to continue doing. Make a strategy to remove what no longer serves you and build on the things that went well.” – Tonisha Stalnaker, Founder and Lead Business Strategist at SVS
- “At the end of the day, do what’s right for you and your audience and show up with your secret sauce (your personality, perspective, and skills) in a sustainable way, I feel this is the key in 2024.” – Isabelle Sarley, Email Marketer and Copywriter
Prioritize business efficiency, client experience, and revenue in 2024
To maximize profitability, business owners in 2024 are focusing on efficiency, client experience, and growing their revenue. To keep up with the competition, you can do so by leveraging automation and AI, digital products, and greater personalization.
By maintaining these focus areas all year, you can work toward your goals with greater precision.