Small business owners, 2021 is your year.

Check out these recent figures, which show smaller brands’ momentum:

  • 75% of consumers plan to make an effort to shop from small and local businesses.1 Braverman, Beth. 6 ways small businesses can boost holiday sales in 2020 amid the pandemic. CNBC. October 31, 2020.
  • 75% of consumers tried a new brand or retailer during the pandemic, driven by value, availability, and quality.2 Perspectives on retail and consumer goods. McKinsey & Company. August 2020. Declining consumer loyalty means more opportunities for brands like yours.
  • >$3.5 billion worth of goods from small and medium businesses sold on Amazon Marketplace on Prime Day 2020, smashing records by growing nearly 60% year-over-year.3 Ali, Fareeha. Amazon’s Prime Day sales cross $10 billion. October 15, 2020.

There’s reason to hope that 2021 will be a boom for your small business, as smaller brands are in demand among consumers and retail buyers alike.

That’s because consumers now seek brands that reflect their diverse needs and your agility in adapting to consumers’ evolving needs is your superpower. Whether you’re a consumer packaged goods (CPG) startup or an established seller, now is the time to start planning how you’ll get your innovative products into consumers’ hands in the new year.

As a small business owner, I get it: Entrepreneurship can be as freeing and fulfilling as it is overwhelming and humbling – even without a global pandemic sideswiping our agendas. That’s why I’ve compiled dozens of cross-functional tips to help you clarify your priorities, maximize your resources and grow in 2021.

2021 Business Planning Tips

These cross-functional best practices can help you thrive in 2021:


business strategy for small businesses

1. Have a plan: Write down your top priorities, goals and milestone timelines for the new year and – as 2020 proved – be flexible and willing to change direction.

2. Know your audience: Understand how your desired consumers’ needs have changed during the pandemic and how your products make their lives easier. Delighting consumers makes you more likely to attract retail partners.

3. Approach retail buyers: This year retailers like Walmart, Lowe’s and Staples have invited smaller brands to pitch their innovative products to make their assortments more competitive. Always wanted to be on the shelves at Target, H-E-B or Sephora? 2021 is the time to take action to make it happen.

4. Think digital: Whether you sell on your own direct-to-consumer e-commerce site, retailers’ sites, or online marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy, or Shopify, make sure you can reach online shoppers. That’s because e-commerce has evolved into table stakes for retail survival.

5. Team up with independent shops: Most (60%) Americans will do the majority of their shopping with local retailers this year, so approach regional players and wholesalers.4 Braverman, Beth. 6 ways small businesses can boost holiday sales in 2020 amid the pandemic. CNBC. October 31, 2020.

6. Know your rivals: Analyze your competitors to stay relevant, distinct, aware of market trends and how your rivals respond.

7. Pick a position: This year, consumers seek more value-tier items due to heightened price sensitivity. Premium products are also in demand as consumers pamper themselves during the pandemic.

Product Development

product development for brands

8. Adapt to product trends: In-demand trends include domestic comfort, health and wellness, fitness, organic, natural, fresh foods, pantry staples, and pandemic safety.5 Perspectives on retail and consumer goods. McKinsey & Company. August 2020. 6VanAntwerpen, Kay. Future Buying Trends that Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know. Entrepreneur. November 3, 2020.

9. Seize upon bestsellers: Hot online categories include beauty (peel-off face masks, nail polish), fitness (exercise bands, yoga mats), home décor (blankets, rugs) and leisure (jigsaw puzzles, board games).7 Martins Ferreira, Nicole. 12 Trending Products to Sell in 2020 (And Ideas for How to Market Them). Shopify Blog. September 4, 2020.

10. Innovate to differentiate: Stand out by offering unique raw materials, artisan craftsmanship, aesthetic value, or sustainable packaging.

11. Inventory your resources: Ensure you have – or save up for – the right equipment to create the types of products consumers demand.

12. Continuously refine: Review and re-engineer your operational processes to boost efficiencies and speed to market, as consumers now expect and reward prompt service.


digital marketing for brands

13. Get discovered: Help retail buyers and consumers find your products with ease with your own website or link to your product pages on retailers’ e-commerce sites. Stay active on social media, including B2C powerhouses Instagram and Facebook. Set a budget for ads on Amazon or Google AdWords. Invest online because your dream customers now spend more time online.

14. Tell your story: Consumers yearn for authentic brands, so share your company’s origin story and behind-the-scenes glimpses of the personalities behind your brand.

15. Build brand trust: Share your customer testimonials, product reviews, media coverage, and industry awards to boost credibility and consumer confidence.

16. Stand out with certifications: More than ever, retailers actively seek diverse suppliers. Prove your company qualifies as diverse with certifications like Woman-Owned – WBENC Certification, Ethnic Minority-Owned – NMSDC Certified and Small Business Certified – SBA(8)A Certified.

17. Use vibrant visuals: Create a photo gallery of high-quality product images, social media posts and videos to show off your product line.

18. Minimize product returns: Share detailed product information online, including dimensions and ingredients, to manage shoppers’ expectations so they know exactly what they’re buying.  

19. Offer incentives: Attract first-time customers with discounts or value bundles, as McKinsey cites rising competition for deals during the pandemic.8 Kopka, Udo, Eldon Little, Jessica Moulton, René Schmutzler, and Patrick Simon. What got us here won’t get us there: A new model for the consumer goods industry. McKinsey & Company. July 30, 2020.

Need help building your marketing strategy? Discover marketing providers in RangeMe Services here.


sales for small brands

20. Focus on benefits: Clearly state what retail buyers and consumers gain by choosing your products and brand, like quality, time savings, or health and wellness.

21. Give them a taste: Ask retail buyers how (and if) you can send them a product sample given that more people now work from home. 

22. Smash silos: Entwine your sales and marketing efforts for efficient lead generation and conversions.

Supply Chain

supply chain practices for brands

23. Improve availability: Avoid bottlenecks and out-of-stocks by continuously monitoring inventory and communicating with external retail partners to keep up with fluctuations in demand.

24. Think fast: Establish a logistics network that can help your products get to consumers faster, including options for speedy home delivery.

25. Evaluate your raw material suppliers: Rate their reliability and quality, and create a contingency plan that includes alternate sources in case the pandemic or other factors affect their business operations.

Discover trusted shipping and logistic providers ready to streamline your supply chain here.

Human Resources

human resources for small brands

26. Invest in yourself: Make self-care a priority, as feeling our best helps us achieve our best work.

27. Protect your team: Since COVID-19 abruptly changed how we live and work, check in on your employees, their well-being and any changes to their work requirements.

28. Review your talent: Evaluate whether you have the right talent mix to fulfill your 2021 goals.

29. Be proactive: Plan how you could mobilize your team if demand surges and you need to scale fast.


partnerships for small brands

30. Delegate: Identify core competencies you lack like marketing, e-commerce fulfillment, or logistics. Delegate them to experts to free you up to focus on your strengths and productivity.

31. Get an accountability partner: Collaborate with a trusted mentor, coach, or advisor to stay focused and grow in 2021.


financing for small brands

32. Know your numbers: Since the pandemic disrupted businesses, update your income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement for an accurate snapshot of your financial situation.

33. Budget: Consider everything from rent expenses to short-term cash flow and long-term savings for capital investments that will move your business forward.

34. Cash is king: As 2020 proved, emergencies happen. Start setting aside a percentage of every dollar to build a reserve of cash for unanticipated expenses (while maintaining sufficient operating funds.)9 Mosca, Louis. Enter 2021 With An Effective Plan: Why Crafting A Business Plan Is As Important As Ever. Forbes. September 8, 2020.

Visit RangeMe Services to discover finance providers ready to help you grow your business.

Small businesses have good reason to feel hopeful and excited about 2021’s possibilities. With small brands in demand, it’s time to plan which actions can help you thrive in the New Year.  Use agility to your advantage, adapt to evolving consumer needs, and focus your limited resources on actions that could deliver the biggest return. Being prepared with a 2021 business plan gives you an edge so you can face the new year with boldness and optimism.

What additional tips would you add that could help small brands plan ahead?

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