As the holidays approach, every small business owner I talk to is thinking about how to get ahead in the new year. My advice: Shore up your online and mobile presence and streamline your operations. These are among the most important steps you can take to maintain a competitive edge in 2013.

Set a course of action now to help you focus your efforts in the coming months. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

Maximize your online presence

If your company doesn’t have a website, you should make it a top priority. Fortunately, this is easier than ever, thanks to affordable do-it-yourself tools that include customizable site templates. If you want something more involved, you may want to engage a website design service.

If you already have a site, make sure it’s truly an asset. Ask yourself:

  • Does it reflect the products or services I currently offer?
  • Is it organized and easy to navigate?
  • Is my basic information, such as address, contact information, and hours of business easy to find?
  • Can customers make purchases on my site? If not, you may be losing business. Many customers prefer using an e-commerce site rather than visiting a store, especially if they’re not close by. Look at this checklist to learn more about making your website ready for online shopping.

Be sure your business is listed in prominent online business directories, such as Google Places, Yahoo! Local, and Citysearch. These sites make it easy for consumers to find your company when they’re searching online for the products or services you offer. Keep your listings up to date and include new special offers regularly to help drive traffic to your door.

Reach mobile customers

Consumers are buying smartphones in droves, and increasing numbers are using the devices to find local shops. Having mobile technologies in place can help capture customers and sales in the coming year. Here are a few key mobile technologies to try out:

A mobile website-

If your website is difficult to navigate or slow to load on smartphones, consider creating a mobile Internet site that works better on small screens. Some services allow you to create a mobile-friendly version of your full website, with streamlined navigation for smartphone users.

Mobile apps-

Small businesses are increasingly offering apps to enrich the customer experience. For example, you might use an app to reward customers as their purchases mount or to make it easy to arrange for a service, such as home delivery. You can choose from off-the-shelf apps or build one that’s customized for your business. Read more about using mobile apps to improve service here.

Mobile barcodes-

Consumers can scan these square, black-and-white designs to immediately visit a special page on your website. These pages often contain a coupon, menu, or product video. Mobile barcode services can help you generate codes and create the destination pages.

Embrace the cloud

More businesses are turning to cloud services to manage their operations more effectively, improve employee productivity, and forgo expensive IT investments. A few key advantages include:

Extra capacity on demand-

Using cloud-based servers, such as AT&T Cloud Architect, allows you to gain additional computing power to get you through busy periods, such as spikes in website traffic during the holiday shopping season. AT&T Cloud Architect provides all the resources you need to be scalable and reliable, without breaking the bank. Plus, it’s easy to use. A self-service online portal presents a range of standard server features that require little or no added configuration.

Faster time to market-

If you’re thinking of building a web or mobile app, using the cloud can help you get started without having to buy and set up servers. Worried about the holiday rush?  AT&T Cloud Architect has you covered.  You can set up virtual servers in minutes via the comprehensive self service portal.

Reduced IT burden-

Taking advantage of cloud services means you and your employees have no extra hardware to manage, so you can focus on other aspects of your business.

Choosing the right technologies and tactics for your business can help you pave the way for success in 2013. What web and mobile strategies will you implement? Are you already using the cloud to run your business more efficiently? Share your experiences in comments below.