It’s a new year! It’s time to celebrate with champagne, parties, and special “luck rituals” that will lead to a fantastically fortunate and healthy year. But what luck rituals can you perform to help your business grow in the new year? While not quite as sexy as champagne, savvy business owners know that they can make their own luck by polishing off the final details of their business’s new year marketing plan.
A current marketing plan is extremely important to businesses where every hour and budgeted dollar needs to count! Unless your business maintains its own 12 month schedule (rather than calendar year), January is the starting point for tracking all new year business activities, including sales and income. The question is, where to begin with the new year’s marketing plan? I like to start by auditing the last year:
Audit Last Year’s Marketing Plan
Important to any marketing program is learning from one’s mistakes and capitalizing on positive outcomes. The new year is an excellent time to review your marketing strategy and spend time with the marketing plan itself. It’s a chance to look at last year’s planned activities and be critical about what worked* and what didn’t. You should ask yourself questions such as:
- Did I perform all of the activities in my marketing plan? If not, why? Was it because of budget or internal resource issues? Did something else compete with the activity for time or did a better marketing activity present itself? Did the plan’s suggested opportunity disappear or change in some way? If it’s still a viable activity, can you put it on this year’s plan?
- Did my business change in some way? Did you add on, remove, or change your business’s products or services? Then it’s time to update the marketing strategy and create a new marketing plan that reflects your “new” business.
- Did my market or buyer profile change? If so, it’s time to research and re-write the marketing strategy’s profiles.
*There are many ways to determine, “worked”, but my rule of thumb is generally dollars out vs. dollars back (Return On Investment) and general brand awareness. If I spend money on a marketing activity, I expect to see a return at some point. Not all marketing activities show immediate results, however, a successful activity will bring dollars through the door sometime in the future.
Check Your Marketing for Brand Consistency
During your marketing plan review, it’s important to pay special attention to how your brand was presented throughout your business in the previous year. This exercise is not limited to brochures or web sites, but reaches to every nook and cranny from employee shirts to sales pitches. Take a look at your last year’s marketing activities and make sure that they were on-brand and delivered the right message. If not, what was the reason that you strayed off-brand? Was everyone associated with your business on-board with your brand message? If not, this is a good time to check that everyone on your staff is well trained on your brand and understands the reasons why you’ve chosen that path.
Check Your Marketing Pieces for Grey Hairs
A new year review is an excellent time to check your individual marketing efforts for relevance and timeliness. This is true with technology-based programs such as web sites and email, but also applies to corporate handouts, brochures, email signatures, etc. All marketing pieces have a shelf life, and if they have a little age on them, it’s probably time for updates. Buyers become bored seeing the same marketing piece over and over, and they are particularly sensitive to pieces that are visually dated.
- Is my online marketing technologically up to date? One of the most obvious signs that your marketing program is a little long in the tooth is an outdated web site. I’m not just talking about content and dates (although that is a big flashing sign), but more about the programming and web site’s foundation. This is an excellent time to ask if your web site uses the most current technology available. Or, if not, is it compatible with the devices your buyers will use while viewing the site? Site designs are not meant to last more than a few years (at most!) and with the addition of smart phones and tablets, sites really need to be incorporate a responsive web design structure. If yours doesn’t, that should be high on your new year marketing plan’s to-do list.
- Do my marketing pieces reflect my business today? If your brand has changed direction, it’s time to update your marketing pieces. Radical changes such as logo or tag lines will require universal updates, however, if these are the same, you may be able to continue with some older pieces that are still on message. The dropping or adding of service lines, staff changes (if shown in marketing), locational changes, etc. should all require new marketing pieces.
- Did my business win any awards or receive business honors? If your business received business awards or achieved distinction, you’ll probably want to update your marketing pieces to reflect this new status. You may want to included charities or other community efforts that your business supports.
- Has my database been reviewed recently? A tedious but necessary task is checking your business’s database for accuracy. Look at bounced emails and check the addresses. Check in with key clients and prospects to make sure that their contact information is accurate.
Schedule Advertising, Trade Shows, Or Campaigns
A new year review is not limited to the past! This is the time to sit down with your marketing plan and add any noteworthy events, planned service or product launches, important hires, and themed campaigns to the calendar. In addition to helping schedule your year’s budget and resource needs, the advantage to planning early is the savings often found in early registration.
Cheers to New Year Business Growth
With a little planning and careful review, your business can achieve growth success without having to resort to luck. Try it and I think you’ll agree that including your strategic marketing plan in your annual celebrations is the best way to give your business a happy new year!
Written by Bonnie Taylor, CCS Innovations, LLC’s Chief Marketing Strategist and author of the bestselling book, I Think I Need Marketing. Named one of 2014’s “Top 40 Digital Marketing Luminaries & Educators” by the Online Marketing Institute, Ms. Taylor has spent the last two decades focused on Strategic Marketing and has been instrumental in leading many small to mid-size businesses to growth awards and international expansion.