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Plan-Ahead Marketing Strategies for the New Year

Brain Gears Snowflake_V2It’s hard to believe we are coming to the close of another year. December can be a busy month for those of us in retail. For the rest of us, December might mean a slowdown and not the best month for revenue. But don’t just resign yourself to the winter business doldrums! Use this time to take stock of the year and begin thinking about your marketing for next year.

Of course, a written marketing plan is essential for helping you shape your marketing strategy. In addition to the market segments, the value proposition, SWOT and STEEP analyses, and understanding the 4 C’s, one of the most important elements of a marketing plan is the implementation timeline. Here are some suggestions for creating an actionable and effective timeline, accessing learnings from the past year, and establishing your path forward for 2015.

  1. Revisit your marketing plan. The end of the year is the perfect time to review your plan, take stock of what worked, what didn’t work, what you forgot to do and what really does (or doesn’t) need to be done in the coming year. This would also be an excellent time to create your written marketing plan in the event (gasp!) you don’t already have one.
  2. Perform a marketing audit. Your marketing should, of course, reflect your plan, but they are not one and the same. It’s ideal to have an outside set of eyes look at your marketing, from your website to your brochures and business cards. This does not need to be a marketing professional (although that can be helpful). Sometimes, the perspective of a potential customer can be very insightful.
  3. Review your calendar from the previous year. Note the dates of past trade shows, chamber and networking events, conferences, advertising deadlines, important client meetings, holidays, vacations…anything that may require advance planning or awareness during the coming year.
  4. Create a highly visible wall calendar for your office. Mark the key dates from above and any other important dates. Enter reminders as needed in your Outlook Calendar, CRM software or whatever calendaring system you use.
  5. If you don’t use a calendaring system for your business, December would be a good time to start. There are many good options available and you can even demo some solutions online. A simple combination of an Outlook or Google calendar with a CRM system such as Salesforce may be all you need. No need to get too complicated here.
  6. Create a separate editorial calendar. Much of today’s marketing is content-oriented: blog posts, newsletters, press releases, social media, white papers, presentations, articles and so forth, are all time-sensitive activities and should be scheduled on, at the very least, a monthly or quarterly basis. Make sure you are keeping to a consistent schedule by tracking your publication dates on your editorial calendar.
  7. Evaluate your online presence. If your website needs a tune up or redesign or you have been meaning to start a Google Plus or Twitter account, now would be a good time to address this. Setting up your digital and online presence often takes more time than most people think. There really is no such thing as a website that you build in “just a few clicks!”

These simple tips can help get your marketing off to a strong start for the new year. The key to successful marketing over the long-term is the ability to envision the timeline ahead and clearly understanding what works best and when. With a well-considered implementation timeline in place you can feel more prepared, better anticipate trends, and minimize unpleasant surprises!

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