We are fast approaching the end of 2014, and while we write our company holiday cards and order those last-minute client gifts, we should also be developing our marketing plan for 2015 (if we haven’t done so already). To make this a successful year, we need to review our “Ghosts of the Marketing Year Past” so our business can continue to learn, change, and grow. Key to this process is a series of specific areas you should assess:
- Examine your monthly income from January through at least November 2014.
Compare your revenue to the previous year for each month, as well as overall for the year. If there’s a large variance, explore why this is the case. You’ll also want to study which a) products and/or services and b) customers generated the most revenue this past year, so you can consider how you can refocus your sales goals for 2015. Compare your profits from 2014 to 2013. What did your margins look like, and do they need to be changed?
- Study your expenses for 2014.
Reflect on whether or not you made changes regarding vendors, utilities, and employees. How did these changes affect your 2014 costs? If there is an increase in costs from 2013 to 2014, why is this the case? Perhaps you need to look at all the areas in which you could potentially cut vendor costs, make employee changes, or reduce overhead costs such as rent, utilities (internet/phone), etc. It’s important to also factor in any anticipated technology expenses you may need to incur in the upcoming year. How will these items be paid for?
- Compare the income from your products and/or services to 2013.
If you added new products and/or services during the past year, look at how well they performed and what you would tweak or change (if anything) for 2015. Review your sales numbers and examine if you need to add new products and/or services to the mix, or possibly remove a product and/or service altogether.
- Pull out your 2014 promotions calendar.
Scrutinize with a critical eye towards making more informed decisions regarding which promotions to carry over into 2015. For promotions you do every year, compare how each fared next to the same promotion during the previous year. Did you introduce new promotions this year? If so, how well did they do versus your projections? Write a list of any changes or improvements you need to make if using the same promotions. Finally, create your marketing calendar based on these observations and make sure there is ample space between each promotion.
- Analyze last year’s social media, SEO and SEM programs.
Which social media platforms generated the most leads for you? If you are not posting valuable content on a regular basis, create a schedule and stick with it. Scrutinize the results of pay-per-click programs to make sure you are getting the best bang for your advertising buck. Reexamine your company website with fresh eyes. Visit your competitors’ websites and note anything you want to add and/or change on your site. Consider hiring in-house staff or an outside marketing consulting firm to track and tweak your SEO. Develop your 2015 strategy based on previous performance and industry trends.
- Look at your customer base.
Do you have a good number or prospects lined up for next year? What specific plans do you have in place to reach them – and convert them? How many customers did you gain this year, and how many did you lose? For those customers you lost, try to find out why they left. This can be valuable feedback to help you make changes and help prevent this from happening with future customers. Now, focus on your existing customer base and the overall revenue they generated. Do some customers cost more in resources than the revenue they bring in? Are you seeing a downward performance trend with certain customers? This is important in helping you determine whether you either need to make a greater effort to raise those sales numbers or generate new customers to make up for the loss
- Know your competition, especially locally.
What products and/or services do they offer that you don’t, and vice-versa? Hone in on the one or two companies that are your most direct competition. Look at their websites and collaterals and get ideas regarding your own marketing efforts for 2015, strategies that will help set you apart from them.
This end-of-year examination will place your business in the best possible position for success and profitability in 2015. Don’t let the “Ghost of Marketing Years Future” catch you off guard!