It flew by didn't it? The year is almost over. For businesses and organizations this means the thinking and brainstorming for 2014 is beginning. You might not be writing your plan just yet. But, you may have started thinking about what to do in 2014. That's good, because before jumping into planning, you absolutely want to do the necessary thinking. When you THINK strategically, you start asking yourself questions and questions lead to ideas, solutions, and innovations. How do you start generating the right questions that will lead you to fresh new ideas and strategies for the new year? The questions come when you sit down with your 2013 plan and start looking at what you've done. But I can tell you that there are essentially 4 key questions to ask before you start making plans for marketing in 2014. These 4 questions will enable you to examine and critique your marketing plan so that new ideas and strategies emerge. These 4 questions may also help to solidify your direction and give reason for sticking with the plan as is, which could be just as useful, if not more. So let's get started shall we?
It's crazy how many times I've sat down with clients and colleagues and immediately they start telling me about all the cool things they want to try in the new year, and how they have some great ideas to implement. I love that enthusiasm, and you should make a note of any cool ideas and things you want to try. But, before you start laying down the details and getting caught up with all the new things you want to do, work through these 4 questions first.
1. What worked and why?
Ask this question to assess how well what you did this past year worked for you. Chances are these were also some great ideas at the beginning of the year that you were really jazzed about, so let's see how they did before you spend, money, time and energy on new ideas that yield the sames results, or in a worse case scenario, yields no results at all. Make a simple list of what you did. Then ask yourself as you look at this list, "what worked?" Circle the stuff that worked. Then, again keeping the answer simple, answer the question why. For example, if you circle networking on your list, you would then ask, "Why did networking work for me/us last year?" The answer may be, "I went to the right events and made contact with the right people." Or you might write down, "I joined a networking group that offers referrals and those referrals really paid off."
2. What didn't work and why?
The same goes for this question. It is equally as important to ask this question, because you don't want to continue adding time, money and energy towards something that isn't working. So, ask yourself this question, then circle those things that didn't work. Next to each one you circle for this question, write down why. For instance, advertising might not have worked and so your why might be, "We didn't have a way to track if people were seeing the ads." Or for Google adwords not working, the why could be "We didn't pay attention to Google Analytics to see where the traffic was coming from." In some cases, as in the example answers I just provided, you may find you need to implement something else in order for it to work. So, you can spend time, money and energy on the same idea but tweak it to get different results next time. You only learn this when you ask this question. Super important.
3. What is my purpose for marketing in 2014 - what goals do I want to accomplish to fulfill this purpose?
The purpose might remain the same for 2014, but you shouldn't assume that. In this entrepreneurial economy and era we live in, things are changing very quickly. Flexibility is the name of the game, which means the purpose can change from year to year, and there are chances it can happen even more frequently than that. So ask yourself, is the purpose of the new plan the same as this past year, or do you need a new focus? If so, what do your goals look like? When the goals change so do the strategies. So, even though this seems a bit too obvious, ask yourself this question anyway. Get detailed and don't forget to include at least 2-3 goals that will help fulfill your purpose.
4. Am I clear on my target market, or has this changed?
This is another question when people think, "seriously, again?" My answer is a resounding YES! Always, always, try to hone in on your target market. Decide if you've targeted accurately. Could you narrow some more so you can really TARGET this audience? It helps you to focus for a period of time, on one group, with one message that really resonates with them. Once you've done a good job of targeting them, you can choose another group. The target market needs to be congruent with you achieving your marketing goals and fulfilling the purpose of the marketing plan. So, if your purpose and goals change for 2014, then this question is even more essential. Will targeting the current audience help you to achieve your goals? Do you need to choose a different target market altogether? Get clear on this.
Sit down with your colleagues and confidants, pull out the sticky notes, flip-charts, markers and the plan from the past year, and start with these 4 questions. When you ask yourself what worked and what didn't work, you give yourself a chance to make informed decisions and it opens new pathways in the mind for a brilliant brainstorming session. You also don't have to start from scratch when you start with what has already been done. Things might have worked so well, you'd be a fool to change things. Next, decide on your purpose and what goals you want to reach. Then get strict with yourself and make yourself get even clearer on your target market.
If you answer these questions alone, you will be on your way to creating a fantastic plan for 2014. After you answer the questions, brainstorm those new ideas, toss around that new strategy, develop some details around implementation, and assign deadlines. You're set!
Do you have essential questions you ask when you conduct reviews of plans for various aspect of your business? What are they? OR, did you try out my suggestions? What were the results? I'd love to hear from you on this. Just leave a comment or ask a question below.