New Year, New Marketing Plan: 6 Things You Need to Know First

New Year, New Marketing Plan: 6 Things You Need to Know First

It’s that time of year again. Time to decorate our homes, indulge in foods we usually avoid, and, for business owners, take a high level look at this past year’s marketing strategies to see what paid off and what we should sweep into the trash can. Here are our recommended top 6 major evaluations, as well as a few things you can do to make next year’s marketing strategies take your business to the next level.


1. Your Website

Of course we’re a bit biased, but, as the gateway into your business and the first impression potential customers will have, it’s important that your website continue to do as much for your business today as it did when it was originally designed. Start by taking a look at your copy. As your business has grown and you’ve gotten into your marketing stride, does your text still represent who you are, what you do, and how you operate? Apply that same mentality to the layout of your site. Is it easy for your customers to find your primary services and other important information that might not have been as important last year? It might be time to do a little spring…ermh…winter cleaning.

2. The Competition
Now is also a great time to check out what the competition is doing. Keep your eyes peeled for commonalities between sites, as they are often a sign of a successful conversion strategy. For instance, you might find that nine of your ten competitors prominently offer a newsletter signup on their front page, and determine that this might be a good strategy for you, too. You’ll also want to look out for any cutting edge design trends, so that you can keep your site looking relevant and up to date. That said, you know your business better than anyone, and doing competitor research shouldn’t lead you to abandon a style that’s all your own.

3. Analytics
There’s not much use in having a beautifully designed website if few people are visiting it. Now is a great time to dig into a year’s worth of website data, whether you examine the basic traffic source, post popularity, and click data on your WordPress dashboard or you look more deeply into your Google Analytics. As you make your examination, keep the past year’s calendar handy so you can correlate any non-website marketing activities with increased traffic. You might, for instance, see a spike in traffic after you rocked that speaking engagement, or perhaps you’ll see more hits after a particularly compelling blogpost, a social media ad, or a pay per click (PPC) campaign. Analytics are by far the best way to determine what marketing activities have been worth the time and money invested.

4. Social Media
As one of the most powerful marketing tools out there, social media analytics are just as crucial to evaluate as those available for your website. On Facebook, take a good look at your engagement rates, examining both the type of content that got you the most likes, comments, and shares and the times of day that evoked the largest responses. While there are general guides to the most rewarding times of day for posting, each audience will differ, and it’s important that you know when your potential customers are most likely to appreciate your efforts. Analytics are a bit more difficult to find on Twitter, but you can still get a sense of what’s been working by looking for retweets, direct messages, responses, favorites, and clicked links.

5. Traditional Marketing
From radio spots to fliers, there are still many means of traditional marketing that remain popular among small business owners. While such efforts are impossible to evaluate with the same precision as online marketing, it’s still important to take a general look at the return on your investment, especially as traditional means of marketing tend to be more costly and time consuming. If you’ve asked each new customer how they’ve heard of you, compile this data into a spreadsheet and produce a graphical comparison. Or, if you’ve been more casual about it, just think back over your client list and gather a rough estimate about who came from where. As a soft rule, the more you’ve spent on a marketing campaign, the more customers it should have brought in.

6. 2011 Vs. 2012
Chances are, this isn’t the first time you’ve done an evaluation of your marketing efforts. If you overhauled your strategies last year, now is the time to compare your overall success rates over the previous year, as well as the success of any specific campaigns or strategies. This will help you determine what to keep, what to chuck, and what you might want to bring back from years past.

So, now that you’ve done your evaluation, what’s next? Here are four simple but powerful steps you can take to get next year started off on the right foot.

To Do

1. Set Goals

It sounds obvious, but many small business owners fly in the dark, adding new marketing strategies as the need arises. Whether you’re overhauling your entire marketing plan or tweaking one thing, set clear, accomplishable goals, and commit to them for the new year.

2.  Make an Editorial Calendar
The most popular websites and social media feeds provide interesting, varied content on a regular basis so that avid followers know they’ve found a source of reliably good material. If you have a habit of forgetting to post for weeks on end or running out of good ideas, take the time now to create an editorial calendar, complete with dates relevant to your industry, and specific article ideas.

3. Change At Least One Thing
If this much pre-planning is more than you’re ready for, pick one general goal for each season, like running a springtime ad in Austin Women’s magazine, doing a crazy PR stunt in the summer, or trying to get published in a major publication in the fall. Do you rely entirely on Google ads? Try adding Facebook ads too. Do you save the majority of your posts for Twitter and LinkedIn? Give Pinterest a whirl. Choose one new marketing strategy and commit to it. Don’t worry; you can always go back!

4. Get Creative With Your Social Media
In the same vein, try making your social media presence a little more engaging by breaking out of that hyper-professional mode and having a little fun (yes, even if you run a “boring business”). You might, for example, hold a contest for your followers, or have regular theme days. We have one client who does Trivia Tuesdays, and another that does Funny Fridays. Both themes allow these clients to have a little fun while still staying relevant to their industry — quite a creative a way to go!

While there are many more evaluations to make and actions to take, the ones listed here are by far the most important. What will you be changing in the new year? Let us know in the comments below.

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