It may already be the end of 2017, but let's face it, it's never too late to get your head around a plan for the new year. Investing time to understand where your marketing plan is now and where you want it to go in 2018 will give you a positive start to hit the ground running for the first quarter.

High-Level Objectives

1.    Budget

Unsurprisingly one of the biggest obstacles you'll want to tackle is your marketing budget for 2018. To do this, you'll need to understand what you spent in 2017, what your return on investment was, and how you want to move forward. For example, did your retargeting program work? If not, take the time to understand why not and how you can improve it for next year. It's important to understand where you want to go and how you can get there before you begin to strategize.

2.    Content (Web and Email)

It's also important to take a look at the content you created this year to help shape your upcoming editorial calendar. Make a list of the top 10 performing pieces of content and brainstorm more ideas off of those to understand what made it successful - well designed, well written and timely? Did you target a specific audience that was very receptive? Take the time to make a spreadsheet with your content to track headlines, word count, social media shares, target audience and more to ensure you can replicate the process in the future. Allowing yourself to see where you've done well and where you can improve your content is essential. On the flip side, take the time to see what content didn't perform well and why.

Don't be afraid to revisit your content to keep it up to date as well. Once you've written a piece of content, it can get stale pretty quickly. That content is yours to own, so get some use of it. Revisit your content and update where and when possible and then reshare! You can also take this opportunity to tweak the target audience or headline as well to get a higher response rate.

3.    Social Media

Understanding your content and what worked this year should also be done for your social media content. Take a look at the analytics from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram (among others) provides to understand what content your followers interact with most. Make a plan around more of that content and brainstorm ways to improve the content that didn't work well. You may also want to take stock in who you're following and who follows you. Keep close to your industry and unfollow anyone who doesn't fit the mold of what you're trying to create, and don't forget to also research new important voices in your arena and follow them. Learn more about the social media trends to be on the lookout for here.

So, how do you actually navigate this end of year planning process? Here are some tips:

1.    Understand trends in your industry. You can't always control what is happening in the industry at large and it's important to stay up-to-date on industry trends and economic impact. You'll want to be aware of any changes in order to stay ahead of the game.

2.    Watch your competitors. This may be a given, but double check their marketing content, website and social media channels. What seems to be hitting the right notes and can you replicate in an interesting and different way?

3.    Refocus on your brand. Take the time to re-introduce yourself to your brand. It's easy to get into the minutia of the brand and forget some of the other details that truly make your company stand out. Grow your marketing efforts around your brand and find new ways to communicate your company's mission and vision.

4.    Have clear objectives. Your yearly objectives are the goals of your marketing efforts that should be measurable and tied to a specific timeframe. Once you've identified your goals, create a strategy to meet those goals - whether it's raising brand awareness, getting more referrals or more in-store traffic - then identify the tactics to achieve them such as more digital advertising, billboard use or increasing your social media presence.

5.    Focus on impactful projects. I don't want to say focus on the big stuff versus the small stuff, because sometimes the small things can make the biggest impact. But what's most important is understanding the events and activities that really make an impact and focusing on those. If you spread yourself, your budget and your time too thin, all these amazing things you're planning won't be as impactful.

6.    Share your marketing plan. If you devise this amazing and detailed marketing plan, but haven't shared it with the organization, then what's the point? If you're trying to spread the word about your social media updates, the best way to do that is involve your colleagues who can like and share your content to their followers. Not just that, it's important to have company support in how you want to brand and share your company. If they feel involved and excited, they'll want to support it.

7.    Get support from the top. Nothing is better than having the president and CEO of the company supporting your marketing plans. Like in No. 6, if the top executives feel involved in the marketing plan, they'll be more likely to share it with their contacts.

8.    Get the support you need. You can't plan and brainstorm every good idea, no matter how good you are! Get a small team together to help create focused processes and protocols for moving the marketing plan forward.

Take the time to understand where you are currently, what you did to get there, and how to improve for next year. You don't have to follow the same plan and you don't have to have a huge budget to make an impact. However, understanding where your budget needs are and the type of content that works is important before moving forward into 2018. Use your current content to propel your company's image and vision forward and spend marketing dollars where needed to make it happen. Revisit content to update and reuse and look, you're saving money already!

Finally, don't be afraid to get the support of your organization - it can only help with your social media campaigns. Plus, that will help your colleagues feel more involved in the company's goals. So, carve out some time in the coming weeks to set yourself up for a running start in 2018. Cheers!

Published on: Dec 18, 2017