Reviewing your marketing efforts is work, but it can be very gratifying work. Now is the time for you to make decisions about what was effective, what wasn't, what might have been effective if you'd had the time, and your direction for the upcoming year. And if you've never had a marketing plan before, it's not too late to put pen to paper. I know it sounds time-consuming, but going through the exercise of creating a plan and budget is a low-cost way to assess your success to date and plan for all your future successes. Here are a few tips for assessing and updating your plan:

What worked? Did you host an event, sponsor a charity, launch a PR campaign, volunteer on a board? What was the highlight of the year? What brought you to that success? Can you duplicate it? Can you quantify what worked, i.e., the return on your investment? Did a 15% increase in advertising lead to a 25% increase in sales? Did you track your investments well enough to judge what was effective? This is the time to make adjustments to your media, advertising, and PR budget. Line up the costs with the results, and determine what marketing you will stick with and what you will cut. For those strategies that worked especially well, you may want to put more money toward them in 2000, and ditch anything that didn't pull results. However, make sure you gave each strategy enough time to be able to evaluate it reasonably. For example, if you did radio two weeks out of the year and it "didn't work," know that you did not give it enough of a run to evaluate it fairly.

What didn't work? If an idea or a campaign failed, do you have a good handle on why? Did you select the wrong media or underfund your advertising? Was your message right for your audience? Did you start marketing efforts and abandon them before they had a chance to work? Did you get bogged down in the details of running a business and forget the big picture? Did you forgo initiatives because you didn't have the time to implement them yourself? Do you have a clear idea of how much your time is worth, and when it makes sense to outsource tasks? Many small-business owners try to be all things to all people, all the time. While this is understandable, it can also be deadly to a business. You need to do what you do best, and outsource tasks that aren't your forte.

If you've never created a plan before, now's a good time to start. Your plan does not need to be a James Michener-size document to be effective. And if the work is daunting, start small: Get your goals down on paper, then list ways to get to those goals. Sketch out your plans month by month, and assign budget numbers to each month for advertising and PR. Do your homework well, and stick with your marketing investments for one year to truly judge their efficacy.

Copyright © 2000 Kimberly L. McCall