The end of the year brings much excitement--quality time with family, delicious food, holiday parties, and best of all, planning meetings. As the final quarter of the year comes to a close, the calendar of every marketing professional is booked with meetings galore as companies set goals for the coming year.

Successful planning can change the trajectory of an entire year, making it a crucial part of every marketer's job. I've sat in many planning meetings throughout my career and have a few pieces of advice to make next year your best year yet.  

Start with Reflection

Every planning meeting should begin by reflecting on the prior year. What worked? What didn't? What did we think wasn't going to work, but did? The answers to these questions lay the groundwork for what your organization needs to prioritize in the coming year.

It's also important to look at last year's numbers. The data can show how close you were to hitting your goals and bring to light missed opportunities. By identifying the gaps, you can plan to fill those holes in the upcoming year.

Go Big--Then Scale Down

Now for the fun part. After a time of reflection, throw some big, bold ideas out on the table. See how people react and take note of what raises eyebrows. Open the conversation for complete creativity. Allow wild and crazy ideas to flow and refrain from saying "that would never work." Sometimes big ideas are the ones that make millions. Encourage your team to be creative, then challenge them to find ways to make those ideas practical.

Think Globally

Marketing professionals need to consider events that will affect the world stage during the next year. Consider what the conversation will be during the year and what consumers will be most interested in hearing about. An obvious example in 2020 is the national election, and while that creates a lot of competition for attention, there are creative ways to position your brand amongst the noise.

Make S.M.A.R.T Goals

So, you have goals for next year--but how do you quantify them? Making S.M.A.R.T goals is the best way to ensure you have a plan in place for success. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. When your goals for the upcoming year have each of these characteristics, you are setting yourself up for a success story that is practical and allows you to strive toward tangible outcomes.

Be Flexible

In marketing, sometimes the best thing you can do is be flexible. New trends will arise, hot topics will spark out of nowhere and unexpected course changes will happen. Marketing plans should be used as a foundation for budgets and priorities. But when the opportunity presents itself to go off your plan, don't be afraid to step outside of the lines. Planning three to six months before the year begins can't always predict timely opportunities.

There are many steps you can take now to set your marketing department up for success in the coming year. Yet, no matter how prepared we are, there will always be surprises in our business. Remain nimble, yet diligent in your plan. It will be critical to your success.