And here we are, December. The year is coming to a close and yet there seems to be so much left to do. If you’re like most business leaders, marketing is on that list of to-dos somewhere. With less than 20 business days left in 2019, a little focus will be needed to ready your marketing for the new year. Here are a few simple strategies to wrap up the year and prepare your marketing for a successful 2020.

Look Back
A healthy and honest look at the year’s marketing efforts is always a good idea. A look at the data and analytics is a great start, but going a bit deeper to gather insights is best. These insights can hide in a number of places so here are a few key areas to pay attention to.

Audience: If you look at the top 25-40% of your customers (i.e. those who produce the most revenue), try to identify what attributes they have in common. What do they share in their demographics, needs, motivators and purchasing behavior? This can support better targeting of that audience with both messaging and channel decisions.

Messaging: What messages and content resonated most for your customer-base in 2019? Taking a look at blog traffic, email link clicks and paid media performance can determine what themes and topics get the most traction with your audience.

Channels: Where are your customers spending time? Are they more active in their inbox or in their social feeds? Do they come to your website directly or from search engines? Understanding these factors is valuable to how you allocate marketing dollars and efforts to reach the most qualified potential customers.

Competition: What did your competition do in 2019 and how did it perform? If you belong to a trade or industry organization, you may be able to derive some good intelligence from their year-end reporting. Also, colleagues in the industry are a good source of this information. This insight will inform how to position your brand in the market and where you might find opportunities to differentiate.

Operations: How did your marketing perform from an operational perspective. Beyond simply measuring the return on the advertising investment, have you leveraged this investment fully? Make sure you take a look at how the mechanics of your marketing efforts worked and where you might improve. Also, don’t forget to address other marketing operational items like promotional client/customer holiday gifts, end of year giving as a marketing tactic, and tax-deductibility of your advertising investment.

Plan Ahead
Now that you have all this good information from your year in review, it’s time to put it to some use. Even at the highest and most strategic levels, some marketing planning will always help your tactical efforts. Look at the data you have and give some thought on how it might change or confirm your assumptions. Then use those assumptions to identify the opportunities that will support your business objectives. The following are a few items to focus on.

Goals: Always start with your business goals. If they are specific and measurable, then aligning a marketing plan to support them will be easier. Whether you need more brand awareness or want to double-down on lead generation, clearly stating those objectives will help guide your marketing plan and tactics.

Innovation: What do you want to do differently next year? What are your opportunities for big swings? Planning for innovation is a sound strategic move. Innovation in your business and innovation in your marketing tactics can both have great impact. Coupled together, they can amplify your results.

Trends: What are the trends forecasted for your industry? How can these trends change how you market to your customers? Can these trends even change who your customers are? A good look at the changing landscape will give your marketing plan flexibility and resilience.

Budget: Make sure you earmark the marketing resources you will need to execute the plan. Whether these resources are financial, employees, or partners, a clear outline of how they will support your goals will help align the operations necessary to meet them. A plan is always better than no plan, but a plan that is under-resourced will always struggle to meet its goals. This is also a great time to look at investment in new or upgraded marketing tools.

Get Ahead
December can be a bit unproductive in many businesses. With so many distractions both our teams and our customers may find it hard to accomplish much between Thanksgiving and New Year. Depending on the nature of your business this can be a time to get ahead of things before Q1 hits.

Calendar: Often a key component of your marketing plan, a simple calendar that outlines key dates, events and opportunities for the first quarter or two of 2020 can not only help keep track of things but can also help you think through how you will support these with marketing tactics.

Content: If you use content to market to your customers, loading up your library ahead of the new year can be a fruitful effort. More often than not you will find yourself behind in your content at some point in the year. A few pieces in inventory on topics of general interest to your audience can help when you need it most.

Clean-Up: What items in your marketing operations need a little attention? Have you been suffering through some tracking issues on your website or have you simply been meaning to update your collateral with new metrics? These few weeks between holidays are great for some of these items.

Get Help
If you are like many of our clients, marketing does not have a single owner in the business. Many times the “marketing person” is the business owner, CEO, or someone who handles marketing as a part of their other duties. Even if you have a person dedicated to it, a marketing department of one can leave a lot of opportunities on the table.

Outsourced marketing talent and leadership is what we do. There are many ways we can engage and bring senior marketing leadership and quality tactical support to your communications efforts. We’re happy to help in any capacity and if we can’t, we will help you find someone who can.

Like thoughtful and informed marketing, a little help can go a long way.