The fourth quarter and the holiday season are officially around the corner, and with them come a complex combination of business challenges. There is a holiday momentum and a race to the finish that sends companies into a frenzied pace, just as their employees begin to relax amid the barrage of holidays, and their respective vacation days, that pepper this time of the year. But no matter where you are in the supply chain, one certainty is that your marketing department should be very, very busy ending the year strong and setting the stage for a successful year.
To determine how well your current year’s marketing plan has served you, understand how to best finish out the year, and plan for an even stronger year ahead, your marketing engine should not be taking a holiday. Marketing can use this time to gain an advantage over the competition by focusing on past accomplishments, present initiatives and future goals.
If your marketing has been managed properly, there should be a twelve-month plan in place you have been following full of objectives, strategies, tactics and ROI benchmarks. Whether you have been using it as a working document all year or you haven’t seen it since January, now is the time to pull it out and conduct an unbiased appraisal of the results you have garnered versus the success measurements you put in place. Did you execute all of the initiatives you planned for the year? Did they meet your pre-determined standards for success? What factors supported or undermined each of your initiatives?
Also included in this review should be the beginning stages of your end-of-year reporting. As you work through your assessment, translate your activities and results into the measurements that matter most to your leadership team, aligning them with the larger strategic business goals for the year. By connecting the dots for management and showcasing the impact marketing activities have had on the business as a whole, you can set the stage for increased investment in next year’s marketing budget.
The holidays are a booming time for the pet industry. The goal of the marketing department should be to keep marketing initiatives going strong through the very end of the year. Whether your focus for the season is brand awareness or product promotion, the goal will be to stand out from the competition. Consumers are inundated with advertising and marketing messages; how can you find a new niche, need or message that hasn’t been done? The team needs to head into the season with a strategy in place, goals established and all of the content and creative ready to implement.
It is also beneficial to understand where you are in relation to your yearly, monthly and quarterly goals and how your holiday marketing efforts will support you. Has the business already met its financial growth goals for the year and the holidays are an opportunity to test new creative? Or do you need to generate major website traffic to ensure conversions meet sales forecasts for the year?
Once you understand how the year has gone, where you stand today and how your holiday campaigns will help you cross the finish line, the only thing left to do is plan for next year. And planning is everything. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a marketing plan that worked this year will work next year. For example, you want to take what you have learned in 2018 and apply it to make 2019 even better. This includes cutting your least-performing marketing activities, adjusting moderately performing activities, doubling down on your best and determining what new initiatives you may want to take on.
It also includes looking outside the four walls of your company to ensure that all of your market assumptions are still in line with reality. Are there any new competitors in your category? Have there been any major changes in your supply chain? Has the definition of your target consumer shifted at all? Have consumer needs, perceptions or preferences changed? Are there global factors that you now need to take into consideration? By conducting an annual SWOT analysis you ensure that your strategy addresses any new threats and capitalizes on any new opportunities. To head into the New Year without this insight would undermine your strategy from the start.
So there you have it: three short little months and oh-so-much marketing left to do.
Here’s a checklist to get you started: Preparing for Next Year
The first step in moving forward, ironically, is looking back. This process should include the entire team, from executive leadership down. And the key is to be very honest about what worked, what didn’t and why.
- Did you develop a strategic marketing plan and use it as a tool and roadmap for the year’s activities?
- Did you have the right strategies in place to support the larger goals of the business? Did they have the intended/expected impact?
- Did you execute all of the strategies and tactics that you planned for at the beginning of the year?
- Did you track their success against the benchmarks and measurements that you set at the beginning of the year?
- Do you have the right measuring tools in place to ensure you communicate success correctly to management?
- What factors supported or undermined the success of each tactic?
- What platforms worked and why?
- What campaigns worked and why?
- Have your company’s goals changed for the upcoming year?
- Is your marketing focus going to change for next year with new products, new brands or new messages?
- Was your budget for the year on target?
- Did the allocation of your resources impact the success of your strategies and tactics?
- Are your current vendors delivering on the objectives you set for them?
- Are your resources aligned correctly?
- Did you accomplish everything according to the timeline you set or did you overshoot and compromise your team’s success?
- Do you have the bandwidth to take on new initiatives next year and execute them successfully?
- Do you need to further supplement your team with outside help to meet the year’s goals?
- Will the same budget support your plans for next year?
- Are your marketing activities connecting with your target customer?
- Is your message resonating and driving towards your objectives?
- Are your products positioned correctly and meeting customer expectations?
- Has the definition of your target customer changed during the year?
- Have your customer needs, perceptions or preferences changed?
- Has there been a social or cultural shift that will impact your marketing?
Your Playing Field:
What have your competitors done that resonated with key markets?
- Are there any new competitors in the category?
- Have there been any major changes in your supply chain?
- Are there global or social factors that you now need to take into consideration?
Are there new technologies or platforms that need to be considered?
This list is by no means comprehensive, but it is a good starting place for your year-end marketing analysis and planning activities. Put this to good use, set yourself, your team and your company up for success, and aim for an amazing year!