[This post, originally published in 2017, has been updated.]
It’s the start of a new year and you need to finalize (or maybe even begin) your marketing plan for the year.
So where do you begin? With last year’s results.
As with your business plan, it’s important to review last year’s results to determine where you are and where you want to go with your business. Evaluating your results will also make it easier to determine your marketing goals and strategies for the coming year, because it will give you a jumping off point.
While it takes time, having a written marketing plan allows you to be proactive, rather than reactive (a.k.a., flying by the seat of your pants), which is not usually successful. Plus, it allows you to create marketing strategies that are based on past results and data, rather than on assumptions and guessing.
Taking the time to fine-tune your plan now will increase your chances of success at year-end because you’ll be able to gauge the effectiveness of your marketing.
This post includes some of the key areas to address when reviewing last year’s results.
Did you accomplish your goals? Why or why not?
First, make a list your business goals for last year and the result of each goal. Briefly note the major reasons why each goal was achieved or not. Some typical business goal results include:
- Company revenue goals (budget income vs. expense results)
- Sales results (including product/service category performance)
- Customer/traffic counts (up or down)
- Lead generation (# leads), and conversion of leads into customers
- Sales conversion rate (up or down)
- Average customer transaction amount (up or down)
Next, review last year’s marketing goals. Ideally, your marketing goals should have been designed to support your business goals. Briefly note the reasons why each goal was achieved or not. Some areas that are typically addressed by marketing plan goals and strategies include the following:
What were your goals for your website last year? Increase website traffic with a blog? Convert visitors into customers? Increase email subscriptions from your email signup widget? What were the results of each goal? Your website is the hub of all your internet activity, and ideally your online efforts should drive traffic back to your website.
Use Google Analytics to review your website results, including sessions (aka, number of visits to your website), users (number of visitors to your website), page views, time on site, new visits vs. return visits, page traffic, referral traffic (i.e., where your website traffic is coming from), best performing pages, and more. You can also evaluate traffic to your website from your social media channels in the Channels report. (As an aside, Google Analytics also provides demographic reports and even provides interest categories of your website visitors. This can be very helpful in understanding your target customer and your messaging). Best of all, it’s free!
If you don’t have Google Analytics set up for your website, check out this step-by-step guide from Hootsuite. For a beginner’s overview of what you can find in Google Analytics, check out this guide from Neil Patel.
What were your goals for social media? Typically businesses want to increase followers, as well as engagement on their posts. Review the analytics for each platform you’re using for your business (Facebook (Insights), Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.). All of these platforms have internal analytics reports for your account. If you use a third-party platform to post, such as Hootsuite or Buffer, these services also offer analytics, although they may be limited if you’re using the free level.
Key areas to evaluate include:
• Your top posts for last year (how many people did they reach, reactions for each post, link clicks, etc.) What post formats performed the best last year – videos, reels, stories, image posts, carousel posts, etc.?
• Engagement (post likes/reactions, comments, shares, clicks, video views, etc.), number of page likes/followers, etc. Are you effectively reaching your target customers with each platform? Check the demographics of your audience in your page analytics to determine this. It will help you determine your social media strategy for this year.
Did you post to groups last year, and if so, did that help to expand reach and engagement? (This can be a very effective strategy on Facebook and LinkedIn).
Make it easier to review the data by downloading CSV files from each platform and posting the data to a spreadsheet.
If your business has an email marketing program like an e-newsletter, blog, or e-blasts, what were the results of your goals for the program? Did you actively try to increase email subscribers in your marketing last year? Evaluate results of each mailing to see which ones were the most effective. Your email platform should include analytics like opens, click-thru rates, offer redemptions, downloads, time sent, etc. Which emails performed the best last year and which did not? This will help you determine your email strategy for this year.
Evaluate last year’s advertising formats, target audiences, and messages, along with related results. Was your advertising effective in driving traffic to your business, generating leads or contributing to sales? If you ran traditional ads such as radio, TV or print advertising, you’ll need to get analytic data from those media. For direct mail campaigns, you should be able to gauge results if you had a call-to-action on the piece.
If you ran social media ad campaigns, review the results of each campaign using the analytics provided by each channel. Facebook provides excellent analytics for advertisers through Facebook Insights, and virtually all the online platforms like Google and media websites provide analytics like reach, frequency, clicks, landing page views, and much more. Which formats and messages performed the best (e.g., targeted boost posts, videos, carousel ads, etc.)? Did your ads increase traffic to your website? Were your offers redeemed? Did the ads drive traffic, leads or sales?
One thing to keep in mind regarding social media/digital advertising is the recent iOS update which allows users to opt-out of being tracked by advertisers and apps. You may notice that because of this change, your results compared to the year before may be significantly off. Be sure to make a note of this. Next year your results should be more comparable.
Going through this exercise will help you determine where you want to advertise this year so you get a better return on your investment.
Did you have a goal for publicity (or earned media)? How many articles/blog posts featuring your business were achieved last year, and was that up or down compared to the previous year? Did your business have any negative publicity, and if so, what was the effect it had on your business? If your business was featured in an article on a media website, ask them for traffic data (from Google Analytics). You can also check to see if your website received referral traffic from their website. Did you receive any customer feedback (positive or negative) from the publicity?
You can also track social media shares of your posts and mentions of your business by third parties, and even customer reviews.
Does your business have a community cause or non-profit organization that you support? If so, what were the results of your related events, fundraising drives, donation drives, etc.? Did your business receive any publicity as a result of your involvement?
Sales Promotions & Traffic-Driving Events:
Did your business conduct any sales promotions or traffic-driving events last year? What were the results of your goals for each one? This will help you determine if you should repeat and build upon the most successful promotions and events this year. Examples of analytics to gauge include sales results, traffic counts, contest entries, email sign-ups related to the promotion, ROI (see below), etc.
Review budget versus actual expenses for last year’s marketing budget. Were you over or under budget? If so, why?
What was the ROI on your major marketing initiatives? One way to calculate ROI is as follows:
Total sales minus marketing campaign costs divided by marketing campaign costs. Example:
Total Sales for the promotion period = $10,000 – $2,000 marketing campaign costs = $8,000 divided by $2,000 = 4.0 ROI.
According to instoremag.com, “at its most basic level, ‘good ROI’ means that for every dollar put t0ward marketing, the business gets more than a dollar back.” So in the above example the campaign returned $4 for each dollar spent.
Another great tool to use for your marketing plan is a SWOT analysis, which is typically part of a business plan. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. If your business had a SWOT analysis for last year, what has changed? A review will help you determine whether you need to address other business priorities this year, and how marketing will support them.
If you didn’t do a SWOT analysis for your business last year, work with your team to create one and include it in your marketing and business plans. The first step is for each team member to create a list of SWOTS. Once your team has compiled a SWOT list, work together to determine which are the top 3-5 in each category. This will help you determine your business priorities and what areas you need to focus on in your business and marketing plans. If you’re a solo, you can do this on your own.
One thing to note with a SWOT analysis is that a weakness is something that is internal to the business like the lack of a branding strategy or not being a market leader compared to the competition. Threats are typically external factors like a downturn in the economy or new competition moving into the market.
Once you’ve completed your review of last year’s results and SWOT analysis, you’ll be ready to update the goals, strategies and tactics section of your marketing plan. For example, say your website traffic (visits) dropped by 10% last year. You could set a goal to increase website visits by at least 15% this year. The strategy could be to keep your website fresh with new content, posting a new blog every two weeks and promoting the content on all your social channels and through email to your subscribers with links to drive traffic back to the website.
If you have a marketing plan for this year, be sure to update it with the results above into your goals, strategies and tactics for this year. If you don’t have a marketing plan yet, these results can be used as a jumping off point as you set your goals, strategies and tactics. They’ll give you more clarity as you develop your plan. Not sure how to do a marketing plan? Check out our blog, “How to Write a Powerful Marketing Plan That Helps You Spark Your Business.”
One final thing: make this process easier next year by tracking your results throughout the year on a spreadsheet. This will save you time later on because you’ll have the info in one place.
If you have questions or need help with your marketing plan, feel free to contact us. If you’d like the latest marketing tips sent straight to your inbox, you can sign up for our mailing list via the form on this page.
Have a fantastic year!
Caroline D. Quinn is the founder of Quinnovative Marketing, a marketing services company based in Plymouth MA. She is focused on helping small and mid-size business owners in New England. You can follow Quinnovative on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.