Need a Marketing Plan? Start With Last Year’s Results

Caroline D. Quinn Marketing Plans, Small Business Marketing

It’s 2017 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.

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 rarely 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. This post includes some of the key areas to address when reviewing your 2016 results.

Did you accomplish your goals? Why or why not?

First, make a list your 2016 business goals and the result of each goal.  Briefly note the major reasons why each goal was achieved or not. Some typical business goal results include:

  1. Company revenue goals (revenue vs. expense results)
  2. Sales results (including product/service category performance)
  3. Customer/traffic counts (up or down)
  4. Lead generation (# leads), and conversion of leads into customers
  5. Sales conversion rate (up or down)
  6. Average customer transaction amount (up or down)

Next, review your 2016 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:

Public Relations: Did you have a goal for publicity (or earned media)? How many articles/blog posts featuring your business were achieved in 2016, and was that up or down compared to 2015? Did your business have any negative publicity, and if so, what was the effect it had on your business?

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?

Social Media: 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 channel you’re using for your business (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.). Key areas to evaluate are Engagement (post likes/reactions, comments, shares, clicks, video views), number of page likes/followers, etc. Are you effectively reaching your target customers with each channel? This will help you determine your social media strategy for 2017.

Website: What were your goals for your website in 2016? Increase website traffic with a blog? Convert visitors into customers? Increase your email subscribers? 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 for 2016, such as visits, users, time on site, bounce rate, 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).

If you’re not familiar with website and social media analytics reports, check out our blog for the basics:  How to Get Started with Web & Social Analytics

Email Marketing: If your business has an email marketing program like an e-newsletter or e-blasts, what were the results of your goals for the program? Evaluate results of each mailing to see which ones were the most effective. Your email platform (client) should include analytics like opens, click-thru rates, offer redemptions, downloads, etc. Which emails performed the best in 2016 and which did not? This will help you determine your email strategy in 2017.

Advertising Campaigns: Evaluate your 2016 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?  Which formats and messages performed the best? You might find that traditional advertising formats are no longer cost-effective based on your results (i.e., return on investment), which would require a redirection in 2017.

If you ran social media ad campaigns, review the results of each campaign using the analytics provided by each channel. What post types performed the best (e.g., targeted boost posts, videos, carousel ads, slide show videos, etc.)? Did your ads increase traffic to your website? Were your offers redeemed? Did the ads drive traffic, leads or sales?

Promotions & Traffic-Driving Events: Did your business conduct any sales promotions or traffic-driving events in 2016? 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 in 2017.

Marketing Budget: Review budget versus actual expenses for your 2016 marketing budget. Were you over or under budget? If so, why? What was the ROI on your major marketing initiatives?

Once you have your results analyzed, you should review and update other areas of last year’s marketing plan, including the following:

     1.  Positioning:

  • What is your business’ position in the market (market leader, new business, middle/bottom of the pack)?
  • Has your position changed over the past year? If so, how & why?
  • What is your unique selling proposition?

   2. Target Customer:

  • Who is your target customer? What are their characteristics, and what are their interests? Has there been a shift over the past year?
  • How does your business solve your customers’ problems?

     3.  Branding Strategy:

  • What are your company’s values? What does your company represent?
  • What is your brand’s personality? How do you want people to talk about you?
  • Were you successful in consistently presenting your brand and your brand voice in your marketing collaterals, website, advertising, social media, PR, etc.?
  1. Competition: It’s a good idea to analyze your competition regularly, and note any changes in their marketing strategy so you can continue to differentiate your business.
  • Who are your primary competitors and what do they offer?
  • What is their position in the market?
  • What are they saying – i.e., what is their messaging strategy in their social media, advertising, and PR.?
  • How is your business different?
  1. Significant Issues: Note any significant issues that could affect your 2017 marketing plan. For example,
  • Is your company offering new products or services, changing location or adding a new one, going through an expansion or remodel, etc.
  • Any changes in the market, such as a large lay-off at a major employer, or new businesses coming to the area that will hire a large number of employees?
  • Any changes with your competition that might affect your business or your customers.
  1. SWOT Analysis: Review and update your SWOT analysis, which is typically found in the business and marketing plans. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. If your business had a SWOT analysis for 2016, what has changed? A review will help you determine whether you need to address other business priorities for 2017, and how marketing will support them.

If you did not do a SWOT analysis for your business in 2016, work     with your team to create one and include it in your 2017 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.

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 new                 competition moving into the market, or a downturn in the economy.

  1. Marketing Calendar: Your Marketing Calendar should include key dates and events for 2017. Make a calendar that includes promotional dates, events, advertising campaigns, holidays, etc. that you need to incorporate into your marketing plan.
  1. Update your Marketing Budget for 2017

Once you’ve completed your review of 2016 results and updated the other key areas of your situation analysis, you’ll be ready to update the Goals, Strategies and Tactics sections of your marketing plan. Ideally, you already started working on your 2017 plan in the third or fourth quarter of last year, but even if you’re just starting from scratch, evaluating last year’s results will help you determine whether you’re on track.

If you need help with your marketing plan, you can contact me for a free consultation.  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 2017!

Caroline D. Quinn is the founder of Quinnovative Marketing, a marketing services company based in Plymouth, MA. An experienced marketing pro who delivers results-driven marketing, she is focused on helping small and mid-size business owners succeed. You can follow Caroline on Twitter at @Carolinedquinn or @QuinnovativeMkt, or on Quinnovative’s Facebook page.