What does the year ahead hold for your small business? Maybe you plan to release a new product or service, launch a new website or simply focus on the projects that were put on the back burner last year; whatever your goals are, you need a plan.

While it may be easier to improvise in the moment, it’s crucial that you write a strategy outline for your campaigns or marketing efforts. According to articulate, marketers who document their strategy are 538 percent more likely to report success than those who don’t.

Wondering where to start on this strategy document? Our checklist below will walk through our favorite tactics to help guide your strategy and keep your marketing on track.

Use Goals to Set Your Budget

Goal setting is critical for every small business owner. With concrete goals, you have a foundation from which to develop a strategic, effective marketing budget.

However, it’s not just about saying “it would be cool to hit $10 million dollars in revenue this year.” To use your goals as the framework for finalizing your budget, you need SMART goals.

These will help you determine customer lifetime value by defining what a reasonably expected return will be for each objective and the channels you’re considering.

How? Start by following the steps below:

  1. Track leads by channel
  2. Determine channel cost
  3. Determine average client value
  4. Determine sales conversion rate
  5. Determine your magic number

Average Client Value x Sales Conversion Rate = Magic Number (how much you can pay for a lead to break even)

Now, you can look at what you’re paying for leads with your current channels:

Channel Cost / Magic Number = Total Leads Needed to Break Even

Taking the time to define these numbers will prove extremely beneficial. With the customer lifetime value framework, you can determine what budget is needed to hit your goals, which channels are the most cost-efficient, which should be scrapped and where you should reallocate based on your evolving targets.

Research Market Trends

Demand for your product or service depends on the consumers’ current wants, needs and preferences. Just like you keep up with others on social media, it’s important to do the same as trends emerge within your industry.

Here are the most effective ways to track trends and ensure you’re staying ahead of the game:

  • Research online to find websites, blogs, and forums that contain useful and updated information about your industry. (We like to use Feedly to consolidate news from several different sources in one place!)
  • Get active on social media and discover what’s trending.
  • Talk to experts or influencers that have established a well-trusted brand in your industry.
  • Attend conferences to stay on the cutting edge of industry advancements and trends before your competitors.
  • Connect with your audience to understand the marketing channels and content that will prove most effective.

Conduct a SWOT Analysis

If you want to thrive in a competitive marketplace, you must assess the condition of your business, inside and out. It’s crucial to understand what you’re doing well, where you could improve, where to take your business next, and predict emerging market challenges you’ll likely face. This might seem like a tall order, but you can simplify the process by conducting a SWOT Analysis.

A SWOT analysis can certainly be done in-house by your team. However, for the best results it’s helpful to bring in an outside party (like a marketing agency) to analyze your business more objectively and clarify new ideas and strategies from a different angle.

Research Competitors

How well do you know your competitors? Are they working on anything new? Do you know anything about the strategies they’re using for success?

Conducting a competitor analysis is vital for not only matching your competitors but giving you an edge.

To help establish clarity when building your marketing strategy, be sure to thoroughly research other companies in your industry to understand their strengths and weaknesses in comparison to your own. If done correctly, this process can help you see what tactics your audience is receptive to while also potentially uncovering good ideas for your business that competitors have missed.

Make Time for Spring Cleaning

A busy holiday season followed by hitting the ground running in the new year can only mean one thing for your business – spring cleaning! It’s time to start thinking about creating fresh content, auditing your CRM, dusting off that marketing plan and organizing your current digital marketing efforts. You won’t need a set of rubber gloves and a bucket for this one. Just a little dedication, some goal setting, and a whole lot of fun.

Business and marketing are constantly developing. New trends emerge everyday pushing old ones aside, meaning your business is at risk of getting lost in the clutter if you don’t evolve. Spring cleaning your business can show you what processes need improvement, help you streamline everyday operations and set your business up for better overall performance.

Plan Monthly Reviews and Quarterly Audits

How is your marketing working for you? Has it helped you increase brand visibility, generate more leads or land new sales/clients? Even if your marketing has been successful, it’s important to conduct regular reviews or audits to understand your efforts and make changes as necessary.

The words review and audit are often used interchangeably. However, for our purposes there is a distinct difference.

  • A marketing review is a simplified assessment of your current initiatives and how you’re stacking up against your goals.
  • A marketing audit takes a deep dive into your overall marketing strategy, assets, and activities to determine how well they’re preforming and identify areas that need to be tweaked.

It’s important to run reports and conduct a marketing review on a monthly basis to keep tabs on your efforts. A marketing audit on the other hand should be completed on a quarterly basis to understand if your strategy is working and adjust as needed to ensure you’re heading in the right direction.

Conduct a Website Audit

Last year we wrote A Beginner’s Guide to Website Audits. Just like a car, the health of your website can deteriorate over time without proper servicing.

Unfortunately, many webmasters will wait until the figurative wheels come flying off before realizing a website audit may be in order. Identifying and rectifying problems with your website early saves expensive repairs down the line and ensures optimal performance.

The purpose of a website audit is to provide a complete and detailed analysis into your site’s health, performance and speed. Assessing these areas a couple times a year will give you a full picture of the current effectiveness of your site, show where you may be able to further optimize and improve your site and identify issues that could be causing damage to your site’s health.

Plan Your Holiday Marketing Strategy

The holiday season is the busiest time of year for many businesses. With the opportunity to strike big and the final chance to boost sales before the new year, it’s vital to prepare a successful holiday marketing strategy in advance.

Whether it’s freshening up your landing pages, creating brand awareness with your holiday marketing campaigns, finding other ways to target new customers or everything in between, the list of tasks can seem endless. But it doesn’t have to.

Don’t let the task of holiday marketing overwhelm you! Here’s a few of our favorite tactics that won’t take much time and will help set your business up for a successful shopping season:

  • Add seasonal touches to your branding
  • Check your keywords
  • Boost your visibility through paid ads
  • Check out your competition
  • Share good wishes from you and your team
  • Emphasize your company values by giving back
  • Post about your positive experiences and accomplishments

Start Your Strategy Off Right

Taking the time to think about and analyze your yearly marketing strategy is not only important for the business planning phase, but it is also vital to your success. Now that you have this checklist, you can make sure your business is thinking proactively about the future and putting the right foot forward.

Whether your business is just getting up and running or you’re looking for new ideas on how to shake things up, our team of marketing experts is ready to take your company’s marketing strategy to the next level. Contact us today to learn more about our services.