The years end is a great time to revisit your marketing plan and see how effective it has been in the last year and what you can change going forward. With the economy showing signs of recovery, a marketing checkup is a smart tool to help you position your business for growth in the coming year. Her-s what to evaluate.
Your marketing plan. To begin, take a look at your current marketing plan. What are the elements of your marketing mix? What are you doing and how often? How much is it costing you, in both money and time? (Today many marketing tools are low- or no-cost, but you still need to take into account the time i-s taking you or an employee to implement them.)
Your ROI. What results are you getting from your marketing? You should be able to quantify the payoff from each marketing investment that you make. Even if you can't categorize it in dollar figures, look for some measurable result such as the number of new leads, new customers, new Facebook fans or mentions of your business in the press. Once you've quantified your results, compare them against your investment of time and money to determine if they are worthwhile.
Your marketing materials. Look at all your marketing materials' from logo, business cards and brochures to your website'with a critical eye. Are they outdated? Are they serving their purpose? Do they no longer reflect where your company is today? Maybe it's time for a makeover.
Your competition. What are your key competitor' current marketing strategies? (You are monitoring them, are't you? It's easy to do with Facebook and Twitter.) Are there elements of what theyâ€™re doing that you can adopt, copy or learn from?
Industry trends. This time of year every industry newsletter, publication and website is touting the top trends for the coming year. Study your industry news and predictions carefully to see how trends may affect the way you market your business next year and what markets you target.
Your team. Do you have enough employees to implement your marketing program to its fullest? Are the employees up-to-date on the latest marketing trends? Do they have the technological tools they need to do their jobs? Could they use more training to do their jobs better? Often the best way to find out is simply to ask. These days, there are lots of places to find free or low-cost training in the form of webinars, seminars and online courses. Start with your industry association. Marketing is changing rapidly, and your team needs to adapt, so take the time to invest in their education.
Your current customers. Your existing customers are a great source of repeat business. Are you using them as well as you could be to market your company? Make sure your e-mail lists are up to date so you can stay in touch. If you're not already doing so, consider asking customers for referrals, reviews and testimonials. Offering rewards for anyone who brings you new customers is a great way to motivate referrals.
Your current customers, part 2. Customers can also help guide your marketing strategy by telling you what they do and don't like. If you're in doubt about any aspect of your marketing message, a customer survey can help put you on the right path. Check online and you'll find lots of free survey tools that are easy to use. Or do a simple survey using Facebook or Twitter. (Just remember to weigh the results of your survey against what you've found in your ROI assessment.)
Your marketing plan, revisited. With all the data you've gathered from this checkup, go back to your marketing plan and revise and update it for the coming year. It's a good idea to check back with your marketing plan regularly, say, every 6 months or even every 3, to see which strategies are paying off. By fine-tuning your plan throughout the year, you'll help ensure the most prosperous 2011 possible.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free weekly TrendCast reports.
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