7 Steps to Prepare Your Business for the New Year

Use December to prepare your business for 2017

Ah, December. A time for gift-giving, celebrating, eating, and at last, resting.

For business owners, December is also a time for planning. Things naturally slow down this month as people huddle up inside with family and friends. Your customers aren’t concerned about connecting with your business, which is probably a good thing, considering how much of your staff is on holiday leave.

That gives you the perfect opportunity to plan for 2018. Here’s what you should be doing now to enjoy a prosperous year in 2018.

1. Request your 2018 budget.

When January 1st comes around, you should be able to hit the gas and get started right away. Key to doing that is having a finalized budget you can count on.

Have your marketing team work up a budget for each channel – including spend and expected return in sales or leads. Include space for you to explore new marketing channels (see tip #4) and assign some placeholder spend for those. Then sit down and carefully review it together, to make sure what they’ve proposed works for you.

For example, if you tell your marketing team that you only have $5,000 for January and the CPL is around $20, they will most likely come back with an estimated 250 leads. Is this doable for your business? Do you need more? Work with your team to come up with the winning formula.

2. Reflect on last year’s performance.

What worked well last year? What didn’t?

These questions can be overwhelming to answer on your own, so enlist some help from your team. Ask everyone to give you at least one answer for both questions.

At a high level, consider this: Are you generally happy with your returns from last year? If not, why? Do you wish you were getting more out of certain marketing channels like paid search? Is it time to try out some new strategies?

Analyze your current marketing strategy and see if there is fat you can cut or areas you want to spend more on in 2018. You have to know where you came from to know where you are going.

3. Evaluate the team.

One reason last year’s performance may have been lackluster is your team came up short. A channel’s poor performance may need a refresh in strategy, or you may not simply have enough people to get the job done. Take a hard look at your in-house marketing team and consider how many people – and in what roles – you need to take your business to the next level.

Here are our recommendations for must-haves on your team:

  • Reporting and Data Analyst – This is someone who can crunch the numbers and tell you at a moment’s notice where your business is at.
  • Lead Generation or eCommerce Marketing Specialist – Typically you need two to three people in this role to be able to accomplish what you need to do. They maintain the marketing channels and might have the following members on their team:
    • Social Media Specialist
    • Paid Search Specialist
    • Paid Social Media Specialist 
  • Email Specialist – This is someone who inherently gets the customer lifecycle, and knows how to develop drip campaigns to nurture your customers and push them along the funnel.

Depending on the size of your business, it’s often smart to supplement some of these roles through an agency until the results warrant a full-time employee. We can help with that.

4. Explore new channels.

Each year brings with it an explosion of new marketing channels onto the scene. You’ll still need to pay attention to your tried and true strategies – email marketing, SEO, PPC, content and social media – but here are the ones to keep an eye on in 2018. It might be time for you to test a few out of these out for your brand.

  • Snapchat – Although Instagram took a chunk of their revenue, Snapchat’s still coming out with more and more features to up the ante. One notable feature they’re still holding over Instagram? The ability to add hyperlinks to your posts.
  • Instagram – Influencer marketing is continuing to take a larger and larger chunk out of marketing budgets – because it works. With 11 times higher ROI than other forms of digital advertising, you’ll want to consider how your brand can work with Instagram influencers.
  • Shopping Showcase Ads – Introduced this year, Google now lets you bid on generic brand terms related to your products, like “women’s fitness apparel.” This is a great way to get your brand in front of more customers who haven’t heard of you yet.
  • Videos – Videos are eating the internet, leading experts to predict that videos will make up 80% of internet traffic within the next 4 years. You absolutely must be creating high-quality video content for your brand.
  • Facebook Advertising – If you want to reach customers on Facebook, you have to pay to play. Fortunately, Facebook ads are cheaper than other platforms and they come out with new types of ads all the time, from boosted influencer posts to immersive canvas ads that take over the user’s screen.
  • Amazon – When people search for products online, they’re just as likely to start their search with Amazon as with Google. If you’re in eCommerce, you better develop a standalone paid and organic strategy for Amazon if you want to succeed.

5. Reassess your contracts.

Do you need to find some more space in your budget in order to explore some of those exciting new channels? Review which of your existing agency, software, and vendor contracts are ending at the end of the year.

Before renewing automatically, take a moment to think about how necessary they were to achieving your goals. If you’d like to renew but want to negotiate a lower rate, put together a report to show performance and share with them. If the data is unimpressive, they’ll work harder to keep your business.

6. Fill out your calendars.

Prep your 2018 calendars for social media, email marketing campaigns, trade shows and events, and more. Synergize these channels where applicable, so your efforts can pack a bigger punch. Brainstorm topics to cover, new channels to incorporate, and venues to connect with new customers.

Fill out the first three months completely. Then sketch in some ideas for the remaining quarters.

7. Take a look at the competition.

You’d be surprised how many companies have no idea what their competitors are doing. Don’t let yourself be one of those companies. Before you head into 2018, get a pulse on what your competitors did last year.

Now is the time to take a peek into what your competitors did for Black Friday, any special campaigns they ran that saw success, as well as anything that seemed to bomb. It’s an efficient way to gain insight without too much work on your part, and save you from making the same mistakes.

Conclusion

By preparing for 2018 in December, your business is already ahead of the game. If you find yourself getting stuck on any of the steps we outlined above, reach out.