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Written by The Mezzanine Group
on December 15, 2011

It’s that time of the year. The snow is beginning to fall, the holiday season will soon be upon us and the start of a new year, 2012, is just around the corner.

This time of year is usually a time of deep reflection for us as individuals as well as for companies. Many firms are approaching their year-end and embark on key activities such as strategic planning and budgeting. Charts are drawn, goals are set, numbers are crunched. In our Outsourced Marketing practice, we work with many clients on developing marketing plans and budgets for the year ahead. In our planning for next year, it’s critical to stop, assess and reflect on the past year.

Aside from measuring the effectiveness of a marketing program, which is an obvious activity to understand what worked, what exceeded expectations, what may have fell a little short, we look beyond marketing to understand what changed in the marketplace.

If you are currently planning your marketing program for 2012, here are some practical trend questions to ask yourself as you set marketing goals and activities for the year ahead.

1) External Forces – Has there been any major changes in the marketplace? For example, new laws/requirements, materials costs increases which are impacting margins, labour shortages, etc.

2) Internal Changes – What internal events have occurred this year that impact your actions for next year? For example, significant changes in your product-revenue mix, development of a new product that you want to launch, realized operations efficiencies, increased capacity, etc.

3) Customer Insights – What changes have occurred with respect to your customers/prospects? These changes may include additional influencers that are playing a role in the buying process, taking longer to make a decision, needs/demands changes, etc.

4) Competitor Movement – What is changing in your company’s competitive landscape? Have companies consolidated? Did some not survive? Have new product developments been launched? New competitors emerged?

There are an infinite number of questions a company can reflect on at the end of each year. For the SMBs we work with, asking these tough questions helps to bring focus to the year ahead, particularly, if there is not a formal strategic planning process.

As you look at marketing for the year ahead, identify 3-5 key changes/opportunities that impact marketing. This will inform the plan and ensure the goals, activities and metrics set are aligned with the practical realities of the business.

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