Fourth quarter will soon be upon us, which means it is time to start reviewing the marketing of the current year and making plans for the year to come. This is especially true for marketing, since preliminary fact gathering is often an hours-consuming process and effective implementation of marketing plans can sometimes take a little time. Start by looking at the last 12 months, and answering a few questions.

  • How much money was actually spent?

Even if you are disciplined and specifically allocate your dollars in advance, chances are likely you’ve had a few add-on purchases throughout the year. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as you haven’t blown your budget along the way. But knowing how much was invested will make evaluating and planning for the future easier.

  • What worked and what didn’t?

Consider the various outlets you used to get your name out. Did all of them perform up to your expectations? Sometimes “amazing opportunities” deliver less than stellar results. This may be due to a salesperson over promising what his medium cannot deliver. Or, possibly, the channel chosen just wasn’t a good match with your target audience.

Hopefully you have employed a tracking mechanism of some sort. Most digital media provide access to analytical data. POS systems usually reflect special offers. Physical coupons can be saved and counted. Even anecdotal experience, though often flawed, is better than nothing. Use whatever data is available to generate a list of MUST DOs and DON’T REPEATs.

  • What opportunities came across your desk that you weren’t prepared to maximize?

Maybe you learned about them too late, or had already spent the necessary dollars on something else. Either way, there are always new marketing avenues to consider. Research these enough to make an educated decision for the coming year and plan accordingly.

  • What has changed in the last year?

Business patterns ebb and flow. Product/service offerings are modified. Goals evolve. Competitors open and close. Media outlets come and go. Understanding what has changed will help you better prepare for the months ahead.

Taking a long, objective look at your current situation. You’ll probably find some things to regret and others to celebrate. But don’t hold back. Ask yourself the hard questions and plot the route for the success you want to achieve in 2018.

Next month, look for pointers on deciding how much to spend on marketing.