Fall is official and fourth quarter is fast approaching on October 1. This can be a chaotic time of year for businesses and organizations as they are challenged with balancing various priorities including year-end campaigns, auditing, employee reviews and more. It can be so overwhelming that strategic planning for the year ahead gets put off or left behind. Developing your marketing strategy in Q4 is a sure way to finish the year strong.
Watch the Clock!
There are many reasons to begin strategic marketing planning in Q4. Without a comprehensive marketing plan, it would be impossible to establish a realistic overall budget for the upcoming year. Effective marketing can increase profitability and brand awareness, so it needs to be approached thoughtfully and thoroughly. A rush job could result in underestimates, missed opportunities, or you could even end up launching a campaign prematurely and suffering the consequences. If you get started now, you’ll have plenty of time to build a solid plan driven by your marketing objectives and based on research.
No Questions, No Answers
Of course there are the obvious questions: What worked? What didn’t work? Was there truly a return on investment on a particular social media ad, radio spot, etc.? Depending on how long your business or organization has been around, there may be several annual marketing activities that are no brainers for you to continue on with. However, you don’t want to become complacent. Have you considered how you might enhance or leverage those marketing efforts for a greater impact?
Then, there are the less obvious questions: What new products and services will need promotion? What new marketing tools are available? It’s also important to consider how your target audience has changed. If it has expanded, that might suggest a shake up in demographics, which may call for you to shake up your strategy. Are your offline and online marketing strategies in alignment? Is your website and current marketing collateral up-to-date? Are you maximizing free and low-cost internal marketing opportunities? And the list goes on.
Plan to Succeed
As you begin the planning process, you’ll want to collaborate with your team to obtain broader insight. Involving key players across your organization will provide them with a greater understanding of the vision and the ability to help execute it. In some cases, issuing a company-wide survey to collect additional opinions may be worthwhile.
A chief guiding principle is to depend on your data. This is not the time to make any assumptions. It will be helpful to review measurements from current and past years so that you can accurately analyze trends. Competitor data is sometimes accessible and is also a good resource. The quantitative metrics matter, but qualitative information is also highly valuable. Perhaps there were marketing efforts that you received personal feedback on. Try to reflect on times when you felt your marketing campaigns were successful for reasons beyond just the figures.