Fall is planning season – the best time of year! As 2017 winds down and the cold breeze kicks in, what better time to curl up with some strong coffee and get planning? Going into 2018 with a clear plan, goals, and vision for how you want to kill it next year is what will set you apart from your competitors.
You want to make sure that you can hit the ground running after New Year, and the best time to start planning is now. Starting before December will ensure you have lots of time to get the creative planning juices flowing before being swept up in the holiday season.
With some reflection, brainstorming, and constructive conversations, you’ll have your 2018 plan in no time. Here’s some things to consider when you’re getting ready to plan to help you rock your 2018.
1. Reflect on 2017
The first step in any good strategy is to take a moment to pause and reflect on the past. What worked in 2017? What do you wish you had done better? Get your team together or ask for feedback, too. What are some things you and your team think they absolutely crushed and what are some opportunities that you missed?
Reflection means taking in the good and the bad. Crunch the numbers, scour your analytics, and create a 2017 summary document. This will not only help you with 2018 planning, but will help you in 2019 and the future as you continue to monitor your growth. If you know your numbers and how you did in 2017, whether or not you hit your targets, you can set better and more pointed goals for 2018.
2. Conduct an audit
While audits aren’t always fun, they are definitely necessary. Go through all of your accounts, clients, vendors, freelancers – everything – and see what is working and what isn’t. You may find that no one on your team uses that SEO tool, so it’s time to cancel the subscription! Cutting back costs here and there will ensure that you make the right lean choices for 2018 and can spend those dollars where it counts.
To make this activity more fun, ask your team for a wish list – what tool do they wish they had? What subscription? What office perk? This is good ammo for a company New Year’s gift to thank your team.
3. Check-in with your customers
Carve out some time to touch-base with all of your customers. You can send out a customer satisfaction survey or request for feedback, or meet to discuss a yearend review or plan a 2018 brainstorming session. Your customers will be planning for 2018 as well, so be a part of the conversation.
As a bonus, go back to your LinkedIn and start conversations again with your connections. Make it a priority to get back in touch with any lost connections before the year ends so you go into 2018 with a full roster of connections to follow-up with.
4. Plan for the holidays
Speaking of customers – what are you doing to thank your customers over the holidays? The holiday season is a great time to spread appreciation. Whether you host a party, send a gift basket or card with a small gift inside (or just a note), or send off video greetings, you can’t go wrong with saying “Happy Holidays.”
If you want to go above and beyond, send a creative branded gift and write a personal note with it. Customers really appreciate the personal touch and it sets you up on the right foot for the New Year.
5. Employee year end reviews
The end of the year is a great time to meet with employees to give them feedback, ask them what their focus is for 2018, and get feedback for yourself from your employees. Meet with your team as a whole and individually to check-in and see how they’re feeling about their year. This is a great time to get new ideas for 2018 and also get constructive feedback for what you should work on next year as well.
6. Brainstorm & plan 2018 goals
Now, time for the fun stuff! Brainstorming is a great way to kick-off the creative process. Take some time to free flow all your ideas on sticky notes, paper, or the computer – do whatever method that gets you excited to share ideas. You can do this alone or with your team. There is no right or wrong way to brainstorm.
Write everything down once you’re done and then start synthesizing the ideas. What themes do you see? What areas of focus come to light? From there, look at your competitors and what they did in 2017. Check out trends, do some research, talk to your partners and network, and then get started on your planning and setting goals.
Remember, goals should be: SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
7. Plan your marketing campaign calendar
Your marketing campaigns will help you achieve some of your business goals, depending on what they are. Taking a look at 2018 as a whole and beginning to block campaigns into the calendar is a tried and tested way to ensure success. It’s important in marketing to have a big picture of the year ahead. Of course, you can always tweak and change it, but your marketing goals should be planned out separately to ensure they can drive your overall business objectives.
When you’re planning, don’t forget to include social media and big world events. A helpful website to check out is 'Days of the Year', a site which lists all the important days which you can use for content ideas.
Break everything out by bucket: Marketing, public relations and events, promotions, social media, etc. Having a birds eye view at everything you have on the go from a marketing perspective is key to driving success in the New Year.
Share your plans! Rework them! And, be proud!
Remember that your 2018 plans can always be changed and reworked as new things come to light and things change. By having goals and a vision, you can work towards it
and remain focused on driving results and be more open to new strategies.
Try out new things, see if they work. Blow 2017 out of the water!