As the new year approaches, there are some important things you must address to close out this year and begin the next. Obviously, you want to finish strong and carry your momentum into Q1, and the actions you take in the coming weeks will directly impact your success moving forward.
With that in mind, it’s vital you don’t miss any of the elements we discuss below. Here are the six things marketers need to do before the end of the year.
1. Analyze Your Current Performance
As you prepare for the future, it’s wise to analyze how your strategy is functioning now so you understand your existing status and where you can improve moving forward. It helps to do this in two different ways. First, you should consider your goal attainment. Ask yourself:
- What is your percent to goal?
- Did you exceed your goals this year?
- Did you fall short?
- Where could you improve next year?
After that, you should compare your current year’s performance to your previous year’s performance to see your growth over time. It’s best to evaluate your funnel during this process. Initially, you should check whether you reached your revenue goal and then work backward up the funnel to determine the conversion rates between each of your customer lifecycle stages. You can use this examination to help you answer the following questions:
- How much did your current year’s performance improve from last year?
- Which areas of your funnel performed poorly?
- Which areas performed well?
- Which trends do you hope to continue?
Overall, in conducting these analyses, you’ll learn more about your existing strategy and whether it worked or not. From there, you can decide what you need to start, stop and continue to improve your results moving forward.
2. Prepare Goals
Using the information you gained by looking at your funnel and prior goal attainment, you should create goals for the upcoming year. But, where do you begin?
If you answered the questions outlined in the previous section, you already have a good idea of the parts of your funnel that did and didn’t perform well. As you outline your goals for the coming year, it’s wise to improve the areas that need the most work.
For example, if you maintain strong conversion rates throughout your entire funnel but aren’t generating enough revenue, you should look into how many leads you’re producing. You probably aren’t attracting an adequate number of visitors at the top of your funnel to ensure enough customers are closing at the bottom.
No matter where you have weaknesses, your previous analyses should’ve revealed them. Once you know what you want to improve, you can create SMART goals.
SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. The term refers to the structure your goals should have. For example, the statement, “We plan on increasing our lead-to-MQL conversion rate by 15% by the end of next year,” is a SMART goal. It is specific, referring to the lead-to-MQL conversion rate as an object for improvement. It is measurable, specifying a 15% improvement as the target. It is achievable, providing a reasonable expectation. It is relevant, relating to something that matters. And finally, it is time-based, including a predetermined end date.
Overall, after you identify the areas you want to work on, goal creation is relatively simple when it comes to developing specific, measurable, relevant and time-bound objectives. However, the difficult part is ensuring that those aspects are achievable.
For example, we could develop a goal stating, “We plan on increasing our organic traffic by 1000% by the end of next month.” That goal is specific, measurable, relevant and time-bound, but it is by no means achievable (unless we had a massive amount of resources but even then it’s not realistic).
This is where you need to consider both your strategy and budget to ensure that your goals are attainable within your constraints.
3. Create a Strategy
Your goals provide a statement of what you need to do and why. Meanwhile, your strategy provides a blueprint for how you’re going to bring those objectives to fruition.
For example, if you recognize you’re having trouble converting your contacts at the bottom of your funnel, you should set goals concentrating on that area. From there, you need to determine how you will actually make improvements. It’s wise to look into your sales enablement materials; you probably aren’t supplying enough content to your sales team so they can continue nurturing leads. Or, you should consider how you are demonstrating value and gaining trust. You might not have enough reviews, case studies, testimonials or other offers that signal your value to potential customers.
Once you find the specific action items you want to work on, you should create a plan. In the example above, that could involve surveying your sales team to see what type of content they need, writing more case studies or facilitating more reviews from customers.
At this stage, it’s also vital to account for your time and resources. Similar to setting SMART goals, you must ensure you are able to implement your strategy.
4. Evaluate Your Tech Stack
One element to consider as you account for your resources is software. You should evaluate your tech stack every year to ensure it is providing value.
Ideally, software should make your life easier, not more difficult. But, that is not always the case. As you assess each platform you use, ask yourself:
- Is this tool scalable? Can it grow with our business?
- Is this tool easy to use? Can a new member of our team pick it up quickly without much hassle?
- Is this tool worth the money? Does it provide enough value to justify its cost?
- Is this tool functional? Does it accomplish everything we need it to?
It’s also essential that you examine your tech stack as a whole. Ask yourself:
- Does our current software support our strategy and goals?
- Does it perform tasks efficiently?
- Are we spending too much time working around or fixing our software?
By asking yourself these questions now, you can make changes and give yourself a fresh slate going into the new year. In addition, this period is a great time to get software at a reasonable rate since tech companies often offer discounts to meet their end-of-year goals.
5. Assess Your Staffing Needs
Besides focusing on your software, you need to make sure your team is prepared to carry out your strategy. That means you should consider whether you need to add new members to your staff or not.
When making this decision, it’s best to appraise the existing skill sets and capacity you have on your team. Ask yourself:
- Does our team possess all of the skills necessary to accomplish what we need to? Are they capable of performing the proper tasks?
- Does our team have the capacity to accomplish what they need to? Are we asking too much of certain individuals? Will they have time to get everything done?
Ultimately, whether a goal is achievable comes down to the people getting the work done. It’s vital you are prepared and hire people to fill any gaps.
6. Build Your Budget
The last thing you need to do is build your budget. At this point, since you’ve analyzed your resources, you’ll know if you need to purchase new software or hire new talent. Based on the strategy you put together, you’ll also recognize if you have any major expenses like traveling, event fees or re-branding coming in the year ahead.
At this point, it’s wise to look over your current year’s use of the budget. With the things you’ve accomplished in mind, what more do you want to do? How many more resources will you need? Once you know these answers, you can form your estimates and plan your investments.
Of course, it’s worth noting that you might not have full control of your budget. Maybe you’ll be handed your budget and have to form your strategy around pre-specified funds. If that’s the case, you’ll have to look at this process in a different way and ask questions like, “Do I have enough space on the team to hire more people or get new software?”
No matter your situation, there’s going to be a bit of back and forth with management in most cases. You’ll likely discuss your justifications for the budget and what you will be able to do if you receive more money. From there, the finance team will help to refine those estimates to put your company in the best position.
Overall, your goals, strategy and budget are the three main outputs you need to produce before the end of the year. Essentially, before Q1 begins, you should be able to tell your team, “This is what our goals are, and this is how we’re going to accomplish them.”
If building these elements isn’t something that you’re doing today, you’ll find the process to be a very healthy exercise that can prepare you to be more successful in the coming years — especially as you do it more consistently.
Guido is Head of Product and Growth Strategy for New Breed. He specializes in running in-depth demand generation programs internally while assisting account managers in running them for our clients.