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  • Writer's pictureJudy C. Arnold

What's your vision for 2020?

The year is wrapping up and it’s well past time to be planning for next year. It’s critical to your business growth to map out goals as well as a path to achieve them.

First, you have to evaluate this past year—what worked, what didn’t. How many new clients have you brought on? How many left? How many short-term projects need replaced with new ones? What advertising, events or other marketing activities got the results you were looking for? Did you hit your revenue, growth and profitability goals?

Next, you have to determine your business objectives for the year ahead. What’s your revenue growth goal? Will you have new products or services to launch? Are there new markets you want to expand into? How are you going to maintain the clients that you have? How many new clients or projects will you need to hit your numbers?

After establishing business strategies and financial parameters, you need to put together a marketing plan. Referrals from professional connections, past customers and current clients are always a key lead generation source, but not typically enough for continued growth. You need to reach past ‘who you know’ to attract new prospects who need what you offer but might not be aware of you. Consider various strategies and tactics that align with your goals—branding, public relations, lead generation, prospect and client nurturing, partner marketing, digital marketing and emerging technologies, and any enhancements to the overall user experience.

Remember, a plan is not meant to be restrictive but instead to serve as a guide that allows for flexibility. All too often, tactics are tackled piecemeal without an organized game plan. An action plan provides a road map that allows for adapting to the unexpected twists and turns of reality. It gives you a starting point for testing, learning and adjusting—while not taking your eye off the ultimate goal of generating results.

Determining what to include in your marketing plan, and the related budget, depends on many variables unique to your business.

  • Your business maturity—existing or new. A newer business may require an increased investment in brand building activities to build awareness in the market.

  • Costs of products and services—higher ticket items or services warrant spending more for marketing. It’s all about the return on investment.

  • Value of a new and long-term customer—if a client has long-term contracts or multiple projects, you want to look at the value beyond first year in considering the needed return on investment to generate that deal.

  • Market changes, competition and opportunities—new competitors could require an increase in marketing activity to stay competitive and keep clients while a new unmet need in the market could allow for new product or service development and related promotional efforts.

A good rule to follow for establishing marketing budgets, in addition to these variables, is to allocate 2-8% of revenue towards marketing efforts. That’s a wide swing because of the unique needs of each business but a CEB (now Gartner) study indicated that business-to-business firms spend between 2-4% of revenue. For smaller organizations, the U.S. Small Business Administration recommends spending 7-8% of revenue.

Most important of all, have a plan. Make it simple with a few key objectives and strategies. Get started. Evaluate monthly and quarterly and adjust.

If you were visiting a place you have never been, would you go without mapping out a course? Would you drive there without referring to your nav system? Remember, "If you don't know where you're going, any road'll take you there" (Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland). But if you have a plan and a map to achieve your goals, you’re set up for success to navigate the unexpected obstacles and push past them to generate the results you’re aiming for.

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