It’s the time of year when we’re all making plans, goals, and resolutions for the new year! Before you start writing out your next year's goals and subsequent marketing plan for your business, however, you should pause to reflect on the past year. After all, how can you know where to go next if you don’t know where you are right now?
With a marketing lookback, there are some key general areas that you should evaluate. This article covers some of the metrics you should review and questions you should ask yourself.
What were your sales like in this year? Here are a few comparisons you should make:
Same month or quarter as compared to last year and previous years
As with all metrics, it’s important to take a look at the trends throughout the year and not just the final number. Was there anything unexpected or out of the ordinary? The COVID pandemic has had a profound impact on consumer and business behaviors. Traditional seasonal trends for business were upended with the latest in case rates and vaccines. How was your business affected by this?
Once you’ve reviewed sales based on specific timeframes, ask an important question: what influenced these numbers? Can you pinpoint anything you did or that happened to impact your revenue? Was it a certain marketing campaign, or maybe a lack thereof? Were you more consistent with your social media or networking during a season that led to more leads in the following months? Make some general notes about the correlations you find, but don’t get too far into the nitty-gritty just yet.
New Client Sources
Do you know how most of your clients found you in the first place? If you’re in the service industry, it’s likely that you actually speak with the majority of your clients. Hopefully, you’re in the habit of asking them how they heard about you. When you do ask that question, how do you track the answers? If you didn’t log this valuable information over the course of the year, do your best to match each new client to an original source now.
For the coming year, I challenge you to commit to tracking the source of every new client. This lookback metric is vital to marketing, because it helps you understand your most effective tactics. By the way, if you have a file folder of proposals that never materialized, or you can remember some notable prospects that were not a good fit, it’s a good idea to track how those people found you as well. You may need to reduce investments in efforts that attract the wrong leads.
Timing matters on this metric, too! If you gained more clients after a specific campaign, website update, or networking event, you now have important data. Finally, keep an eye on how people contact you. Do they call, email, or submit a form on your website? This helps you formulate future calls to action. As you can see, trying to track things like this mentally just won’t work. You need to be able to chart this data for a more effective marketing plan.
Are you tracking your website activity? Here are some things to look for:
How many people visited each month?
What are your month-over-month, quarter-over-quarter, and year-over-year trends?
What is your user-to-pageview ratio? This tells you if people are clicking around to different locations on your site.
What pages are getting the most traffic, and what is your most common landing page?
You’ll also want to look at the specific sources of traffic to your website. How many people come from organic Google searches? How many are from Facebook or other social media sites? And of course, what were the trends in these numbers?
Do you know exactly how much money you spent on marketing this past year? Believe it or not, some business owners might not be able to identify this. Some of your monthly subscriptions are easy to forget, or maybe you don’t keep track of how often you boost a Facebook or Instagram post. After all, it’s only a few dollars, right? These spends are seemingly small at first, but they really add up over the year.
This number is important because perhaps you think you’re only comfortable with a small marketing budget. But if your actual spend is more than you expected, you’ll realize that your budget (and tolerance level) is higher than you thought. Once you know what you’re already investing, you can make more calculated decisions about how to make the best use of your budget. For example, maybe all of those subscriptions and boosts add up to $500/month. Instead of spreading out that $500/month across several tactics, you might consider investing it all into SEO for your website. Some of those earlier evaluations of sales and new clients can really help you determine the best use of this budget.
What if you don’t spend any money on marketing or advertising? Many solopreneurs and small businesses don’t make any purchases for marketing, but they are almost certainly still investing in it. Calculate how much time you put into marketing activities such as social media, networking, or editing your website. If you’re a service provider, you probably have an hourly rate. What would your investment be if you applied your hourly rate to doing your own marketing activities?
It's important to evaluate exactly who your clients are. Are you working with the people that you want to work with, and are they the people you’re best suited to serve? Too often, business owners assume that anyone and everyone should be their customers. In reality, there is a type of person who is the best fit for working with you. And if you started your business for a particular mission, then there should be a specific type of person you want to reach.
The reason I include this under a marketing review is that your marketing influences who is attracted to your business. Your words, images, and messaging will resonate with certain people, so it’s important to know that your marketing is designed with your target audience in mind. For example, at Marketing to Mission, I primarily work with service-oriented businesses. Therefore, I use the term “clients” much more frequently than “customers.” It’s a subtle word choice, but it has an impact on attracting the most qualified leads.
Campaigns & Tactics
Did you run any specific campaigns in the past year? Campaigns are a coordinated set of activities all based around a central action you want your audience to take. For example, if you launched a new service this year, you might have sent several emails, done presentations, written social media posts, and created a new brochure in order to promote it. Rather than simply accept the results of the launch, look back over each aspect of the campaign. Which activities produced the best response, and did any fall completely flat? This will help you determine how to allocate your resources for the next campaign.
Lastly, compile a list of any and all tactics that you did over the year. A “tactic” is any single type of marketing activity. Unless they are part of a specific campaign (as mentioned above) tactics are all of the individual activities that promote your business. Social media, networking, direct mail, magazine ads, and SEO are all tactics. Write up a summary of what you did and how often. Then consider the impact of each tactic on your business. Consider both the direct and indirect impacts. For example, social media may not directly provide you with sales, but it can indirectly benefit your business.
Depending on how you track all of your activity throughout the year, this lookback review may go rather quickly or it may take some time. At the very least, this review and reflection give you solid foundational data to assess what is most likely to work in the coming year. If this is your first year of working through a marketing review, it will help you plan your activity tracking for next year so that next year’s review is a snap!
If you’re working on this marketing review and realize you need assistance making sense of it all, get in touch! Whether it’s a one-time consultation call or an in-depth marketing review, I’d love to be of help.