The end of 2021 is fast approaching (which seems absolutely crazy to us – like wasn’t it just 4th of July?).
Before you know it, you’ll be standing in the first day of 2022, looking out at the new year with hope, motivation, maybe a little nostalgia, and probably (if you’re anything like us) a little trepidation about the next 365 days.
As business owners, we know that there’s a lot of work to be done in the next 12 months. And as marketers, we know we need to continue to hone our best practices and skills to make sure we’re reaching our audience and getting results. We always want our next year to be our best year yet, right?
The year we finally start getting consistent sales. The year we finally start turning a profit. The year we finally hire some help. Or maybe just the year we finally launch this business we’ve been dreaming about for months.
Can seem a little bit daunting, especially if you’re still nursing an NYE hangover from the night before.
Whatever your goals for the new year are, we firmly believe it takes some retrospection and reevaluation to learn from the year before and start fresh in the year ahead.
Enter the marketing review. A marketing review for your small business is a way of going back to the basics in your marketing – reviewing your brand, audience, goals, milestones, processes, etc. – and identifying strengths, opportunities, and fresh ideas for the year ahead.
This post outlines a step-by-step guide to help you conduct your own marketing review in your business and set yourself up for success in the year ahead!
Step 1: Review your brand.
Our marketing reviews always begin with our brand and taking a deeper look at who we are and how we show up to our audience. For small and new businesses especially, your business can grow a lot from year to year. Things change and evolve and it’s important that your brand evolves with it.
To do this, we pull out our brand guide and start by taking a look at our mission, values, and beliefs. We also take a close look at our brand vibe and voice and how they’re resonating with our ideal audience. Are they still a good fit?
Our goals are to see if our values and tone of voice have stayed the same over the past year, identify opportunities for growth, and make sure we’re staying true to ourselves. If anything has changed (which is likely) or if something feels stale or out of alignment, now’s the time to start thinking about how we can make a change so we’re showing up as authentically as we can in the year ahead.
Questions to ask:
- How well does my brand represent my business? Has the direction of my business changed at all in the past year and if so, should my brand change with it?
- Are my values, beliefs, and mission still the same?
- Has my vision for my business evolved at all?
- Is the visual aesthetic of my brand still fresh or has it started to feel stale? Are there any small changes I can make to freshen it up?
Step 2: Review your ideal customer and think about fresh ways to connect with them.
Once you’ve looked at your brand, the next natural step is to start reevaluating your ideal customer. What has changed or stayed the same for them this past year? What’s new? What does your ideal customer really care about now?
More to read: How to Find & Know YOUR Ideal Customer
This will start to determine some changes you can make in your messaging or marketing approach, but it will also help clarify who you want to reach with future campaigns.
For example, maybe your ideal customer started going back to the office this year after a year spent working from home. You can update your copy to reflect that.
Maybe certain trends or topics have come up this year that resonate with them, so you can write blog posts or run campaigns around these topics. Maybe the platforms they’re frequenting have changed (lookin’ at you, TikTok). Is it time to start tackling a TikTok strategy? Maybe, maybe not.
But the point is as your audience evolves, you want to make sure you and your business are keeping up and staying relevant!
Questions to ask:
- If my brand/business has changed at all, does my ideal customer need to evolve as well? If so, how?
- What are some potential changes that occurred in my ideal customer’s life this year?
- Are there new channels or topics that are interesting them?
- How can I incorporate some of these into my business this year?
Step 3: Review your competitors and industry.
If we’re going to take a look at our audience and what has changed for them in the past year, we might as well take a look at what our competitors and the industry at large are up to too.
If you’ve never taken the time to identify your main competitors, now is a great time to do so.
I know it can be a little intimidating and overwhelming to research your competitors. Imposter syndrome can quickly take over. But if you want to be inspired and get some new ideas, competitive research is a great place to start.
Then get familiar with their website and offerings. Sign up for their email list. Follow them (or at least take a peek at their feeds) on social media.
See what new strategies they’re using or offers they’re putting out there. Think about how you can use this as inspiration in your business. Look for any areas where you could do things better (reviews can be a great place to or any gaps in their focus that you could fill. This is also an opportunity to see what hasn’t worked for your competition and avoid take steps to avoid making similar mistakes.
Questions to ask:
- Who are my primary competitors? Has anyone new come onto the scene this year that I should be keeping an eye on?
- Where do they seem to be exceling in their businesses?
- Where are they coming up short? Are these things that I can improve on in my own business? Are there gaps I can fill?
- What new trends are gaining traction in my industry from a marketing standpoint? How can I be taking advantage of them in my business?
Step 4: Review your accomplishments from the last year. Then review the challenges.
Sometimes as entrepreneurs we can be so focused on what lies just ahead that we don’t take time to appreciate all that we’ve done to get to where we are now.
An end of year review is an excellent time to do this.
Think about what you’ve accomplished in the last year. Actually take some time to write out your successes, then (and I know this might not come naturally, but I want you to do it anyway) pat yourself on the back for all the hard work you’ve done! Remember that you have so much to be proud of.
Then switch gears a bit and think about some areas where you came up short. Anything you wanted to do but didn’t get around to? Any challenges that really got to you this year or tripped you up? Write those down to.
This step is all about identifying the good and the bad from your business in the past year. This can be a really helpful way to gain perspective on how well you’re doing, both as a business owner and as a business, and where there may be opportunities to improve or where you could refocus attention.
For example, maybe you finally launched your website (win) but it didn’t get the traffic you wanted it to (challenge).
Whatever your wins and challenges are, start getting them on paper. The wins will fuel your momentum, the challenges will outline your jobs to do.
Questions to ask:
- What were some of the big milestones you reached this year in your business?
- Were there any new things you tried that really went well?
- What new things did you learn? Expanding your knowledge as a business owner is a huge accomplishment!
- What were some milestones you wanted to reach, but didn’t quite make for one reason or another?
- What were your biggest challenges this year? Be honest!
- What were some day-to-day challenges that tended to slow you down or trip you up?
- Which of these challenges is important to focus on this year?
- How can you approach them differently (e.g. get help, find a mentor/coach, outsource it, take a class, etc.)?
Step 5: Review your processes – what has been going well versus what has been draining your time.
When you’re running a business, there are always going to be things that work, things that don’t, and things that downright waste your time.
Now is a good time to take a step back and look at your processes as a whole. What has been working well for you over the past year? Which processes have been more of a hassle or time suck?
Where would you like to see improvement in the new year? How can you go about improving them? Are there areas where you could benefit from additional help? This will guide you as you reevaluate everything, from your website to your
Questions to ask:
- What processes have drastically improved my business and saved me time?
- Where are some places where a process could be improved more or just put into place to save me time?
- What parts of my business take up the most time? Is there a more efficient way to do them? Is it something someone else could do/help me with?
- What applications are really helpful and what applications could I do without? Consider getting rid of the ones you no longer use/need.
- Are there alternate ways I could take some of the burden off of myself? Like outsourcing, hiring help, using software to automate, etc.
Bringing it all together.
Conducting a marketing review is great and all, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot unless you put those learnings into practice.
After doing your review, bring it all together by identifying 3-5 big things you want to STOP, START, and CONTINUE/IMPROVE in the year ahead. Big or small.
Write them out and keep them close! Consider them your to-do list for the year ahead.
Tell us, what’s your biggest goal for 2022? Drop it in the comments!
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