Reflect and Recharge

A new year means a new marketing plan.

2018 is just days ahead of us. This means not only will we find ourselves taking half a second before we write a new year in the checkbooks, we’ll also hopefully be taking some time to try something new, especially when it comes to marketing.

A Look Back

You probably tried a few different things this year. Some things worked, and some didn’t. Regarding the things that didn’t, well, a fellow business owner I know likes to refer to these failures as “tuition in my marketing education.”

It’s important, however, to know why your efforts succeeded or failed.

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To do this, first, you must put your ego in a desk drawer. This step is all about the facts. Talk to team members — both those in and out of your department. Look at the results of your programs, your digital analytics, customer comments and the conversations taking place.

Understand where your good business came from — and where the less than valuable came from as well. Consider speaking to your best customers, as well as those you’ve lost.

Setting Goals

If you’re a small business owner, it’s time to set some serious measurable goals for 2018 that you can check along the way on the road to success. This step is about marketing program goals. In other words, it’s time to ask yourself, “What is going to indicate to me that my marketing program is helping me achieve my company goals?”

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A perfect example is growth. Most, if not all, companies set a growth goal. If this is the case for your company, one example of a marketing program may be to look at Zip code pockets where your business is low. Look at these pockets and identify one or two that show promise.

Then determine marketing programs that target those pockets. Set realistic, measurable goals for those programs. If those goals are too low, you need to rethink the program or supplement them.

Positioning, Branding and Message

Clearly articulate your marketing message. Positioning and branding can be strong tools to compete in the marketplace, but only if they are used with a clear vision and in full support of business objectives. This step can be a great creative outlet, but keep in mind that the creativity must still be in line with your company strategy, not something that stands apart from what the business is delivering.

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The positioning of a value-based company is a great example. How many times have you seen messaging for companies promoting the value they give you for the dollar, only to find cheap products at a low price or good products at the same price you could’ve gotten online or much closer to your home?

To make sure your positioning is on target it’s important to get customer feedback. This can be done by large or small companies in many cost-efficient ways.

Ask for Input

Unless you are the one and only customer capable of sustaining the business, you must ask for input to get different points of view. Your cashiers and customer service agents may not be a part of your marketing team, per se, but they see and hear everything happening with customers and product offerings so it’s important to bring them into the conversation.

Consider a fun internal promotion where great ideas are rewarded. First, give your employees information about the competition, your overall goals and how (and why) you want to position the business. Then open things up to suggestions. Of course you don’t have to use every idea, but if you get one great one, isn’t it worth combing through 20 not-so-great ideas? Plus, armed with great insight, your employees will now become your biggest and best brand ambassadors.

With these four basic steps, you should be well on your way to developing your marketing plan for the coming year. Keep in mind that your plan can, and should, adjust as the market demands, but because you are focused, your adjustments will always line up with your goals.

Julia Carcamo is president and chief brand strategist at J Carcamo & Associates, an M Partners collaboration partner. Carcamo is also the co-founder of espÑOLA, a Hispanic marketing and engagement agency. Get more insights at




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