End-of-The-Year Marketing Calendar

marketing planningYear end marketing plan strategies to finish off the year strong and prepare for next year’s plans

The approaching end of the year presents a perfect time to ensure that you capture as much business as you can — and to plan for all the opportunities a new year presents.

Here a few simple ways to plan a successful year-end marketing calendar.

Account for the holidays

According to the National Retail Federation, 2013 introduced the onset of the retail holiday season soon after Halloween concluded. Businesses no longer have the luxury of waiting to think about the holidays. Plan your marketing calendar to account for ordering, preparing, mailing, and/or delivering gifts or cards you’ll send to vendors and customers. (If you intend to ship perishables to clients or vendors, confirm whether they’ll be closed on any specific days for office parties and the like.)

If you intend to release holiday-specific promotions to customers, review forecasts and formulate backup plans for how you’ll manage inventory replenishment and the return of surplus stock before year-end. Strategize premium add-on promotions for the remainder of the year based on excess inventory on hand, to boost competitive advantage. Not only are shipping providers and manufacturers operating at peak demand during the holidays, some vendors may close for a few weeks in December.

Check in with your team

Analyzing the quantitative data behind your customer behavior, such as response to marketing initiatives, online search history and purchase patterns can indicate which promotions were most successful over the course of the year (and which could have performed better). Employees in customer-facing and operational roles also have insight that can be invaluable to optimizing marketing initiatives. Plan time into your year-end marketing calendar to collect and discuss employees’ ideas about ways to improve customer experience, promotions or service for the year ahead, and to test their suggestions on a small scale as the year comes to a close, to ensure you have the time to implement changes you choose to adopt in the coming year’s marketing calendar.

Review your budget compared to your cash flow

Review outstanding invoices compared to your sales estimates and actuals (and the amount of estimated taxes paid for the year thus far). Consider whether the marketing spend for the year to date delivered on the business goals identified. Would a larger marketing investment have captured more customers? Would better technology or vendor resources have optimized marketing processes for different results? Considering such factors as year-end approaches can ensure that you have a plan in place to support your next phase of growth when the new year arrives.

Review monthly and quarterly activity

The approach of year-end presents almost an entire year’s worth of data you can leverage to assess a reasonably accurate analysis of monthly, quarterly and annual performance trends. In addition to reviewing monthly sales activity, consider how you might adjust quarterly marketing calendars to complement variances that emerged over the course of the year, such as supporting historically slow months with more aggressive promotions, and investing less in months that are inherently strong due to seasonality and similar factors.

Plan your content

According to an infographic compiled by WebDAM, 55 percent of digital marketers increased their online marketing budgets in 2013, and nearly 50 percent of companies have a content marketing strategy. Online content strategies can be especially meaningful for small businesses as a cost-efficient means to improve email and site click-through rates, and boost search engine relevance and online visibility to reach broader audiences at low acquisition costs. The new era of social media usage skews heavily toward unique and shareable information, including image-based content (according to WebDAM’s data, videos on landing pages increase conversion by 86 percent), but having a consistent publishing schedule demands having written and visual material on hand, whether you outsource editorials tasks, purchase stock images or produce proprietary creative. Devote time into the year-end marketing calendar for securing and/or developing such assets, so your editorial calendar is prepared to deliver high-value, strategic content by the first of the year.

Year-end may feel like a conclusion, but it represents an opportunity to use data collected over the course of the year to plan for an even more strategic beginning. By leveraging the year-end to collect and review financial, analytical and human resources-related data, you’ll ensure an ever-evolving marketing calendar that consistently supports your businesses needs, goals and growth.

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Kristen Gramigna

Chief Marketing Officer at Bluepay
Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay (www.bluepay.com), offering mobile credit card processing services. She brings more than 15 years of experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management, and marketing to BluePay and also serves on its Board of Directors.