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As 2013 is ending, budgeting for 2014 is well under way. In fact, for many companies budgets and the business plans for 2014 are already in place. But the piece that is often missing is the marketing plan.

The marketing plan will include a list of actionable items to be implemented throughout the year.  This plan will be the “bible” for the year. It should clearly identify:

  1. Define goals and targets, monthly, quarter and yearly, and how you will measure success;
  2. Define strategic activities you will undertake that will help to reach goals and targets;
  3. Define audience for each activity;
  4. Define who is involved and responsible for each activity

This plan needs to be based on defined objectives and the strategies that will, in effect, achieve the objectives.  Without a sound strategic base, the marketing plan will be of little use. So how do you go about creating this?

The best place to start is looking back at the previous year, and also carefully analyzing the company’s strengths and weaknesses, and the competitive landscape. How do you do this?

A solid and must have start is to do a  S.W.O.T. analysis. What is a S.W.O.T? It  is an examination of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats facing your business. This analysis will help you to identify key insights on where your brand or business is within the market landscape, competitive arena and also assist in establishing brand tone, persona and voice. It will assist in developing strategic plans to move forward. You will be able to pinpoint what makes you different from your competitors (USP), what the strengths and weaknesses are, and where opportunities lie moving forward.

Next, take a look at what we call, “Lessons Learned”.  Review the year, and every program, from beginning to end. This goes beyond just looking at the end results. Yes, meeting goals and targets is important, but there are other key learnings to be taken from the program: 1) were all departments on board? 2) Was there an internal communication breakdown? 3)Was the timing off, to name only a few. Write it all down. Out of this review will come 4 lists:

  1. What worked – and why!
  2. What didn’t work – and why!
  3. Lessons Learned – what did I learn about this?
  4. Recommendation on moving forward.

Just starting with these 4 lists,  S.W.O.T and  “Lessons Learned”, you will have a good place to start as you lay out your plans for 2014. These three analyses will help you clearly define a direction, target audience, competitive landscape and media channels that will help you to build a successful and memorable 2014!

Do you have a marketing plan for 2014? How do you begin your plan?