What to consider before finalizing your 2017 marketing budget

As seen in Hartford Business Journal.

The infamous fourth quarter. The time of year when metrics are scrutinized and budgets are finalized. For small businesses and corporations alike, the key questions are the same — what was the ROI of our marketing program in 2016 and how will we improve performance in 2017?

While the days of long-term planning have come and gone — today, adaptation is key — laying out a marketing roadmap for the year ahead remains crucial for maximizing success. While part of that plan should be some built-in “wiggle room” to seize timely opportunities, all marketing and communications activities should be working in concert to achieve a common set of goals and objectives with measurable outcomes.

As you wrap up your planning and budgeting for the year ahead and prepare to come out of the gate at full speed in January, keep these key criteria top of mind.

Success metrics from 2016

A well-executed marketing plan uses data to inform the strategy. Which strategies and tactics were most effective? Which campaigns generated the most qualified leads? What products and services that were developed in response to market research and client surveys generated the most revenue? Answering these questions allows companies to invest their marketing resources — be they time, talent or dollars — into the communications channels that yield the greatest returns.

When evaluating metrics from the past year, it is important to look at quantifiable data as well as anecdotal data from your target audiences. Customer insights are an important piece of the equation — and one that can often uncover marketing opportunities one may not have otherwise considered.

What’s new?

The temptation to become an early adopter can be powerful. To be the first in a class to successfully leverage a new technology to increase reach, drive sales and/or improve the customer experience can become a proof point that benefits a business.

Whether you aspire to become more visual and harness the power of Instagram or develop a series of informational videos that will benefit consumers across the U.S., it is important to understand both the potential of these opportunities and how they will impact bandwidth and budget.

It is important to maintain a consistent presence across all marketing channels as well as high-quality content, so be sure new additions to the marketing arsenal can be successfully sustained should they prove effective.

What is(n’t) your competition doing?

In a competitive business environment, keeping a close eye on the industry landscape is imperative. It’s important to understand not only how the competition is marketing themselves, but how and where they aren’t marketing themselves.

It can be tempting to follow the crowd but posing a competitive threat in the same space isn’t always feasible. From budgets to geography, marketing directly against the competition can be more of an ideal than a reality.

Understanding where the opportunities and gaps lay can help to inform how resources are allocated in 2017 and beyond.

How is the industry changing?

While now is the time to lock down final plans for 2017, keeping an eye on what lays beyond plays an integral role in informing one’s marketing plans. Whether it’s an impending product launch or regulatory changes that will impact how business is done, laying the groundwork for “what’s next” demands time, resources and talent.

The fourth quarter of 2017 is not the ideal time to start researching and strategizing for a landmark marketing campaign to be unveiled during the first quarter of 2018. Hence, keep an eye on the future.

As businesses work to more closely align their marketing and sales activities, with the goal of generating measurable outcomes from both, it is important to put a framework in place for the year ahead.

While there will undoubtedly be timely opportunities for one to seize as the year trudges ahead, failure to plan can often mean failure to execute and that can negatively impact a business’s bottom line.

Danielle M. Cyr is vice president of integrated for Co-Communications, with offices in Connecticut and New York. She can be reached at Danielle@cocommunications.com.