The hustle of the holiday season can see many-a-thing lost in the shuffle, but you may not want to let business planning for the year ahead be one of them. You have goals for your business and brand, and they deserve your attention and energy.
I sat down with three experts in areas ranging from marketing to productivity and asked them for their best advice on proactive business planning efforts in the year ahead. They also shared their list of must-reads for business owners looking to up their game in the new year.
Let's see what they have to say. And you might want to grab a pen or open a new note on your computer, because real action items lie ahead.
Digital Marketing Tips
Chris Penn is the vice president of marketing technology with Boston-based Shift Communications. As a veteran in the digital marketing realm, he had two piece of advices for businesses looking to tune their digital marketing strategies in the year to come.
—Carrie Wilkerson, author, The Barefoot Executive
Switch from funnels to journeys. "Far too many businesses are stuck on the idea of a monolithic funnel, one way for customers to buy from us, one linear path to purchase," says Penn. "The reality is far from that; customers take a confusing and varied path to purchase. We must change our marketing to reflect the journey they take."
Validate your business's analytics infrastructure. "Governance of analytics is essential for success in 2017. In 2016, I spoke with dozens of companies and saw under the hood. In some cases, millions or even billions of dollars were left on the table because their analytics infrastructure was lacking," Penn shares. "Don't lose money—fix your analytics as soon as possible in the New Year to capture all your opportunities."
Penn's recommended reads:
- The Visualization of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte
- What Is Machine Intelligence Vs. Machine Learning Vs. Deep Learning Vs. Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
- Understanding the Google Analytics Ecosystem
Leesa Renee Hall is an author, podcaster and speaker specializing in business storytelling and general marketing. If revving up your brand's storytelling efforts is part of your business planning for the coming year, here are her two pieces of advice to help you fine-tune your story.
Identify a digital curator. "With mo' content comes mo' problems," says Hall. "As social media websites give preference to native content, the temptation will be to create new content. But you're already sitting on a goldmine of content, thus saving you from having to create something new for each and every campaign.
"That's where a digital curator can help," she continues. "He or she can look at audio, video or written content produced by your company in the past, and suggest ways to repackage and republish that content so it appears brand new. The digital curator will act as your company's archivist, uncovering content gems from the past, perhaps an article the CEO wrote 10 years ago, a video of the director of marketing's speech from three years ago or a special report the sales team wrote 15 years ago, thus combining the power of history with seduction of storytelling to produce marketing that is truly unique. Someone who has a love of the past, or has been with the company the longest, would be suitable for this role."
Consider storybooking. "Whether you pay to display your content, or use your own ecosystem [like] a blog to publish it, there's a continuing shift from content marketing to creating an experience with the content," says Hall. "Pokemon Go is a great example of storybooking. Not only did participants view the content, but their actions helped them be part of the larger story arch. Companies which embrace storybooking will cut through the content clutter."
Hall's reading recommendations:
- Think Like a Futurist: Know What Changes, What Doesn't, and What's Next by Cecily Sommers
- Non-Obvious 2017: How To Think Different, Curate Ideas and Predict The Future by Rohit Bhargava
Productivity and Profitability
Carrie Wilkerson is a vibrant speaker, author and salesforce strategist dedicated to helping businesses accelerate their productivity and profitability. She has one single, strong piece of advice (which might be contrary to what you've read from other experts in the productivity and profitability fields) to help businesses aiming for domination of the "Two Ps."
Rethink annual goal setting. "I advise against setting annual goals. Truth is, if we give ourselves a year, we tend to take a year! So, I love to break goal setting into 8 to 12 week sessions where we can see the goal line, see immediate results and know that this isn't a 52-week plod," says Wilkerson.
"Wrap your head around the fact that days matter. When we set big goals and long term goals, we immediately trend towards, 'I still have plenty of time.' The truth is, if you're setting goals in an urgent and immediate fashion, then deduct a few days for obstacles, account for realistic interruptions like holidays, illness, travel, kids and other obligations, we don't really have the time that we think we have," offers Wilkerson. "When you do this exercise, it becomes blisteringly obvious that every day matters. We must stop waiting for Mondays."
Wilkerson's recommended reads:
- Getting Naked by Patrick Leoncionio
- The 8 Worst Pieces of Advice Business Owners Receive About Money
- This Column Will Change Your Life: Must a Year Last 52 Weeks?
Cheers to the year ahead—and here's an idea: Next year, think about creating your own blog post just like this one, with your best advice for businesses in your area of expertise. Include your must-reads—because great advice comes from many different places—and put it out to the world. You may find a few new grateful colleagues along the way.
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