Christine de la Huerta|Nov 7, 2014

As soon as holiday decorations start hitting the store shelves, I know it’s time to finish up our client marketing plans for the coming year.  This is a time consuming process, but one well worth the rewards.

If you haven’t started, and you’re not exactly sure where to begin, here are some questions to get you going.

1. Did you follow the four-step process?

rbb is big on award-winning work. Not just because we like to admire our trophies (which we do), but because it’s validating to have your work recognized as the best among your peers on the national field.

How do we win so many awards? We follow the four-step process: Research, Planning, Execution and Evaluation. This is something you do throughout the year, not just at the end.

Every program starts with research and ends with evaluation. Your results should be more than media or online impressions. They should make a real impact on your or your clients’ business.

2. What worked this year? What didn’t?

Some programs have built-in “seasonality,” where you promote the same initiatives during peak periods of the year. It’s important to look back and incorporate key learnings. Even though something worked in 2014, you cannot expect the same success with a repeat performance.

Ask yourself: Is there new research available to inform a new strategy? Are there new audience niches to consider and new avenues to reach them? Can you try it in a new media market? Learn from past success, as well as mistakes, and always set the bar higher.

3. Did you set the right goals?

We always aim to achieve business results with our marketing programs. But we should never settle.

Like before, ask yourself: How did we impact the bottom line this year? How much more can we achieve by tweaking the strategies next year? Maybe it’s reaching a new audience, shifting perceptions or generating trackable leads through a new communications channel.

I try to think about it backwards. How will we measure success? The marketing tactics usually stem from there.

4. What changes are in store for next year?

Is there a budget increase or decrease? What about fresh resources? Are there changes in the business plan, new services or products, or a different sales funnel in store?

All of these will require a new look at your marketing strategy, as well as your internal communications plan.

5. What’s happening out there in the world?

Oftentimes, we are so buried in our work that we forget to look around for opportunities that present themselves every day. As an integrated marketing firm with roots in PR, at rbb we keep our fingers on the pulse of media and news trends.

What were the big stories of the past year? Where is media heading? What’s the latest, greatest in social media? What’s the latest BuzzFeed, YouTube or Instagram sensation? Why is everyone talking about Ello, Medium and Secret? What will people be doing and talking about this time next year?

We’re not futurists, but we do need to be able to pluck out key elements swirling in the universe and make them relatable to the brands we represent. It can’t just be “about us.” What we do best is look around and figure out how to insert ourselves (our client/brand/event/product) into that conversation through authentic and valuable interactions. Listening is the best way to do that. Find out what’s important to your audience or customers to form the basis for your next move.

6. Are you walking the walk?

Now is a great time for a gut check. Did we overpromise? Did things change along the way? Is it time to recalibrate and be realistic about what can be achieved? It is not about “spin.” It is about setting real expectations and being honest to yourself and your brand. Now may be a good time to reset your key messages and mission statement and address operational issues that present obstacles to delivering on your brand promise. Ultimately, what we do is build relationships. The only way to build lasting relationships is to be authentic.

Now that you’re thinking strategically. It’s time to get creative. Push the boundaries, aim high and start planning! Begin with your research and objectives in hand and hold a brainstorm to uncover new strategies, tactics and creative themes. For a fresh perspective, it’s good to invite team members who are not involved in the day-to-day work.

So get inspired by the twinkling holiday lights and get planning. And if you need any help, rbb is here.


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