The holiday shopping season is a critical period for many businesses. Some companies rely on big months in November and December for 25%-50% of their annual revenue. It’s so easy to get caught up in holiday promotions and then employee time off that your team enters January with a slight work hangover.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can complete several digital marketing tasks at the end of the year to set your team up for success in Q1. Use this guide to get organized so you can hit the ground running in the spring.
1. Evaluate Your Content From the Past Year
As you close out the year and prepare to enter Q1, you should first evaluate your content from the past 12 months. You likely have dozens of blog posts, videos, social media updates, and other forms of content that you produced and shared over the past year. Now that many of these assets have been published and have had time to mature, you can see which ones were the most successful. Here are a few trends to look for:
- Topics: Do posts and videos about certain topics resonate more with your audience than others?
- Format: Which content types drive the most engagement across different channels?
- Dimensions: Does the content length impact engagement? This applies to both videos and written articles.
- Calls to Action: Which CTAs were used the most often, and which ones actually drove engagement?
This process allows you to learn about your audience and create content that resonates with them in the coming year. You might discover that some videos covering a specific topic are more effective than pieces you thought would gain more traction.
2. Review Business and Industry Trends
While reviewing past content can help you learn about your audience, your industry constantly changes. Consider meeting with your leadership team to discuss macroeconomic trends that could impact your customers in the coming year.
For example, 38% of Americans would consider buying an electric vehicle for their next car, but 59% oppose phasing out the production of gas-reliant cars and trucks. You can work with your sales team to identify whether promoting EVs will be a big part of your marketing strategy this year or if your customer base still prefers gas models.
Other macroeconomic trends include inflation, the job market, and even news stories like the war in Gaza. These factors can change how customers shop, and marketing teams need to be ready for shifts in buying behavior.
3. Develop a Fresh Keyword List
Once you understand which content was successful in the past year and what trends you need to focus on in the coming months, you can develop actionable keyword lists for your marketing teams. Your SEO, content, paid search, social media, and display teams will use these target keywords. They will serve as a guiding force that unifies your staff in the coming months.
A fresh keyword list in the new year can help your team identify words and phrases that they might not have tapped into yet. This is particularly useful for mature teams. If your search team has been optimizing pages and creating new content for several years, they might feel like they are running out of ideas and new ways to approach the business. With a new year and new keywords, they can hit the ground running.
Now might also be a good time to conduct a content audit of pieces that weren’t successful. You can revamp these articles in the coming year so high-quality keywords aren’t wasted on low-quality posts.
4. Establish Your Editorial Calendar for the Year Ahead
If you feel ambitious as the year wraps up, you can map out your editorial schedule for the next 12 months. Some businesses have enough consistency that they can use the previous year to plan ahead for next year. The holiday shopping season, for example, will always fall in November and December. This means that you will always need to start planning for it in August and September.
Working through this planning stage now will help your team be ready to jump into action after the holidays. They will know what tasks they need to complete in January, so your company can have a successful February, March, and April.
This is also useful for collaborating across departments. When your social team and email marketers know what to expect from your content department, they can prepare relevant posts to maximize engagement and stretch your budget.
5. Conduct a Paid Search Audit
Our team at J&L Marketing is allergic to waste. We hate seeing potential clients waste their marketing dollars because they are running unoptimized campaigns. Before you start the new year, run a paid search audit that evaluates your keyword targeting and ensures you are running the best possible ads.
You can conduct this audit internally or work with an objective third party to review your spending. The goal is to find keywords that you are overspending on or ad groups that aren’t driving clicks as they should. By shifting your paid search strategy, you can make it better.
This is another instance when your fresh keyword list can help your team. Your paid search experts can use your target keywords for the year to build ad groups that attract customers.
6. Eliminate Unnecessary Tools and Subscriptions
While you are auditing your spending, look at the various tools, apps, and software systems you pay for. Our team recently touched on this in an article on budget cuts. Even if your marketing budget is growing this year, there is no need to keep paying for apps and services you no longer use.
You also might be surprised by how many apps your company actually has. The average company uses 254 SaaS applications. These range from SEO content optimization tools to tag managers.
Through your audit, look for apps that you no longer use but still pay for. You can also search for tools your team overpays for — when there are better and cheaper alternatives — and tools they could consolidate. Why would you use an app that only does one thing when you can invest in a comprehensive system that comes with 10 different tools?
Running this audit now can help you clear your department ahead of the new year and might help you win back some of your budget.
7. Decide if Any Channels Need to be Closed
Marketing trends are constantly changing, and you don’t have to keep investing in new channels while maintaining ineffective existing ones. You have a limited amount of time each week and need to maximize the number of relevant customers you reach. It’s okay to close some channels — or simply pause them for the time being. Here are a few things to consider:
- Are all of your social channels relevant? Some brands are rethinking why they are on social media. For instance, it might be time to close your Pinterest account or walk away from X if it isn’t driving engagement.
- Are you investing in the right search engines? Google maintains 84% of the global market share. Are Bing and Yahoo really driving paid search traffic to your pages?
- Where do customers leave online reviews? It might not be lucrative to keep investing in Yelp if you aren’t getting customers from there.
Sundowning ineffective channels can free up time to explore new ideas and opportunities. You can still have a diverse marketing portfolio without stretching yourself too thin. Additionally, you don’t have to close a channel forever. You might pause your efforts to manage one outlet and return to it in the future.
8. Identify Your Weak Points
Sometimes, you don’t want to completely shutter an outlet but instead want to improve it in the coming year. Have an honest conversation with your team about what isn’t working and identify opportunities for growth. For example, your business might have an Instagram presence but not a lot of engagement. You can brainstorm ways to modify your content to engage audiences and attract new followers.
If you get into the habit of evaluating what isn’t working at the end of the year, you can turn weak points into success stories. You can see how far your team has come if their engagement efforts pay off.
9. Set Goals for New Projects
December is a great time to open the floor to new ideas. Let your team know that they are free to pitch new channels, concepts, and markets to your team. The team member who comes up with the idea can take on the execution as a passion project with a test budget to see how it goes. If they are successful, your company has a new channel to drive business. If the experiment fails, you still foster a culture of creativity and exploration within your business that could lead to the next big idea.
This is why it is so useful to run audits across your business to free up extra cash. By walking away from less relevant channels or canceling subscriptions you no longer use, you can find the time and money for your staff to explore new projects.
Who knows, by the end of next year, you might fully embrace Google’s 20% Rule, where employees work on passion projects that move your business forward.
10. Forecast Your Budget
The final step through all of this is to set your budget. After working through this list, you should have a clear picture of your editorial calendar and your goals for the year. You should have eliminated wasted spend and freed up time by moving resources away from certain channels. Now, you can forecast your budgetary needs and expected sales targets in the coming months. This can help your whole department stay aligned in their goals for a successful year.
Bonus: Make Sure You Have the Right Partners
Each step is crucial to ensuring you get the most out of your marketing efforts. You can follow this checklist to eliminate wasted spending and time that you can reinvest in more lucrative outlets. This allows you to outsmart, not out-spend, your competition.
The final step is to make sure you feel confident with the marketing partners you work with. You need a team that can help you scale your abilities and make them more effective. Our team at J&L Marketing is here to help. We are a direct and digital marketing agency that can meet your promotional needs. If you are working with multiple boutique service providers or simply aren’t happy with your current marketing partner, contact us today. We can help you start the year out strong and grow into 2024.