December, as business winds down for the year is a good time to reflect on successes and failures from the previous twelve months and use those learnings to inform your plans for the next. This doesn’t hold true for some in the retail and hospitality industries, who should be enjoying their busiest time of the year, but in other industries, demand slows in the middle of winter allowing time for thought.
Comparing Like With Like.
When you’re reviewing how your business performed over the previous year, make sure you have a system in place for ensuring your judgement is a useful one. Comparing your business with an abstract, hazily defined notion of how you’d prefer things to be doesn’t help you derive learnings you can put into action.
Instead, look at two primary comparisons: compare with the targets you set for yourself at the outset of the year (or at the beginning of the project you’re reviewing). If you didn’t set quantifiable targets that you can review with the data you’ve gathered in the course of a year then you’ve made your first major insight: you need to set targets like that for the year to come!
The other major means of comparison is with the same month last year. The financial forces acting on customers and on your business are very different in September and October, so comparing the two months with each other is difficult and unhelpful. Comparing the Septembers of 2017, 18 and 19 will show whether your business has got better at attracting customers and making sales in that month over time: a helpful insight.
Map Out the Year Ahead.
With your review of the previous year complete, you can turn to the year ahead, and map out some plans to try and lean into the successes from last year and cushion the failures.
It’s worth thinking about how you will handle marketing in the year to come: each major event, whether it’s a sale or a product launch either requires or gives you the opportunity for a major marketing push which can dramatically strengthen your brand. There’s no shame in stealing from the best: Look at some of the most creative ad campaigns 2019 had to offer for inspiration.
Set the dates for key sales and product launches but not in stone. Leave yourself room to react to surprises and take advantage of opportunities: it might be advantageous to delay or accelerate a product launch, for example, to avoid sharing a launch window with a competitor.