Looking Back to the Future

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”  – Soren Kierkegaard

looking backThe last quarter of 2013 is almost history and as we stand poised to welcome 2014 in just 50 days from today, we hope for a future that is successful, rewarding and where dreams will be realized. Having seen the start of more than a few “new business years” during my career, I’ve learned that you can do one of two things in preparation for the coming year. You can yet again try to create a brand new marketing strategy for the coming year or you can pause, look back and do some serious reflecting, resolving to change, or improve some aspect about how you will initiate your future marketing campaigns.  For some people, looking back over the past year may be something better left in the rearview mirror; on the other hand, burying your head in the sand can be seen as the primary ingredient in a recipe for another disappointing year…and you know how much the CEO/President/Owner/ Founder loves that kind of thinking and pending poor results. So before one celebrates the dawn of a new year…take time to ask yourself what are you going to do to change? What does success in 2014 look like to you and your executive management team?

Speaking for myself and our firm, the end of each year is met with a healthy dose of optimism for the coming year. We see 2014 through a lens of hopefulness, that things will indeed get better. Is that just us or will you and your organization also view the coming year with a level of anticipation that you haven’t had for a few years? Hey, it’s been tough for most everyone out there but let’s remember that at least a few organizations — perhaps your own competitors — have fared better than most despite these trying times. So what have they done to plot a course for a more optimistic and profitable path for success in 2014?

Depending on marketplace factors coupled with how well you were able to strategically position and market your company, the past year was either seen as a success or another year of disappointment. Success if you were able to grow your share of the proverbial pie (maybe at the expense of your competitors) or be sufficiently positioned to stay in business to fight the fight for another year. Or disappointment if things didn’t turn out so well because of…(you can fill in the blank).  The question that begs to be asked here is, how much of last year’s success or disappointment was because of something you had no control over, such as good luck or bad luck, and how much was because of something you did or didn’t do given how the marketplace presented itself?  I’ve found through personal experience this is the time to be totally honest with yourself.  As the quote goes: “Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.” – Sigmund Freud

Hey, I’m all for a bit of luck but you probably don’t want to continue betting future success on lucky things happening in the coming year.  With this in mind, here are a few questions to ask yourself as thought starters as you begin the process of looking in the rearview mirror to last year and through your windshield to the next:

  • What marketing activities worked for you and which ones didn’t in 2013?
  • What 2 or 3 trends did you notice took place in your industry and outside of it that you need to incorporate into 2014 activities?
  • What 5 pieces of really good customer feedback did you receive this past year that you need to take deliberate action on?
  • Is there one part of your marketing activities that if it got more attention could yield better results?
  • What are the 2 mission-critical initiatives that absolutely need to be accomplished by June 30th 2014?
  • How did your marketing (from strategy to execution) match up with your competitors?  Was it “beige”- boring or was it “full of color”- impactful?
  • What are the top 3-5 problem areas that could impact your bottom line or stunt the growth of your brand if you don’t tackle them now?
  • What are the 3-5 opportunities that could grow your bottom line, brand visibility and preference?
  • What do you produce, offer or do that excites your audience and makes them think “Wow!”

As marketers, one thing we know for sure is that change will not stop in 2014. The economy will continue to shift on us —hopefully with less drama. But by reflecting back on 2013, taking control of your marketing activities rather than being tossed around by the waves in the marketplace, along with thinking optimistically about what 2014 can hold, 2014 might actually be a year worth celebrating.  It will be for us and hopefully will be for you as well.

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Rolf Gutknecht is vice president, director of account services for LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Rolf on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Rolf on LinkedIn.

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