All posts by Tommy Marzella

How to Be a Marketing Rock Star During Annual Strategy Planning

As summer fades away and pumpkin spice lattes roll into town, one thing is certain – it’s time to begin your annual marketing strategy sessions for the coming year. In the most basic context, strategy is defining what your company wants to achieve and developing a plan to watch it come to fruition.

Anytime I set out to achieve a goal I schedule time to reflect and meditate on it. I need space to clear my mind and visualize the big picture behind the goal. The same is true when it comes to strategy planning. There are many benefits to having a solid strategy in order, but I advise taking a chunk of time to reflect before even jotting anything down on paper.

Effective planning ensures team alignment. The objectives are clear, which allows for everyone to prioritize their workload. This allows for the best use of resources across your team, particularly the time your employees are spending on projects. Once your team is focused on what matters the most, your company will see the results they desire.

As you plan your marketing strategy for the coming year, here are some tips to help you succeed:

  • Determine your top three marketing goals: As a company, you should know your top three goals. This can be part of your mission statement or culture, as well as financial expectations for the year. If these are not established, work with upper management to determine them. Once they are established, every single event, advertisement, social media post, press release, sponsorship, piece of content or any other marketing materials should ladder back up to one of these goals. If anything comes across your desk that does not align with one of these goals – pitch it. Stick to the plan as to not waste your time, budget or resources.
  • Review ROI from all previous activities: Now, just because something may align with one of your three goals, does not mean you have to proceed with it. Take a look at everything your company has done in the past. Are you able to show return on investment? If not, how can that change? ROI comes in many forms and I know firsthand that it is not always the easiest item to track. If you are just going for brand awareness versus leads, it is not always as quantifiable as you’d like. However, it would be easy to determine your ROI from a trade show by quickly seeing how much it cost and how many deals were signed and attributed from that show. Use this data to determine if it is worth the investment next year.
  • Establish your budget: Budgets are a reality. You have a limited pool of money to use that must accomplish a lot of goals. Take the time to block off a meeting and understand where your money will go and how to plan for unexpected needs throughout the year (include line items for this). It is not uncommon that trade shows, events and sponsorships arise throughout the year that I would not be able to send my sales team to attend had I not planned for these unexpected items. Also, understand where your costs will be split with other departments in your budget. For example, website costs might come from marketing, IT, sales and eCommerce departments.

It’s tedious to jump into planning mode, but it is worth it. Having everyone on your team aligned and ready to go as 2016 approaches is well worth the investment it takes to get there.

The Art of Nurturing

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of connection between people. My group of family and friends is close and at any given moment we all have different wants from each other. Sometimes I rely on them for advice and sometimes they come to me for a listening ear. Over time these relationships have become very strong due to reciprocity, loyalty and consistency.

Each one of these friendships is strong not by chance, but because both parties invested the time necessary to build up something of value. At any given moment one friend might need more attention than another friend. In my mind I place them in different buckets based on where our relationships currently stand, as no two friendships are alike. Much like these friendships, the connections brands have with their ever-changing customer needs alter on a daily basis.

While one customer might be thrilled with the quality of service and personalized advertising/marketing efforts, another customer may feel as though you don’t know them at all. There is an art in nurturing to be able to assess where your customers are at on an emotional level to tailor messaging to them appropriately.

Here are a couple of tips to help you better nurture your customers:

  • Implement a Data Management Platform: You need a centralized hub to intake and store all of the data on your customer. This must be able to intake known/anonymous data from all sources, including offline, to help you have a 360-view of your customer before determining what data you need to collect.
  • Collect Relevant Data: You may find that you’re collecting data that doesn’t matter. If this is the case, pitch it. There is no need to collect data that doesn’t directly benefit the customer or you. Continue to monitor what is working and what you need to refine the data you collect.
  • Create Buckets and Segments: As you setup any campaign, you will want to have triggers that move people into appropriate buckets. For example, after a customer has made two online purchases in one month, you may want to move them to bucket indicating they are more likely to make online purchases than other customers. This can help with future targeting. As you go through all of your segments, begin to create logic on which bucket your customers should be in and how to craft strategic messaging around those buckets.
  • Measure and Test: Once you have success criteria setup, it becomes easy to measure whether or not you hit your goals. From there, you can refine your nurturing campaigns and adjust continuously as needed.

There is an art to nurturing your customers. Think of it like a conversation in person – you start by saying hello and then go from there. By keeping it real, authentic and genuine you have all of the makings to allow the conversation to grow organically, ultimately building a stronger relationship with customer.

The Top 3 Benefits of Exceeding Customer Needs

Two weeks ago I had an amazing digital experience. I went to the doctor’s office as I wasn’t feeling well and they performed some simple tests. Near the end of the visit the doctor said my test results, which would dictate if I needed a prescription, would be available online the next day. Before I even received a call from the doctor or access to my online results, Walgreens sent a push notification to my mobile phone alerting me that my prescription was ready for pick-up.

This is brilliant for many reasons. First, Walgreens was able to act on the data shared by the hospital faster than the hospital could relay it to me. Second, in doing so they also gave me the status of the test. Third, while I associate this brand with my health already, their actions continue to prove how much they value my health and me as a person (read: this makes me want to spend my money with them). Finally, all of this happened because they have a top-notch data management platform in place to effectively manage their consumer’s data.

You see, at some point I wandered into Walgreens to purchase an item. Upon checkout I signed up for their loyalty card, slowly giving them more information during subsequent visits. Eventually, I downloaded their app and synched it with my loyalty card. Then I logged into my online account to manage the entire ecosystem. And truthfully, this was not the first time Walgreens impressed me (you can read about my Connected Experience with them here).

But by merely sending me a simple push notification they have exceeded my expectations. By exceeding expectations, brands stand to gain the following:

  1. Customer Loyalty – My default location for all prescriptions is now Walgreens. This experience, along with previous experiences prove that they can do it – and they can do it well. They are loyal to making sure I’m happy and I’m loyal to them by returning every time to spend my money with their brand. With hundreds of other locations to fill my prescriptions, I choose Walgreens because they know me and they can execute efficiently and effectively.
  1. Brand Advocacy – When I have a good experience, I am a sharer. I like to tell my friends and family so they can also have good experiences. If the experience is particularly great I will socialize online as well. Not only does this generate positive news regarding the brand, but it also influences my friends to shop with that brand. I remember once reading a stat that a bad experience is shared 3x more than a good experience – something brands may want to keep in mind while mapping out customer journey experiences.
  1. Exploration of Other Brand Offerings – When a brand exceeds expectations in one area, there is a good chance they excel in other areas as well. In turn, customers will explore their other offerings based on the experiences they have. For example, I learned about the pharmacy app because of Walgreens photo printing app. Both continue to add value to my life and help me simplify. I’m sure I will continue to explore to see what other offerings they have for me.

Regardless of the consumer, everyone likes to be treated well. And the companies that understand the value of treating a customer well will continue to thrive in this ever-changing digital world.

Four Ways to Add Context To Your Marketing

This morning I woke up to 60 e-mails. I laid in bed and mindlessly went through my inbox deleting them, as I do every morning. By now I know that most e-mails I receive in the morning are editions of daily newsletters, promotions, etc. that I’ve been meaning to unsubscribe from because the volume seems overwhelming. It’s a lot to sort through first thing every morning.

This is a problem all marketers are facing. Not only are you spending hours to craft, curate and send the perfect e-mail or marketing message, you are competing against 59 others all trying to grab my attention at the same time…right when I wake up and am still a bit groggy as I begin my morning routine.

Yes – I did sign up for many of these, but because the companies do not know my preferences (or are not honoring my preferences) I find that they just end up in the trash bin. For example, I’m much more likely to read a marketing e-mail once I’m at work and seated at my desk as opposed to when I first wake up. Since I go through and clear out everything immediately in the morning, this would mean the e-mail would have to be sent after I get into my car and before I get to my desk.

When marketers think about context they need to think about the timing, mindset and overall experience of the consumer based on their current physical, emotional and mental state. Context is crucial because it takes into account all of these conditions and proactively designs a way to overcome them and get the message through on any channel. Here are four tips to help you boost the context within your marketing messages.

  1. Leverage Historical Time Data – Depending on the DMP you have implemented, you should be able to track the effectiveness of your marketing down to each consumer. As mentioned in the above example, if I am receiving a newsletter every day at the same time and the company sees I’m not opening it, it might be time to consider trying out a new time to make it more contextually relevant to my life. This can also include monitoring the times I follow-through on my purchases.
  1. Dig Into the Search Details – As I shop online and engage with different brands, everything I type into the search bar can be tracked (known or anonymous). Instead of looking for shoes, I’ve started typing in “blue shoes” and then “blue shoes size 12.” With each search I’m giving the brand more insight into my needs. At that moment I’m receptive to purchasing a very specific product. In your next promotion (which is hopefully quick), it should include blue shoes in my size.
  1. Leverage Cross-Device Use Patterns – The brands I’m engaging with should be able to understand how I navigate between my tablet, phone, laptop and desktop while engaging with their product. In fact, this is one thing I love about the Netflix. It is a seamless interaction that makes it easier for me as a consumer. I can navigate from my phone to my TV picking up exactly where I left off. Similarly with marketing, brands should be able to help me pick up where I left off to remain relevant to me. In fact, depending on the technology implemented – some brands can push me messages as I’m walking down the aisle of the product I need.
  1. Think Like a Consumer – Before planning out any campaign it is good to sit down and strategically think what you want to say. Work with your content developer to share the personas of your customers as a way to add contextually relevant content appealing to their emotions. Ask questions to better understand behavior. Depending on the amount of data you have available, you can message to them at a moment when they are most receptive by observing how they interact with your brand currently.

As you can see, context is important. Consumers are busy and they receive multiple messages on a daily basis. You can break through by understanding and adjusting your messaging to add context while honoring their preferences, time and mindset.

3 Ways Data Influences Marketing Strategy

Strategy – that word is thrown around all of the time. Regardless of your industry, I can guarantee it is uttered, heard or thought about on a weekly basis. The word projects reassurance to bosses, implying that someone has developed a flawless plan to minimize risk and maximize goal-attainment. Now, how often does that actually happen? My guess – not as frequently as it should.

The reality is that the average marketer is swamped. From budget discussions to pushing campaigns out the door, time is precious, short and must be used effectively. Oftentimes you might be dealing with so many tactical objectives that you forget why you are even doing them in the first place. Let’s take a step back for a moment.

The world we live in is overwhelmingly digital. The integration of tech into our lives is so acceptable people will stop conversations mid-sentence to respond to the latest alert – and with the “Internet of Things” on the rise, my hunch is that the our lives in the digital world are only going to intensify. With all of these devices, the amount of data being exchanged on any given device at any given time is not only massive, but extremely insightful for those marketers willing to invest in strategy. While haphazard plans may work from time to time, the reality is that without a solid business strategy it will be a struggle to keep up with competitors who see the bigger picture.

Data can influence your marketing strategy by:

  • Driving Customer Journey Mapping: The path to purchase is dead. Consumers have multiple touch points and entries to discover, engage and buy from your brand. Use your data to your advantage. With the right system in place, you can analyze your data to see where customers are coming in and how they are familiarizing themselves with your brand. In turn, the aggregation of this data can build out a solid marketing (or go-to-market) strategy for the best user experience to enhance the customer’s relationship with your brand.
  • Explaining the Why Behind the Purchase: Depending on your product, it might be an easy or a hard sell to customers. Some products I regularly need to buy, such as contact solution and toothpaste, while others I would classify as a luxury. With each view, open, click or purchase, there a reason behind my action that brands can begin to piece together by connecting the data points. Why did I choose to buy one brand over another? Why did I choose one product line over another? As brands begin to view all of their data on me in one centralized hub, the big picture becomes clear and this deepens brand personas, segmentation and understanding for increased marketing strategy.
  • Influencing Product Developments and Enhancements: The entire reason any business is successful is because of the customer. Customers influence every single decision from packaging to website design, with the end goal of creating an emotional connection to the brand. Data will always vary from customer to customer, which is why it is crucial to look into larger trends. Even though each customer has their own journey with your brand, their preferences dictate the development of new products, features and decisions you are making as a brand. With quality data and the ability to read that data accurately, you are no longer guessing what your customers want – you are accurately monitoring, listening and anticipating it.

We know that data is everywhere – it has been everywhere for quite some time now. As brands, we must shift our thinking from tactical ways to use our data to the big picture of strategy development. What starts out as an insight from marketing data could quickly morph into an insight that redefines how strategy is being developed in all departments. More often than not, everything is connected. Data supports our decisions, but it is up to everyone in the organization to connect the dots and use that information to build a rock star company tuned in to the needs of the customer.

The B-Word: Budget

There is one thing I have learned during my time as a marketer – we love spending money. Come Q4 we get out our excel sheets, analyze yearly ROI, and put together our best proposal to have an increased budget for next year. Oftentimes, our hopes fall short and we must find creative ways to do more with less; an experience that is quite common across all industries, verticals, and companies. With an increased expectation for success and a limited budget, we must put together a solid business case as to why our marketing department deserves the budget to match the high demands of the company.

While at the Gartner Digital Marketing Conference I attended a session by Laura McLellan, VP of Marketing Strategy at Gartner, who spoke about ways to fund and justify incremental marketing budgets. The main gist of this presentation is that marketers need to take a closer look at their budget to see what functions they are supporting, how it aligns with yearly goals and what needs to be changed for success. Here are some top takeaways from this session:

Marketing Budgets Must Align with Corporate Goals: From one year to the next it is not uncommon for company goals to change significantly. With buyouts, mergers, acquisitions, new executive management and better internal alignment, the expectations of the marketing department can evolve rapidly. With changing goals, you need a budget to match. If you request a 25% increase in budget from last year, make it known exactly why it is needed to achieve the goals asked of you. Defend your budget.

Share Budgets with Other Departments: As you look at your budget in detail, note how many items marketing shares with other departments. A great example here is the company website as it is instrumental in helping other departments meet their goals, such as sales, customer service, IT, business/brand units, etc. Instead of taking all of the costs for design, implementation, execution, hosting, and necessary integrations/updates, make a case as to why this needs to be shared with other departments. This applies to all types of services, software, and platforms that may be currently paid for by marketing, but should be more fairly split across the board.

Prove Your Worth: According to the session, three items are needed for marketing to be effective. First, the success measurements must align with the c-suite. Make sure you understand exactly what is being asked of marketing and that you are reporting in a way that is easily understood by your executive team. Second, the marketing itself needs to be effective. The numbers and statistics do not lie. If a campaign is not providing you with value, drop it. Finally, scrutinize over the final level of detail. For example, do you have the ability to barter or partner with a company? Is it better to buy the service you need, or build it?

Just as marketers are guardians of the brand, we are defenders of the budget. I was always taught that you can have anything you want in life, you just have to clarify what you need, make a plan, and ask. While it may be difficult to begin the process of understanding the state of your budget, it is the first step down the path of securing the funds you need to achieve your goals.

Top Takeaways from the Gartner Digital Marketing Conference

This year I had the opportunity to attend the inaugural Gartner Digital Marketing Conference in San Diego. The event brought together top digital marketers, which included brands, agencies, analysts and solutions providers, with the primary purpose of driving thought-leadership by educating marketers on the latest trends in the digital world.

As we have seen in Gartner’s Digital Roadmap, digital is exploding; channels are becoming more integrated, cross-device attribution is on the rise and marketers don’t know how to handle the complexity of a creating a seamless user experience across channels. While on the show floor I saw both new and seasoned marketers with an idea of what they want to accomplish, but a skewed understanding of the technology needed to get from point A to point B.

With increased pressure to meet high expectations of consumer demands, brands have no choice but to keep up. Here are some of the top trends that arose throughout the sessions that marketers need to be aware of as they develop their digital strategy:

1. Digital personalization is the new normal: Consumers expect brands to know them and to know them well, particularly the ones who engage regularly and spend often. In fact, one Gartner statistic explained that by 2018, organizations who have invested in personalization will outsell those who have not. The key is for brands to understand how to segment their data and effectively activate personalization at a one-to-one level, while respecting global privacy laws. On the flip side, as analyst Jennifer Polk pointed out, sometimes personalization is about knowing when to remain quiet to avoid offending or over-engaging with a consumer.

2. Identify Gaps in Mobile and Social Measurement: We continually hear that mobile is on the rise. In fact, in one presentation by Gartner analysts’ Julie Hopkins and Mike McGuire, they pointed out that 30% of Facebook’s users are mobile only. The first step is to understand how to connect your mobile and social investments to your objectives by defining your strategy. In turn, this gives mobile and social a specific purpose to work in tandem by exceeding your corporate marketing goals. By tying direct ROI back to social and mobile, marketers can justify to upper management the monetary value and in turn continue to receive more budget as needed for these rapidly growing areas.

3. Innovation is Your Competitive Advantage: One of the most fascinating presentations was by Jon Bridges, the CMO of Chick-fil-A, and Jake Sorofman with Gartner on innovation. The presentation opened by posing the question to the audience, “have you ever used another company’s name to describe what you do?” This made me chuckle a bit as I reflected on the various jobs I’ve held where I compared the company to another to help friends and family understand. The idea here is to forge your own path instead of comparing yourself to others. We can win by leading the pack. However, my favorite idea presented is utilizing your workspace as an innovation center; a place where ideas are crafted to further the business and drive change for challenging business objectives. In turn, this can be applied to digital strategy as workers begin to solve everyday challenges and best meet the demands of their users by having the freedom to explore, create, develop and solve.

Being the first digital marketing conference hosted by Gartner, I was exceptionally impressed at the content, execution and speakers. I am proud to have sponsored the event this year and am excited for its anticipated growth based on the reviews it has received.

Mobile Learnings from eTail West 2015

Mobile is hot right now, but retailers are struggling with it. The knowledge of how mobile works, the challenge of connecting tech partners, and the ability to create a long-term growth strategy is causing confusion within the marketplace, especially among brands trying to capitalize on this exploding area in ad tech. As retailers are continuing to evolve in the digital space, mobile is becoming a large part of their annual budget and digital marketing spend, particularly for brands able to connect the dots and show an ROI based on their campaigns.

Late last month I had the opportunity to listen to Keith Petri, our VP of Strategic Partnerships, present at the “Mobile Tracking Panel Discussion: Optimal Tracking of Your Mobile and Tablet Programs to Close the Conversion Gap” at eTail West 2015. This panel, which also included Andy Nails, the Director of Data Management & Integration at Sears Holding Corporation, brought up key topics in mobile affecting the retailer and consumer when it comes to integrating mobile into your marketing strategy. Here are some highlights from their discussion:

  • The Need to Understand Consumer Behavior: As Petri said, “The retailer has to understand their consumer behavior and buying behavior.” The example he brought up was purchasing a car. While you may start researching on your phone, this is a purchase that would end in store. In the case of Sears, they are very into analytics and the ability to track everything. Their ability to marry the data they collect to their loyalty program offers insights to customize the user experience. Furthermore, from a retailer’s perspective, this goes as far to impact how the mobile site is constructed (i.e. full menu bar, vertical/horizontal, screen resolution, design needs, etc.) to improve ROI.
  • Overcoming Limitations: Yes, there are limitations in the mobile space. According to Petri, we have the opportunity to connect the dots. He explained that before mobile we had our home computer and a work computer, with no understanding of the connectivity between the two or our activity elsewhere in the physical world. However, mobile and static identifiers (such as Device ID) now allow us to better understand the interaction between these two environments and what we do in-between. In fact one stat said that 78% of consumers are doing research online and then visiting a store to complete the purchase. By understanding our limitations, certain workarounds can be used until more viable solutions arise to better understand cross-channel, cross-device investments.
  • Physical Retargeting: With advances in technology, physical retargeting has grown in popularity. For example, consumers who login to a retailer’s wireless internet can be tracked using IP addresses, beacons and Bluetooth technology. Petri mentioned that one stat stated that 88% of consumers said they would opt-in to location tracking because of coupons. While some retailers are concerned about the “creepy factor” of having an ad served to your mobile device while you are near that product in-store, Petri explained that if you have consumer opt-in, they asked to receive coupons on certain items and/or they are in-app, this helps alleviate the “creepiness” that may be associated with this type of messaging.
  • Mobile Data vs. Desktop Browsing: One audience member asked if the shelf life of cookies could differentiate between devices and what pitfalls we should look out for when doing a paid media campaign. Petri explained that a Device ID is the only static identifier on a mobile operating system, while a cookie is generated in a browser but siloed within that browser. For example, if you are in a retailer’s app it generates a cookie, but if you go to Chrome on the same device and page, it generates a different cookie that is not matched – they are siloed. By exiting the app or restarting the device, all cookies are lost. One solution is to buy paid media in-app to collect and reference back, for attribution purposes, the Device ID. This allows you to use that attribution across channel, not only for the attribution within the silo.

As you can see, mobile can be complex. It is changing every day and consumers are getting smarter. The largest obstacle is understanding the data that you have and how it can be connected across all consumer touch points to better know your consumer. To learn more about IgnitionOne and our Digital Marketing Suite, specifically our Data Management Platform, check out this article by our President, Roger Barnette, featured in AdAge last month.

How to Make the Most of Your Data

During my time in undergrad at Miami University, I was fortunate enough to take a research course while studying for my degree in Marketing. This course taught us how to conduct, analyze, and report findings based on acquired data. In turn, this data-driven research could be used to provide strategic business recommendations on product launches, segmentation, brand enhancements, and targeted communication efforts.

It was in this course that a light-bulb went off in my head where I realized the key to succeeding in marketing is all in the data. The brands, consultants, and people who are able to ask the right questions, store the data properly for easy access, and analyze it for strategy development are the ones who will excel in their marketing efforts. Every day we collect thousands of fragmented pieces of data, from both anonymous and known online users, that can be pieced together to form a clear picture of your buyer’s wants and needs. As a marketer, this is a goldmine.

The key is to step-back from the daily grind and look at your strategy from the top down. Our inboxes tend to be a blur of new priorities from various stakeholders rapidly changing at any given moment. By stepping back and putting on your strategy hat, you can start to make the most of your data by following these four steps:

1. Collect the right information: Anytime a visitor wanders onto your website, opens an e-mail, makes a purchase or clicks an ad, your system is aware of this activity. Other times, you collect information from buyers by asking about their preferences and noting their purchases. While data is extremely valuable, it is even more valuable when you can directly apply it to your business needs. Make sure that the information you’re collecting is not extraneous, but targeted and strategic – always have a clear goal in mind.

2. Store everything in a central hub: From my experience, it is common for companies to have their data scattered about multiple systems. Some of it lives in outdated excel sheets, while some is stored in CRM systems not optimally designed to achieve your goals. Now that you know what data you are collecting across the entire organization, it needs to be stored in a central hub to help you build out segments. By allowing all departments to have access to all information, it provides new insight to make the most informed decisions in any department.

3. Analyze your data: With all of your data being in one central location, it suddenly becomes easier to perform data analysis. Anytime I start to analyze data, there are two approaches I take. In the first, I have a specific question in which I want to find a solution. In the second, I explore the data to see what I can find. You do not need to be an expert with data to discover what is working and what needs improvement, but you need to be curious as you look at the information that you have. If you have a Data Scientist, this would be a good time to pull him or her in to see what insights can be extracted.

4. Implement Insights: The last, and most crucial step, is to implement the insights you just discovered. If you notice that your customer base makes 3x more purchases on weekends then during the week, you might want to setup an integrated marketing campaign to monopolize on insight. By setting the campaign up as an A/B test, you can test the validity of your research. Always keep testing – nothing is every constant and your business needs will always continue to change.

Data is everywhere. It provides unique understanding of your customers where you get to know them individually, instead just a line in a list. Make the most of your data and make it a simple process for you. Marketers have enough on their plate without having to dig through 30 different vendor software platforms for information when it is time to execute a simple marketing campaign.

For more information on IgnitionOne’s Data Management Services, click here.

Your Guide to Developing a Winning Strategy in 2015

As 2014 comes to a close, it is my yearly tradition to sit down and reflect on the ups and downs I’ve had over the previous year. I do this to show gratitude for all of my experiences, positive and negative, as they taught me valuable learning lessons to carry forward into the New Year. With this reflection comes a focused meditation of the specific goals I challenge myself to achieve by the end of 2015. These objectives, often rudimentary in the beginning, require thoughtful strategies in order to see them come to fruition over the next year.

Much like my personal experience, it is important that brands take a moment to sit down and list out their top goals for the coming year. These goals require a well-defined strategy to serve as a road map on how they can be met. Too often as marketers we focus not so much on strategy, but the fire drills of quickly getting something out the door due to a change in messaging, product promotion, or the original plan. By putting a marketing strategy in place it helps keep the team aligned, especially in moments of ambiguity, to remind everyone how your goals will be met.

Here four key elements to remember when crafting your marketing strategy for 2015:

1. Include clearly defined goals: Gather your key players into one room and decide exactly what you want to achieve in 2015. Make sure to have all of the resources and data you need in front of you to avoid digging around for it during your meeting. Instead, remain focused on analyzing next year’s approach by evaluating the data you have with you. List out your goals and make sure that all members of your team have them handy. Without the top goals known and communicated, each member may be under different assumptions.

2. Foster a Proactive Culture: Being proactive is a having the ability to foresee and overcome an item that may become a problem in the future. There are many ways to encourage this type of culture, such as continued education, providing competitive industry insight, experience, and team coaching. I find that employees generally want to do their best when they come to work. By encouraging employees to be forward-thinking through new challenges, your company will continue to foster brand growth, saving resources for thought-leadership instead of disaster management.

3. Know Consumer Wants and Preferences: There is a lot of data your brand is collecting on a daily basis (search, display, social, web, email, etc). This data can be collected and analyzed to understand customer behavior, trends, and needs in the marketplace. The insights you can gather, both en masse and on a single profile, can start to reveal a lot about shopping patterns and consumer expectations with your brand and industry. Craft this understanding into your 2015 strategy to develop a winning plan that takes into account industry knowledge, patterns, and user actions.

4. Remain Adaptable: Even the best laid plan can change at the drop of a hat. I have been involved with many solid campaigns throughout my career that change due to new priorities and expectations arising. Incorporate a plan into your strategy indicating how you will handle the turbulent weather that will arise. Ask yourself why change is happening and if it will cause damage to the 2015 objectives you set with your team. Are you just trying to see a quick gain in the next quarter, or is the issue larger? By accepting that adaptability must be included into your plan, it allows you to fix these smaller issues while remaining on target to meet your goals for 2015.