How to Evaluate the Past Year and Plan Ahead

3rd January 2018

Business Planning for the Year Ahead

The last few months of the year can be a good time to take stock and review your objectives and marketing activities for the past year, to work out what went well and where changes are required. Take the opportunity to set new goals for the year ahead and work out your priorities.

When setting goals we’re big fans of SMART objectives and ensuring they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. Working out how to measure the effectiveness of your goals as you set them will keep you focused and make the evaluation process much simpler. This is the place to begin.

Go through your current objectives one by one and determine what has worked, what didn’t work and where revisions are required. Review your data and statistics carefully. Are there areas that didn’t go according to plan? If so, why? Try and figure out specifically what didn’t work. Could this be revised slightly? What does this tell you about the process? What did go well and did it meet or exceed expectations? Could this formula be applied to other marketing activities?

Remember the SMART acronym and ensure your targets are achievable. At the same time, be aware that a criticism of SMART is that it doesn’t always encourage growth. It’s easy to use the SMART method but not push yourself. Find a balance between what is realistic and moving your business forward and pushing the boundaries.

Ask Your Customers for Help

Enlist your customers to help you by asking them to complete a survey. Customers are a rich source of information and by asking the right questions you will gain valuable insights. As well as helping you determine areas of strength and weakness, they can unearth lucrative opportunities and help with growth. Tools like Survey Monkey can help you create and send surveys.

Armed with your evaluation and customer insights, it will be easier to prepare your goals for the coming year. If you don’t know where to begin, start by brainstorming. Using diagrams or mind maps, think about where you want to be this time next year, and then in five years and so forth. Don’t worry about specifics at this stage. Just get some rough ideas down on paper,
you can hone them later.


When it comes to planning marketing activities, budget is often the biggest obstacles. When setting a budget for the coming year, first work out what you spent last year, and calculate your return on investment. This type of analysis is valuable and revealing. What worked well? Can you repeat it? What didn’t work and why? Can you make any tweaks to improve the outcomes?


The next step is to begin making lists and sorting your ideas. Being clear on your priorities is extremely important. When all else fails, referring back to priorities will ensure you remain focused on what is important to you/your business.

Understand Trends

Keep ahead of trend within your industry. Throughout the year read industry journals, blogs and engage on social media channels. Be part of the conversation. Having an overview of this will help when it comes to planning. It is often those organisations that keep abreast of changes in their industry and adapt accordingly that survive during difficult spells, and eventually thrive.

Keep An Eye On Competitors

It is important to be aware of what your competitors are doing. What kind of content are they creating? Who are they engaging with? What seems to be working for them? Is there any way to replicate this in a creative and unique way?

Get Help

There are many aspects of running a successful business. It requires a multi-skilled approach. But we can’t all be good at everything. Be aware of your strengths and use them to advantage. And don’t be afraid of bringing in other people to breathe new life into projects and inject new ideas. We work better together. Former US president, Harry S Truman once said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Bringing in other members of the team will improve communication, ensure you have everyone’s buy in, and improve outcomes.

Think ahead to this time next year, when you will be sitting down to repeat the process. Where do you want to be in a year’s time? What will be a significant achievement? What will have the most impact on your business and customers? Keep this in mind when planning, and refer back to your goals throughout the year.

Further Reading

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