October 13, 2015

By Sarah Julian

The fourth quarter, which in turn is comprised of the holiday season, is officially here, and with that comes a complex combination of business challenges. There is a holiday momentum and a race to the finish that sends companies into a frenzied pace, just as their employees begin to relax amid the barrage of holidays—and their respective vacation days—that pepper this time of the year. But no matter where you are in the supply chain, one certainty is that your marketing department should be very busy ending the year strong and setting the stage for a successful 2016.

To determine how well your 2015 marketing plan has served you, understand how to best finish out the year and plan for an even stronger 2016, your marketing engine should not be taking a holiday. Marketing can use this time to gain an advantage over the competition by focusing on past accomplishments, present initiatives and future goals

The Past

If your marketing has been managed properly, there should be a 12-month plan in place your team has been following, full of objectives, strategies, tactics and ROI benchmarks. Whether you have been using it as a working document all year or you haven’t seen it since January, now is the time to pull it out and conduct an unbiased appraisal of the results you have garnered versus the success measurements you put in place. Did you execute all of the initiatives you planned for the year? Did they meet your predetermined standards for success? What factors supported or undermined each of your initiatives?

Also included in this review should be the beginning stages of your end-of-year report. As you work through your assessment, translate your activities and results into the measurements that matter most to your leadership team, aligning them with the larger strategic business goals for the year. By connecting the dots for management and showcasing the impact marketing activities have on your business as a whole, you can set the stage for increased investment in next year’s marketing budget.

The Present

The holidays are a booming time for the pet industry. The goal of the marketing department should be to keep initiatives going strong through the very end of the year. Whether your focus for the season is brand awareness or product promotion, the goal will be to stand out from the competition. Consumers are inundated with advertising and marketing messages. How can you find a new niche, need or message that hasn’t been done? The team needs to head into the season with a strategy in place, goals established and all of the content and creative ready to implement.

It is also beneficial to understand where you are in relation to your yearly, monthly and quarterly goals, and how your holiday marketing efforts will support you. Has the business already met its financial growth goals for the year and the holidays are an opportunity to test new creative? Or do you need to generate major website traffic to ensure conversions meet sales forecasts for the year?

The Future

Once you understand how the year has gone, where you stand today and how your holiday campaigns will help you cross the finish line, the only thing left to do is plan for next year. Planning is everything. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a marketing plan that worked last year will work next year. You want to take what you have learned in 2015 and apply it to make 2016 even better. This includes cutting those least-performing marketing activities, adjusting moderately performing activities, doubling down on the best and determining what new initiatives you may want to take on.

It also includes looking outside the four walls of your company to ensure that all of your market assumptions are still in line with reality. Are there any new competitors in your category? Have there been any major changes in your supply chain? Has the definition of your target consumer shifted at all? Have consumer needs, perceptions or preferences changed? Are there global factors that you now need to take into consideration? By conducting an annual SWOT analysis you ensure that your strategy addresses any new threats and capitalizes on any new opportunities. To head into the New Year without this insight would undermine your strategy from the start.

So there you have it: three short little months left in 2015, and oh-so-much marketing left to do.

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