Take Five Minutes: How to plan your marketing for your best year ever

Focus your marketing - Tips by Ditto Silly season is peeking around the corner, and our attention is turning to Christmas shopping, ordering the turkey and winding down on work in preparation for the Christmas break.

But that's no excuse to take your foot off the accelerator.

Putting some time aside now to consider what you want to achieve in 2015 will pay off big time come January. And to help get you started, I've got some great tips to get you ahead of the game.

Jot down your goals for next year. Be as specific as you can - do you want to launch a new service, hire more staff, or increase your margins? Whatever it is you have planned, commit it to paper so you have something to focus your mind.

Set aside a budget. So many businesses find it utterly terrifying to commit a proper budget to marketing. But the simple fact is that you have to invest to grow, so the crucial thing is to ensure you spend in the right direction to get maximum return on your investment. Your accountant or bookkeeper will be able to help you put together a budget that works for your business.

Think big. If nothing stood in your way, how would you reach your customers and get heard? Grab a big sheet of paper and brainstorm as many ideas as you can. They don't have to be realistic or practical at this stage - allow your mind to flow freely and scribble down whatever comes to mind. If you have a team, get them involved to bounce ideas around - the more, the merrier! The more ideas you have on your page, the better placed you'll be to curate your thoughts into actions which are relevant, easy to implement and work within your budget.

Check in with your customers. How's business going for them? How can you make their lives easier next year? What challenges are they facing? The better you understand what motivates your clients, the better placed you'll be to create a marketing message that resonates with them and encourages them to buy.

Evaluate your brand. Does it support where you're heading? We speak to loads of business owners whose businesses have evolved and outgrown their current identity. If that's the case then fix it pronto; your branding should set you on a path or growth, not hold you back.

Make a plan. How, precisely, are you going to achieve your goals? Writing a plan now (I recommend thinking month by month, and focussing attention on seasonal activities such as exhibitions or events) avoids those panicked marketing campaigns that are rushed together in response to a period of poor sales. It'll ensure you stay on track, and help you make the best possible use of your budget.

And if you need a hand...

We have a very limited number of slots available for new projects this year. We want to fill those slots with projects for business who want to communicate with heart and hustle, so to incentivise you into action we're offering very special rates to those who fit the bill. Tell us what you're up to and let's see what I can do to tempt you! Email me at hannah@ditto.uk.com and let's book a time to chat.