You know why they call it “Black Friday” don’t you? It’s allegedly when businesses finally develop enough sales for the year to be considered profitable. That seems rather silly, though…to wait all year for all that hard work to finally pay off. For most businesses, we recommend at least a monthly focus. Naturally, the end of the year is a time of reflection and assessment for most businesses. Where did the year go? What happened in it? Here are some simple ways to start reviewing your business’ year.

Where’d the money go?

Forget loyalties. Where are you spending your marketing money and how much good is it doing you? While giving to the local soccer team might feel good and your rep for the weekly newspaper in your hometown might be a nice guy, is it doing you some quantifiable good? Businesses are constantly bombarded by aggressive sales people from new and traditional vendors who want nothing more than to separate you from your money. Here at the end of the year, you might surprise yourself and your accountant with a complete assessment of where the money went. Gather every possible receipt and bill payment you can that even remotely resembles marketing and you’ll see what I mean. Only when you know where the money went can you move on to the next step.

Where should it go?

How well did that display marketing campaign perform? Since digital is the most traceable form of marketing on the planet, you should have far more information than a simple impressions report and click through rates. Once you get your list of where the money went, do an honest review of whether or not it should go there again. Only sentimentality stops many businesses from making changes that could be the difference between growth and wild, excessive growth. Find an unbiased resource to help you review the new opportunities you might have avoided because you feared entering a new arena of opportunity.

What is your brand?

The problem with most businesses who look in the mirror is that they see themselves. You know what you want your brand to be and then there’s what it really is. Talk to your customers, your employees, your friends…engage them in honest conversation about what your business means to them. Only then will the vision of your brand become more clear. A local plumber might think his brand is an affordable service…but a customer might think otherwise. By finding out what you truly mean to people you’ll begin to have better direction for your marketing overall. Instead of having to compete on price alone, you may find out your brand is worth more to people and you can focus more on building more relationships.

Plan your work and work your plan.

Once you have a plan, follow it. Seems simple, but the constant changes in the market often convince businesses to abandon their plans. We’re not saying don’t be flexible…you can adapt, but without the basis of a plan you’ll find yourself flailing about like a fish out of water. Most business startups are required to have a good business plan. Sadly, once underway, that business plan is rarely looked at again. Resolve to sit with an unbiased third party to work out a good plan with a good goal and a reasonable success strategy.