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We have a few holidays to get through and then – BAM! –2013 will be upon us. That means now is the time to think about what next year holds – or should hold – for your business.

Every November, repeat clients as well as new faces begin filling my email inbox and voicemail with talk of next year.

“Next year we want to expand our brand into social media…what do we need to do?”
“Next year we want to revamp our website…what should we be doing?”
“Next year we want to change the way we communicate with donors…what do you think we should do?”

I always ask two questions right off  – What is your goal for the next year? And what is your overall marketing strategy? In most cases, it isn’t well-defined: sometimes it’s a line-item in an overall budget, other times it’s just a collection of hazy, half-formed objectives and dreams.

But success in 2013 starts with proper planning. You can either back into the plan from your dream/goals or start with your budget and your goal and move forward into a solid plan. Either way you need two things – your goals and your budget.

Here are three recommendations to get you focused on planning your business growth strategies in 2013:

  1. Set Big – But Reachable –Goals

Lots of folks are afraid of setting expansive, ambitious goals…but they shouldn’t be. Every year since I started my business, I’ve established a percentage growth rate I wanted to achieve, and every year I’ve hit it. Laying out your objectives in writing is the clearest way to make them come true. I’m not proposing you craft outrageous, unrealistic goals (“next year’s sales at our dry cleaning business will top Apple’s sales”), but you do want to set stretch goals. Reach for the stars, as they say, but choose a constellation that’s a bit closer than Apple’s revenue figures.

  1. It Isn’t Real if You Don’t Write it Down.

 Sure, I admit to being partial to the written word, but crafting a business strategy can’t just happen in Imagination Land. My significant other is a pretty smart guy. He graduated at the top of his class and raised more than $1 million in start-up capital. But he also barely remembers to put his shoes away every day. The point being that the likelihood of anyone remembering the details of their entire strategic plan is pretty slim.

Research shows that when goals and tasks are written down, more is achieved. Your business strategy is a living document that evolves, adapts and shifts with your business. Many times your growth will come from completely unexpected sources so be open and flexible.

Bottom line: commit your strategic plan to paper, and revisit it often to make sure it reflects where you are and where your business is going. When you need to shift your tasks to meet goals– do it.

  1. Spend Wisely

Don’t go chasing the latest marketing tools just because they happen to be the latest marketing tools. Likewise, don’t ignore the latest marketing tools because you think they may just be a fad.

Let me be upfront: I’d love to produce your email marketing, web language and social media content for you. Blog entries, newsletters, Facebook posts, LinkedIn updates, maybe some action on YouTube, you name it. But the truth is – depending on your client base – it may not be what your business needs to get ahead. And the same holds true for traditional print brochures and direct mail campaigns, billboard advertising, or any other method of reaching out to potential customers.

Understanding where to spend your valuable marketing budget means knowing where your customers (or prospects) hang out, what their pain point is and how you can reduce or eliminate it.

There are many valuable marketing avenues available to business owners today; selecting the right ones to use and spending wisely means understanding everything about your customers. Do the work.

How will you grow your business in 2013?