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by Patricia Luebke Patricia Luebke is a New York-based marketing consultantwith more than 20 years magazine publishing experience.Pat conducts sales training seminars, conducts marketresearch, produces promotional materials and providesstrategic planning and media relations assistance.She may be reached at 212-996-1409.


December is the time of year to take advantage of that 20/20 hindsight and review your company's and your own performance during 1997. 

  • In the bustle of the holidays, find an hour to meet with your key employees. 

  • If it's just you, take an hour to think about the past year, and vow never to repeat the mistakes you may have made. 

Think, too, about how to do things a little better in the coming year. One of the simplest methods of evaluating you and your company's performance is to make two lists: What's Working and What Isn't Working. Increase the things that are "working". Find alternatives to the things which "aren't working." 

To start stimulating thinking, here are some questions to get the discussion rolling: 

  • How did we perform in relation to our goals? 

    • Of course, it helps when you've had goals to judge your performance against. However, even if you haven't, think about the kind of year you had compared to previous years. 


  • What could we have done differently? 

    • This is a good non-judgmental question to unearth some of your less successful projects or decisions. Answering this question may even provide a good laugh for everyone.


  • What happened that we did not expect? 

    • This question shows where you were caught off-guard. Maybe it was an electrical storm that left you powerless or a new competitor entering the market that you had never heard of. Looking at where you were unprepared can prevent this from happening again. 

  • What changes could be made to make our company more efficient? 

    • This is a question that should be asked all year long, but now is a good time to get all the ideas out to take a non-critical look at what may work in the coming year. 


  • What did our competitors do that we wish we had done? 

    • Just because a competitor did something doesn't mean you can't. Take the best of what you see and mold it into a program which will work for you. It's also useful to bring out some questions to really stimulate thinking. For example, asking, "If we had a million dollars in our budget, what would we do?" This bypasses people's "we can't afford it" mentality. It can be the basis for some real-life ideas which just may bring new business or greater profits to you in the coming year. 


After you've looked backward, take another hour and look ahead. As you take out your new calendar, spend some time vowing to try out some new things and initiate some fresh programs over the next 12 months. We'll start you off with AMIC's Suggested Resolutions: 

  • Resolve to make a plan. 

    • Instead of flying by the seat of your pants and managing from crisis to crisis, write down some thoughts. You don't have to write a formal business plan if you've never had one before. Just start with a legal pad and pen. Write down trade shows, holidays, advertising opportunities, ideas for incremental business, slow times, and start thinking of ideas. The very act of making this list will help generate some marketing ideas.


  • Resolve to make a budget. 

    • Once again, you don't have to create a spreadsheet that would make a banker's head spin. Start with some simple numbers beginning with what you spent last year. Was the amount too much? Too little? Make a month-by-month plan for your marketing expenses. Don't overlook the obvious. If you're one of the many companies whose area code has changed recently and you'll have to reprint letterhead and businesscards, make sure to factor that into your budget.


  • Resolve to explore something different.

    • Pick one marketing or business activity which has intrigued you, and resolve to investigate it. Whether it's a sales message for your callers on hold, trying out some new software or exhibiting at a new trade show, look into whatever has caught your attention. Investigate it. Price it. See if it fits into your company's marketing plan. 


  • Resolve to spread your wings.

    • That is, get away from the office every now and then or outside of the media community to meet some people from other industries. This could mean joining a service organization or a networking group. It could mean attending some non-media trade shows in your area. Maybe it means going to the library or your bookstore and picking up some new books on marketing or sales. 


  • Resolve to have some fun.

    • It's tough to do when there are a stack of bills on your desk and a disgruntled client on hold. Study after study show that those companies and individuals who take the time to have fun are the most productive. Try to laugh more. The New Year is a time for new beginnings so make some resolutions of your own for 1998. 


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