1. Do you have a strategic plan?  This is the cornerstone.  Consider how your value proposition will be integrated into campaigns, web enhancements, conferences, marketing collateral, and hiring campaigns.  A word of caution though: don’t bite off more than you can chew by having too many tactical elements in your plan than resources to execute them.  Get staff together early in the strategy development process and again on a regular basis to discuss marketing needs, wants, and possibilities.  This will allow you to agree as a group about priorities and what can be the “phase two” portion of the plan.  First and foremost, however, your planning process must start with defining your value proposition.  Does it tell who you are?  Is it a unique identifier to your firm only?  Do your top clients and advocates agree with it?  Most important, does anyone care?  If your value proposition is solid, your other strategic items will fall into place.

2. Does your strategic plan contain tactical elements that you are ready to execute?  If the strategy is the cornerstone, then tactics are the immediate bricks around it.  A plan is great to have, but a failure to execute is – as the old saying goes – a failure of a plan.  The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes is a book that provides great information about executing a plan tactically.  It covers a wide variety of topics, from educational marketing, to creation of sales scripts and stadium speeches, to having the wherewithal to call your own bluff if your tactics are not measuring up.  The point is, having a strategic plan with a core value proposition is great – but it is really only effective when the tactical elements are applied by everyone in your organization.

3. Are your plans in the budget?  Consideration and adjustment of budgets for marketing typically falls near two extremes.  One, you are over your overall budget and look to the easiest area you can find to limit: sales and marketing.  However, it does take money to make money and, although you can always cut a little from this portion of the budget, it simply cannot always be the place you go first and too often.  Two, you are way under your sales and marketing budget and view this as a windfall.  This is the closest you can get to self sabotage.  By not spending money earmarked for an area, you are not only letting an opportunity get away, but you are literally letting a short-term financial gain be a reason to do nothing.  So, moral of the story: be careful in the budgeting process.  Develop your strategy and corresponding tactics, and then budget accordingly.  Hold a budget outlook meeting for projected costs every 90 days and monthly “actuals” meetings to see if the accruals are matching up to these actual incurred amounts.

4. Is your version of success defined?  Just like you look at objectives and management of expectations with your advisory clients in, you need to define your own.  If you write down as individuals and then sit down as a staff to discuss your version of success, in no time at all you will begin to tell if you are hitting the marks you intended to at the onset.  Too many times, we see success only as a sale or a huge impact on the bottom line, but consider these other significant, measurable forms of success: more advocates spreading the word for your cause, higher brand awareness, and an increase in media exposure in forms such as TV interviews, articles, quotes and speaking opportunities. 

5. Are your goals measurable and are you tracking the metrics to prove whether you are hitting them or not?  Measure campaigns by quantifying components from them, like web hits, outgoing call touches, incoming calls in response to mailers, blog hits, and number of attendees on web demos and seminars.  If you measure these campaigns month-over-month, quarter-over-quarter, and year-over-year, you’ll begin to see clearly when the best time is to execute.  That way, you are working smarter and more deliberately with your time, money and resources.

If you look at the above five points and feel pretty confident that these are all in place at your firm, your chances of success are very high.  As a business owner, it’s critical to make sure that you treat the sales and marketing leg of the stool as seriously as you do the operations and money management legs. 

Good luck in your planning and to your 2010!