Have you made your 2011 New Year’s Marketing Resolution?

With the New Year upon us, it’s once again time to look back and learn from the trials and tribulations of year past. Can you recall the goals you set this time last year? Do you feel confident that you accomplished what you set out to do? Is your team amped up for a successful new year?

Once you’ve reflected and reviewed, it’s time to set some new goals and marketing strategies for your company’s growth. Take note of where you excelled and where your efforts fell short — then use that to help you map out your marketing plan. Just be sure that throughout the process, you consider new ideas and open yourself up to inspiration. It’s fresh and inspired thinking that will motivate both your team and your customers in the new year!

As you begin to develop and navigate your new plan, here are some ideas to help you along the way…

Don’t think outside the box — tear the box down and build a better one. Knowing that your company has likely grown and changed over time, do you still have a good understanding of its needs and goals? Everything changes, so don’t be afraid to explore new possibilities and reinvent the way you do things. Dedicate yourself to evaluating and discovering what it is that will put you in a league above your competition. Then work to define your market and increase your value within it.

Look within. Your team can be an untapped gold mine of ideas and valuable insight within your company. Including them in your marketing process can lead to new ideas and perspectives that you may never have considered. It can also reinforce the bond that your employees feel with your company. A creative and well planned marketing plan can light a spark within them to cultivate more successful connections with existing and potential clients. Don’t overlook your team’s importance as a representation of your company’s brand — they need the right tools, motivation and confidence to be at their best.

Diets are for people — not marketing endeavors. We’ve all heard it before… in the face of economic challenges, cutting your marketing budget is not the answer. But when your reality calls for more strategic budgeting, what does that really mean for you? Well, it’s just like a diet, you still need to eat to live — you simply have to eat smarter. Your business needs marketing to grow, but those efforts should be focused and properly portioned to ensure optimal health and success. Your marketing budget should grow proportionately with your income over time, so be cautious not to spend everything on a single campaign up front. And be sure to diversify your strategy with a variety of ways to interact with your customers.

Knowledge is Power. The more you know about the market you’re in, the more control you have to define your place within it. Take the time to investigate and understand who your competitors are, what they are offering and how extensive their marketing efforts are. Research current trends and renew your understanding of who your clients are, what they want, and what they are spending. The world around us changes quickly, and we need to learn how to change with it.

Stop talking and listen. Your prospect doesn’t necessarily want to hear every little thing about your company. Rather, they want to feel as though, through your offerings, you’ve taken the time to understand them and their needs. Communication is key, so take some cues from them by asking what they really want. Talking and interacting with your customers reinforces consumer loyalty and is, simply put, good business. Armed with a new understanding for your audience, you can channel their insights directly into your marketing strategies. Before you know it, you’ll be hitting a home run with your audience!

What’s in it for me? This is the most critical question that consumers will ask before engaging with your company, product, or service. Everyone is self-motivated, and consumers will not buy from you unless they have a clear understanding of how it will benefit them. So, you need to ensure that your marketing message is bold in defining that benefit. Clearly defined offerings that live up to their claims will achieve more successful sales and will keep customers coming back for more.

Practice makes perfect. Mastering the art of the perfect pitch doesn’t come naturally for most, some practice is typically required. To do this, don’t be afraid to recruit the help of a trusted friend or colleague and “rehearse” with them. After all, if they can‘t take you seriously, neither will your prospect. But with their feedback, you’ll be better equipped to refine your delivery for a more successful customer presentation.

Face time. Don’t just deliver the service and walk away — make the effort to maintain a personal connection. It may sound ‘old school’, but with some much technology running our lives these days, most of us have forgotten how important face-to-face interactions can be when doing business. It can go a long way to reinforce the reasons your client chose you over your competition and it can help you to maintain those relationships long-term.

Invite critique. Nobody is perfect, but feedback can get you closer to your goals. Just ask your clients to oblige you with their impressions of you, your company, or your product. They will usually tell it like it is and you’ll be able to gather valuable feedback to help you refine your business practices. In today’s world of social media, people are able to interact with companies in new and unprecedented ways. Take advantage of this open channel and don’t be afraid to hear what your customers have to say!

When you strip away all of the definitions, guidelines and process, marketing is simply about satisfying your customer’s needs. And it’s up to you to figure out how you can best do just that. Trust in your business and trust in the process. When done creatively, and effectively, a solid marketing plan will help to guide you toward greater success! Here’s to a successful 2011!