The end of the year is the perfect time to step back and reflect and on what you learned over the last 365 days so you can start the new year out on the right foot.  And, let’s be honest, if you’ve made some mistakes throughout the year, reflecting on what happened can help prevent it from happening again in 2015!  I believe this to be true in life but also in marketing as well as your business in general.

I won’t bore you with the personal lessons I’ve learned this year.  Although there have been many, they are for a different blog!  As I reflect on my own marketing efforts and the work I have done for my clients, here are 5 lessons I learned in 2014.  Some are things I learned years ago but just reconfirmed their importance, while others are brand new!

5 Marketing Lessons I Learned in 2015

1.  You Need a Plan – Over the past year, I have witnessed client’s have great success when they come to the table with a marketing plan.  On the flip side, I have seen clients struggle when they take things day by day and are always chasing the next best thing.  I don’t care if your marketing plan is written in a three ring notebook, MAKE A PLAN for 2015.  Write down some goals and objectives and plans on how to achieve them.  Create a timeline and set measurable goals.  Even if you don’t have a big marketing budget, or a marketing budget at all, having a plan will help guide you throughout the year and keep you focused on what your end results should be.

2.  Networking is Important – Like many small businesses, I have a very lean marketing budget.  Given that I am a marketing professional, I have learned to work around this but to the average small business owner, not having a marketing budget can be very detrimental to your business’s success if you’re not doing other things to compensate.  With that said, networking is so important regardless of whether you have a budget or not.

If you don’t have a budget, networking events can serve as one of your primary vehicles for getting your business noticed.  If you do have a budget, networking events can support the efforts you are making otherwise.  Make it a priority to network regularly in 2015, I guarantee you’ll see some benefits from it.

3.  Every Market is Different – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, just because something worked for one company in one market doesn’t mean it will work for your company in your market.  Before you dive into any advertising or marketing efforts, do your homework.  Just because your competitor plasters themselves across the TV doesn’t mean it is what you need to do to compete.  Find what makes you and your business better and unique and promote that rather than trying to go dollar for dollar with advertising campaigns.

4.  Trying to Do Everything Yourself Can Hurt Your Business – When it comes to marketing and your business in general, it is important to know when it is time to outsource a project.  I learned this valuable lesson earlier in the year when I spent DAYS trying to figure out a problem with my email, then a professional came in and literally fixed the issue in a matter of hours.

Being a small business owner, I wanted to save the expense and thought I could figure it out myself.  In the process, I lost some emails and wasted time.  Consider this as you think of your marketing for 2015.  Is your time better spent trying to figure out how to create a brochure online or working your business, interacting with clients and closing sales?  While the expense may be hard to swallow at first, I can almost guarantee you’ll get a more professional end product if you work with a professional (depending on who you outsource to) AND you’ll be able to spend time growing your business.

5.  Not Everyone Will Be “Your People” –     This has been a hard one for me to get my head around as I am a people-pleaser by nature.  I learned this year that not everyone will be “your people.”  What do I mean by “your people”?  Simply put, you can’t be everything to everyone and not everyone is going to like the product you sell or the service you provide.  Additionally not all personalities work well together.  This is true in life and in business and it’s ok to walk away from a business opportunity if it is no longer beneficial to you.  You have ideal customers and you need to identify who they are.

Finding your ideal customer can be challenging but knowing what your own strengths and weaknesses are is a good step in starting the process.  Next take a look at your customers.  Who always buys from you?  If you are service based, ask yourself, what service do you like to provide the most and who typically buys that service.  There are a number of ways to find your ideal client so make it a point to do so throughout 2015.  Once you find them, you can really target your marketing efforts to reach them.  Remember, you don’t have to be everything to everyone.  Focus on what you do best, do it well and you’ll most likely find the customers start rolling in when you stay true to your strengths.

Share a marketing lesson you learned this year!  Comment below or head over to my Facebook page and join the discussion.  Sharing can help all of us learn.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas and best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015!