It may seem premature to begin to think about your organization’s marketing efforts in 2016. We are still enjoying some beautiful summer days, and fall has yet to have officially begun. But, I would argue that it is never too early to begin your strategic planning for next year, with marketing playing a key role in what your business plans to accomplish next year.

I have a starting point for every company when they begin to discuss their company’s goals. The first is always based upon current revenue and how much the organization wants to grow. Which then leads to “how will we grow”, and that can take a myriad of forms to include hiring sales staff, a new product launch, dedicated lead generation activities or brand awareness to name a few.

Once the fundamentals for your business in 2016 are established, I suggest taking a hard look at first your competition and how they are going to market. Then I would ask yourself a series of questions:

-How is your brand?

-Is your messaging compelling and direct? Will it quickly capture the attention of your target audiences?

-What are the best tactics for reaching your audience? What resources (time, people and money) do you have for those tactics?

-Do you have a documented marketing plan?

-How do you approach digital marketing and visual communications?

-How are you creating opportunities to attract new customers or generate more business from existing customers?

-Are you fostering and nurturing relationships with clients and prospects?

-How are you encouraging loyalty from our existing customers?

Some of these questions are anxiety-inducing,  but with the right group and a practical perspective, the answers to these questions will help guide the future of any marketing team.

In addition, B2B presents some unique challenges, and the traditional ways of executing marketing are falling to the wayside. Forrester now indicates that up to 90% of the buyer’s journey is completed before a salesperson is even contacted. The balance of power has shifted purely onto the buyer, and that statistic alone should facilitate challenging questions for your sales and marketing team, such as:

-Who are your buyers? And who should they be in the future?

-Do you have an understanding of the decision process for your buyers?

-How integrated are your marketing efforts with sales? Customer service?

-What are your Google Analytics telling you? Is your website a selling tool?

-How is your overall content? And does the content create sales conversations?

One size certainly does not fit all in the business world, but I hope that you and your marketing/business development team can use these questions and insights as a guide for your 2016 planning and beyond.