50 Point First Quarter Marketing Performance Checklist

1Q Marketing Assessment: Social Media, Content & Mobile

1Q marketing assessment -50 pointsAt the end of the first quarter, evaluate your 2014 marketing and business trajectory regardless of whether you’re a B2C, B2B, Not-For-Profit (NFP) or small business (or solopreneur).

Then, adjust your second quarter plans to get 2014 on track to succeed before the budget and holiday season mania. (BTW—here’s a full year 111 point marketing checklist to provide additional help. While it’s dated 2012, the information is still relevant.)The second quarter is a critical pivotal point since budgets may have been created on unrealistic basis, or circumstances either internal or external may have changed significantly.

50 Point first quarter marketing performance checklist

Here’s a 50 point First  Quarter Marketing Performance Checklist to help you assess your progress to-date.1Q marketing assessment -50 points

2013 Marketing leftovers

Like Thanksgiving turkey, marketers must deal with open issues from the previous year. This can have a major impact on your current marketing performance.

  1. Were your 2013 sales above or below your estimates? This speaks to your 2014 starting point.
  2. Were your 2013 profits above or below your estimates? This indicates not only how well you drove sales but also how your cost structure performed. Understand that while sales could be through the roof your cost structure might be out of alignment.
  3. Were your 2013 leads or prospects above or below your estimates? This can have an impact on 1Q sales pipeline, number of sales closed and lead-time.
  4. Were your 2013 customers on target? Examine customer segment and product purchase mix.
  5. How were your 2013 customer attrition and churn rates? Did customer gains hide issues with the number of customers or accounts lost?
  6. Do you have unused marketing resources from 2013? In large organizations, marketers may hide budget or pay for 2014 promotions in the prior year or push payments for the fourth quarter into the next quarter.
  7. Did your marketing mix change in 4Q2013? Many firms experienced a significant increase in mobile usage in the second half of 2013.
  8. Did you have a change in inventory or product mix? Did your target customers change their buying patterns? Don’t just focus on your inventory and related marketing. Dig deeper to determine whether more strategic company changes are needed.
  9. Were there significant changes in your customer and house files? Look across your different communications offerings.
  10.  Was there a change in the support you receive within your organization?
  11. Was there a change in headcount or related human resources? Is this a part of the entire organization or just normal turnover?
  12. Are there any other unforeseen changes that have an impact on your marketing?

First quarter environmental events including competitors

As part of your 1Q assessment, examine your environment, competitors and internal changes.

  1. Where there any changes in the macro environment that had an impact on your business? Since more firms are national and global due to their online reach, these events have a greater impact. For example, in the US, there was more extreme weather in the form of more snow in the East and droughts in the West.
  2. Where there significant events in your product category? Think broadly. Consider how your customers view your offering.
  3. Are there new substitute products? Many business executives are short sighted with regard to this question.
  4. Did your direct competitors make changes that require you modify your marketing or business plans?
  5. Did the major players make any changes that require you to rethink your strategy? Don’t limit yourself to your category.
  6. Did your micro-economy change? This can be significant for local companies.
  7. Where there any government changes that had an impact on your business?
  8. What is happening within your business? Have there been any changes in partners, suppliers or reoganization?

First quarter marketing plans

Evaluate your 1Q marketing. Assess how your promotions and related marketing performed.

  1. Are your on-going, regular promotions working? Do they need to be improved or changed? Here’s a promotional calendar.
  2. Is your content marketing working? Is it meeting your key target audiences’ needs? . Here’s help with your content marketing plan
  3. Is your social media marketing effective relative to your past performance? Are you optimizing your social media? Here’s help with your social media marketing plan.
  4. How is your mobile marketing performing? (This assumes you have the mobile marketing basics.) Here’s mobile data to help you with your plans.
  5. How is your email marketing performing?
  6. How is your search optimization doing? Have you kept up-to-date with changes? (BTW–here’s the biggest SEO mistake marketers make.)
  7. How is your on-site conversion performing including your website, landing pages and purchase process? Does it need enhancement?
  8. How are your major marketing promotions doing? This includes special targeted marketing events such as White Sales, the Big Game and Valentine’s Day.
  9. How are your major advertising campaigns performing? Are they meeting expectations?
  10. How is your supporting advertising performing? Consider paid and mobile search and social media to aid your social media and content distribution.
  11. Have your marketing tests provided insights that require changes in your marketing plans?

1Q Financial results

Whether, you’re a marketer, business executive or owner, you need to understand both your financial and business tracking to get a clear view of your 1Q results.

  1. Have 1Q revenues grown at a top level? If not, what’s the reason?
  2. Have 1Q revenues fluctuated by campaign or promotion? How do they compare to last year’s results and budget?
  3. How have 1Q revenues performed by product category? Where appropriate, look at specific products and pricing. How do they compare to last year’s results and budget?
  4. What are 1Q sales per customer contacted? How do they compare to last year’s results and budget?
  5. Have 1Q return rates changed? This can be an indicator there’s a problem with your product or marketing.
  6. Are 1Q expenses on track at a top level? If not, why? Have you deferred purchases or hiring?
  7. How have 1Q expenses performed by product category?
  8. Have product margins changed? Check by category and individual product since one product can obfuscate a problem.
  9. How have agencies and other outside marketing performed against budget? Are they compensating for delays or empty positions?
  10. Are your 1Q media costs on track? If not, what’s the cause?
  11. Has your 1Q marketing headcount and related costs changed?
  12. What are your 1Q  cost per customer contacted? How do they compare to last year’s results and budget?
  13. What are your top line 1Q profits? How do they compare to last year’s results and budget?

2014 Budget and forecast modifications

Based on your firm’s results-to-date, what changes do you need to make to ensure that you’re successful this year?

  1. Have you modified your sales forecasts for the remainder of 2014? Here are 8 steps to create your sales forecast.
  2. Have you modified your marketing budgets for the remainder of 2014? Understand that cutting marketing may result in lower sales?
  3. Are there any areas of your cost structure that you can reduce or eliminate? This is a perennial business dilemma. If you cut too much, it’ll result in lower performance.
  4. What are you doing to make your marketing more effective than planned based on your first quarter performance?
  5. Can you change your pricing to improve profitability without hurting sales levels or quality?
  6. Can you change your marketing mix to improve results?

The major goal of this 50-point 1Q marketing performance checklist is to examine your business based on what’s happening in your specific market. Depending on your business, this can be significantly different than what you expected when you created your marketing plans, especially based on how you completed last year.

Ideally, you’re tracking results against the same period last year, if you have them, rather than just your budget.

Use this list to discover issues as well as opportunities that you may have overlooked. Even small businesses need to think strategically to be successful.

What else do you measure to ensure that your first quarter is on track to succeed for the year?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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