It’s that time of year again. The full year is ahead of you. Everyone on LinkedIn is making their yearly predictions (or at least ChatGPT is doing it for them).

You’re now in ‘delivery mode’ on your business plan. Meticulously crafted back in September. How is it already so out of date? You’re sitting on Excel making up scenarios for how you’re going to achieve those ambitious goals.

Luckily, as marketers we like challenges. The adrenaline rush of the unknown, of scaling fast, and of unlocking new peaks is undeniably exhilarating. You’re already itching with the urge to jump in and problem-solve.

Yet, in this rush to action, there’s a vital stage we often overlook: taking a step back. Let’s call it ‘recalibration’, (before anyone accuses us of hesitating). You need a second to see the wood from the trees.

Why a Step Back is Crucial Right Now

January is always labelled as the time for action. To get a fast start on the year. But, I’d argue that it’s also the prime time for a strategic pause and reset.

A lot has changed since September in our world. Cookies are depreciating rapidly, short-form video is even more important, Amazon is now advertising on Prime Video, and consumer confidence is improving.

Changes like this will impact your business in various ways. Growth channels might not be as attractive, or opportunities might have arisen. This demands a step back to ensure your growth strategy is aligned with the fresh dynamics of the new year.

A Three-Step Framework to Recalibration

  • Reassess the Landscape: Markets evolve rapidly. What was relevant in September might be outdated now. It’s crucial to reassess your plan and assumptions in the context of the current market. Understand what hasn’t changed (bankers) and also what has.
  • Refocus on the Customer: Refocus on the Customer: Numbers matter, but they don't speak. Your customers do. This month, reconnect with the heart of your business – the customer. Align your offerings and communication with their evolving needs and preferences.
  • Identify New Opportunities: Stepping back helps pinpoint specific growth opportunities. This could mean exploiting gaps in competitors' strategies, tapping into emerging trends, addressing unmet customer needs, or simply changing language to be more appealing.

Taking a Step Forward

Post-recalibration, it's about channelling your insights into tangible actions. Employ a simple ICE (Impact, Confidence, Ease) scoring to prioritize your initiatives. Bucket your insights into three actionable areas:

  1. Actionable Insights: Use the insights gathered to tweak your strategies. This could mean focusing more on a certain demographic, revising your messaging, or standing up some new marketing channels.
  2. Pilot and Test: Avoid the all-in gamble. Test your new strategies on a smaller scale, measure the outcomes, and refine them based on the data. This minimises risk and maximises impact when you do scale up.
  3. Continuous Improvement: The market isn't static, and neither should your plan be. Embed a culture of continuous recalibration within your team. Regularly step back, assess, and refine your approach to stay in tune with the market and your customers.

For the more radical among you

Some might say, "But this isn't enough."

Consider the approach of companies like Shopify, which has shifted from rigid annual plans to setting annual 'themes' that are voiced from the perspective of a customer.

One example is writing an email from a delighted merchant explaining the value they get from a specific product or part of their product.

This guides their yearly roadmap and makes sure they’re focusing on building products that people love. This has the structure to guide them, but also allows them flexibility.

The best companies orient themselves on the customers first, and how to best meet their needs.

In Conclusion

Achieving your ambitious business goals isn't just about charging forward; it's about knowing when to take a thoughtful step back. 

Set aside time now to reassess, recalibrate, and then move forward with a plan that is more aligned with the current market dynamics and your customer’s needs. 

Remember, sometimes the best way to move forward is first to take a strategic step back.

Adam will be writing a column for MAD//Insight throughout 2024. However, if you can't wait for his next article you can find more of his marketing muses here!