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7 Steps To Build Your Annual Plan Like A Pro

It is the time of year again when we start thinking about next year… The plans, programs, and activities that will allow us to meet and exceed our 2016 goals.

We at Idea Sandbox like to approach nearly any type of planning as if it were a road trip. Like a road trip, you need to figure out:

  • Where you are,
  • Where you want to go, and
  • What you need to get there.

We’ll break it down into these bite-sized chunks:

  1. Goals, Goals, Goals
  2. Focus / Business Themes
  3. Seasonal Objectives
  4. Seasonal News
  5. Budgeting
  6. Consumer Promotion
  7. Localized Goals

Now a little more detail on each area:

1. Goals, Goals, Goals

How easy or hard are your sales goals for next year?

How well did you meet this year’s goals? Do you need to be super aggressive? Or can you relax a bit?

Break your sales goals down by quarter and month. Then, concretize goals by converting them to understandable quantities.

Instead of asking store teams to increase sales by $45,000 per location, it is much easier to grasp if they can:

  • Add 10 more customers per store per day,
  • Increase ticket by 50-cents more per customer, or
  • Try to get 3 more dessert orders per shift.

So, once you figure out what sales goals need to be met, you can then plan to add non-sales specific initiatives in the “easier” months. Conversely, you’ll want to plan marketing initiatives when it seems making goals will be a challenge.

Beyond sales goals, what about your performance with Customer Service scores? Local Review Sites? Number of hours of community service or donation amounts? How is your customer database of newsletter subscribers?

What goals do you have for Customer Experience or the Brand for this upcoming year? Are you continuing existing initiatives? Need to start new ones?

Keep all these goals in mind. They may drive a key focus, messaging themes, promotions, and need to be incorporated into your planning calendar.

2. Focus / Business Themes

A business focus or theme represents overarching sentiment, messaging, program or experience for a time period. It may center on a customer facing initiative such as customer experience, new products or services. Or it may be internal focused supporting competitive issues, strategic weaknesses, etc.

Their duration could be for years, or for a quarter, or a season. Like anything you want groups to rally behind, a business focus often has its own tagline, a rallying cry! Here are a few faux-examples:

  • “100 in 3!” – A goal to increase sales per location by $100k during a fixed period of time. “Grow $100k in 3 (months)”
  • “5 Star Success!” – Service goal to get locations to score 5-stars on their secret shopper reports.
  • “Light Bright” – Competitive goal to increase sales during your slower evening daypart.

Sales Goals + Business Theme → Seasonal Objectives + Seasonal News

Typically your sales goals and business theme will drive your seasonal objectives and news. Sometimes you’ll use your seasonal goals to determine the focus.

3. Seasonal Objectives

Use your Goals from above and split them appropriately through the year. Break them down by season, quarter, or promotional period. For example, at Starbucks the Christmas holiday season was a very intense sales period that lasted from mid-November to just after the New Year. There were sales and service goals set solely this 7 or 8 week period.

4. Seasonal News

What do you have planned to meet or exceed your seasonal objectives? These may include:

  • products,
  • services,
  • programs, or
  • initiatives.

Back to the Starbucks example. For the Christmas season the “news” is intense. Back in the day, for a limited-time in-store would feature:

  • Holiday beverages (Gingerbread Latte, Eggnog Latte, Peppermint Mocha Latte),
  • Christmas Blend coffee,
  • Tazo Joy tea,
  • Special food items (Cranberry Bliss Bar – that tastes awesome paired with Christmas Blend),
  • Holiday themed serveware for home – coffee mugs, plastic tumbler cups, etc.,
  • Coffee Brewer / Espresso Machine sale,
  • Christmas music CDs,
  • Product Bundle Giftpacks and gift tins (created specifically for the holiday season),
  • Community Give-Back Coat, Toy or Book Drives,
  • At one point Garry Trudeau “Doonesbury” merchandise (profit went to charity), and
  • Pushing heavily, Starbucks Gift Cards!

Whoosh!

This promotional period had the highest number of featured and new products, and the shortest number of weeks. But, we knew a great Christmas season would roll into a great new year!

All these new, limited time items create news for customers. In fact, during the Holiday season Starbucks turns their white cup with green logo red. Some customers start to salivate just seeing the red cup. For them Christmastime starts when Santa is in view during the Macy’s Parade and the red cups arrive at Starbucks.

Fun fact: January thru March – the First Fiscal Quarter of the year and typically slower time for restaurant and retailers is Starbucks second fiscal quarter. Starbucks decided Q1 takes place from October thru December – a busy time of the year. This ensures Starbucks starts off the year strong with a great Q1. Clever, huh?!

What do you already have planned that is “news worthy?”

If you don’t have news, you may need to create it. This is where – during the Sales Goal portion of your planning – having an honest understanding of how hard or easy it is to make your goals is important.

5. Budgeting

If you haven’t already, you need to determine the investment needed for funding the programming to meet or exceed your goals and objectives. This may range from training, to advertising / marketing budget, product or service development, and more. There are two ways to look at this funding…as an expense or an investment. We always feel money spent to improve the experience for customers is an investment that delivers return.

6. Consumer Promotion

I’ve always thought of a promotional theme as the bow that ties together all the programming and activity in a way that is relevant and meaningful to the customer. This is where we build the communication and marketing programs to communicate the themes and news to our customers. Since you know what you’ll be featuring, what your “news” will be – what will be the theme to tell the story?

7. Localized Goals

If you aren’t a single-location organization, you’ll want to consider how you’ll split the sales responsibilities among your leaders, departments, and locations. And you’ll want those teams to break goals into those concrete, understandable measures.

Yes, we know we’ve simplified the steps, but hopefully this will serve as a nice guide for you and your team in prepping for an amazing 2016.

Happy Planning!

Paul's Name
Paul (and the Idea Sandbox Team)
Twitter:@IdeaSandbox

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