Some companies operate based on seasonal periods. Some sports teams like hockey are in season for six months of the year, take a break, and then begin preparing for the next cycle. Holiday retailers and many other organizations also focus on a few months out of the year to fulfill their goals and devote the "off season" to strategizing before it starts again.
For our company, ValoreBooks.com, renting, buying, and selling college textbooks is very much a seasonal business and our peak periods occur in the summer and winter months. However, once those windows conclude, it's important to evaluate our effectiveness and begin planning for the next season. In order to benefit from past successes and failures, we focus on three areas during our analysis phase:
1) What worked and what didn't?
For many organizations, this was a big year for social media. Some dabbled in it while other businesses like ours used sites such as Facebook and Twitter to its fullest. This year we created "Jersey Shore Season 2 Parody" Webisodes in order to engage with our customers in a fun and entertaining way. The five part video campaign was a success and attracted more than 36,000 views. In addition, the videos received praise on college and education Web sites like Funny or Die, edReformer, and Penn State's The Collegian: Snap, Crack, Pop blogs. In addition, the company produced the "Beaver Fever Hits Manhattan" video campaign to showcase its online textbook service which demonstrated ValoreBooks' ability to provide fast delivery as the company's mascot, Victor, traveled from San Diego to New York to deliver a textbook to a college student.
After it's all said and done, look back at the company's efforts and determine if the goals were achieved. Did you connect with your target audience? Did you receive the interest and feedback you were expecting? Would you do it again next year? What didn't work? Could it have been avoided? What would you do differently next year? Companies should have honest conversations about these questions to ensure they're doing their best.
2) Did each department achieve their goals?
While increased sales are of primary importance for most corporate initiatives, it's also essential to examine the goals of the various departments within a company. Arrange time after each season to sit down with different folks—such as IT, marketing and PR—and get their feedback on what went well and what can be improved for the following year. When organizations take the time to focus on each department, it validates to others that they are a crucial piece of the puzzle. In order for a team to be successful as a whole, each division needs to be performing at their best.
3) What worked for competitors?
It's not uncommon for businesses to keep a close eye on their competitors. That's why many companies sign up for Google alerts. While it's important to focus on your own company's achievements, it's equally important to gauge how the competitors fared. Did they roll out a marketing campaign that attracted a lot of eye balls? Did they receive a lot of press? Examining what your rivals are up to might uncover opportunities that your company missed. While there's no intention to be a copycat, it's simply keeping up with the waters being tested by your competitors and determining the value of implementing a similar strategy for your own company.
It doesn't matter if a company relies on a few months out of the year for their sales rush or if they are an everyday retailer. It's important to always set aside time to review what's going right and what's not. There are always lessons to be learned. Organizations that follow this practice can only benefit from the knowledge gained that will allow their company to continue on its successful track or make the changes needed to attain its goals.
Bobby Brannigan is the founder and CEO of ValoreBooks, a fast-growing online provider of cheap college textbooks. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.