Marketing Planning & Reporting

How to Learn From the Past & Improve Your Small Business Marketing


There are several steps on the journey to improve your marketing. First, you should start by creating a marketing plan to make sure you’re not missing out on any marketing opportunities. Second, you should monitor your marketing and collect the results from your small business marketing.

The latter is important to help you learn from the past and find out what marketing works for your small business and what doesn’t. Then you can use your findings to improve your marketing going forward. Check out this handy checklist I’ve put together to help you with that.

Read more about how to create a marketing plan for your small business and how to measure your marketing results

Review your marketing

If you have been in business for a while, the best source of information to improve your marketing is your past. But where do you start? And what information should you include in your marketing review? Let’s have a look!

1. Your campaigns

Photo by Myriam Jessier on Unsplash

Start reviewing your marketing activities of the past year(s) and see what worked, what didn’t and, most of all, try to find out why.

The reasons behind success and failure are varied:

  • Was the timing right for the campaign?
  • Was your offer of value to the audience?
  • Did you choose the right outlet for your promotion?
  • Did you reach out to the right people?

Sometimes it’s simply the cost of a campaign that will turn a high response rate into a loss.

Have a look at your campaigns and see which one gained the highest number of new customers. Find out which strategy was the most cost-effective and which offer worked best. And, most importantly, reflect on how to adapt things in the future to improve your marketing.

2. Your customers

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

Next, have a look at the leads and new customers you’ve attracted over the past year:

  • How many new leads have you made?
  • What was the conversion rate?
  • How did they found out about you?
  • Did you have repeat business from existing customers?

To improve your marketing, it’s important to see where your leads and new customers actually came from. Were they mostly referrals or did they come through your social media presence? Did you have a high conversion rate on your website or are you a networking prodigy?

Whether it’s advertising, PR or a trade show that attracts new clients – take a note and apply your findings to next year’s marketing. It also helps to look at your ideal client. Especially when trying to get more of the same for the year ahead.

3. Your products

Photo by Konstantino on Unsplash

Now check out your products or services and determine which ones were the most profitable ones for your small business. You should also look into which were the most popular ones among your clients.

This helps you improve your marketing in the future and shape your business more around your customers’ needs. Another way to do that is to check your customer feedback:

  • What were the criticisms?
  • Did they give you any suggestions for improvements?
  • What did they like best about your product/service?
  • And, crucially, are they still getting good value for their money?

Now make sure your product descriptions and call-to-actions reflect these findings to get better conversions in the future.

When did you last take stock of what you’re actually offering to your customers? Check out this post for my top tips on stepping back and taking control!

Try something new

Photo by tolgart from Getty Images Signature via Canva Pro

While learning from your past marketing makes a big difference when you want to improve your small business marketing, trying out new things is not to be underestimated either.

Above all, ask yourself: What are your projects for the new year? Does your website need a makeover or do you want to try a new social media channel? Are you planning a monthly newsletter, exhibiting at your first trade show or finding a new business club for networking? Take your pick, the world is your oyster!

To make sure you get the best results from your little tests, list your projects, define your goals and follow their progress regularly.


Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

Last but not least, put all your findings together and start planning your improved marketing for the next 12 months. Decide which marketing campaign to repeat, what to change and what new things to try out. Also, look out for any special events (your company anniversary, for example) that might impact your marketing plans.

As always, you should define goals for your overall marketing as well as for campaigns and activities. This makes it easier to measure your success in the next review and to focus your marketing efforts.


To read more about this topic, have a look at these:
What’s Your Plan for the Next 6 Months? 11 Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses
Your Small Business Marketing Plan: What is it, Why Do You Need it & How Do You Get One?
How to Find Out If Your Marketing Is Working – Marketing Analytics for Small Businesses
Marketing Strategy for Small Businesses: Why You Need One & How to Define it

Denise Strohsahl brand and marketing consultant for small businesses

Hello, I’m Denise from sandstonecastles, a brand & marketing consultancy based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I help small business owners like yourself to find the right marketing that’s in line with your brand and values.