Many of us are in the midst of developing and refining 2009 marketing plans and budgets. It’s one of my favorite activities. For me it’s an opportunity to detach from the daily routine, open my ears and my eyes and evaluate what’s really going on around me. To make the most of yearly planning sessions and budgets it’s important to understand what your organization is trying to improve or change. By taking time out and evaluating where your company has been and where it wants to go you’re guaranteed more success in your plan. Planning against carrying out business as usual can be the most important stop-gap to stagnation. Organizations without the elasticity to change can’t grow and in the current economic climate it’s more important than ever to not simply refresh the yearly plan, but to start anew with tangible goals and measurable actions. To start thinking more strategically try some classic marketing exercises. Throw out your old SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) and start a new one. Have a brainstorming session about new opportunities and assign them risk/reward statuses (high risk, high reward; low risk, high reward, etc.), refresh the information on your competitors, it’s likely they too have grown since last year. These activities offer two benefits, they get the creative juices flowing and make getting buy-in from senior management that much easier. Where will you take your company next year?