If you’re like many marketers, you’re knee deep in 2016 budgeting and planning already. Yay, everyone’s favorite time of year (kidding). So I’m here to pile on some more to do’s you should be knocking off your list to hit 2016 running. Your future self will thank me when you’re killing it on January 2.

1. Map your customers’ sales journey – This can take some time but it is SO valuable. I can’t stress enough, how important this is. How does your customer buy? What is their path from awareness to purchase? Where do you lose prospects and sales? What can marketing do to prevent it? How many touches from marketing does it take to get a prospect engaged? What touches are converting most regularly?

Understanding the answers to all these questions will fine-tune your marketing to a new level. You have to take ownership of that entire sales funnel, not just the awareness part. Marketing can and does continually add value through the entire sales process. Mapping that prospect experience and using the information to continuously drive demand will directly add dollars to your bottom line.

2. Test your nurture emails! – If you’re like most of us, you’ve put some automatic programs in place that are running happily in the background, nurturing those slow prospects. It’s time to test those babies. First, benchmark your results for the year. See which ones are performing well and not so well. Start fixing.

If the poor performers are long, shorten them up. If the subject line is ho-hum, make it sharp and actionable–try something that is 2-4 words only. Then run some A/B tests to pit your new version against the old version. If you see an uptick, keep the new version, but maybe test a couple of other elements to try to make it even better. If nothing gets results, then perhaps it’s time to ditch that email and replace with something fresh. Which blog post performed the best in the past couple months? Feature that one.

3. Plan an editorial calendar – Yeah, I know. It’s tedious. But content marketing should be your highest priority tactic, so mapping for the year will keep you on top of it all year long. I like to do 4-6 week sprints with different content topics, coordinate these with product launches and you’ll have a winning content plan. When conference season hits, you’ll be the pro who coordinated his content before, during and after shows. Just be sure to leave some flexibility in your schedule to take advantage of market changes and hot topics that might pop up unannounced.

4. Research your tech purchases – If your budget gets approved for that new automation system, document management program or whatever tech gizmo you’ve been hankering for, start your purchase process now. It can take a while to select the right vendor and negotiate a smokin’ deal. By starting now, you can be ready to sign once your budget is primetime on January 2nd. If you wait until the new year to start your process, you could fall victim to the budget yank that sometimes happens after a lackluster first quarter. Spend your budget while you have it! Or, if you can swing it, signing by December 31st often gets you some sweet deals as sales reps are trying to meet their annual sales goals.

5. Make a great piece of content to launch Jan 2 – There’s no better feeling than starting the year with something awesome. Lots of research reports and surveys come out at year-end, use the data to create a killer white paper and infographic. If you’re budget challenged, there are some new graphics programs and tools that can make DIY look totally pro. Try Piktochart and Canva. HubSpot also offers free Powerpoint templates for creating your own infographics.

6. Don’t have a blog yet? Get one ready to launch in the new year. If you’re not yet blogging on your website, start getting that going now! There’s no time to waste. Blogging is the single best driver of SEO to your website. You can’t afford not to do it. If you start writing posts now, you can launch with a good library, so your blog won’t look like a newbie wasteland. This recent post from HubSpot sums up exactly the reasons you should be blogging, like right now.

7. Develop a platform content strategy – LinkedIn, Medium and now even Twitter are dying for your content. And, there are many great reasons to post content on these platforms. They often get a lot more eyeballs than the posts on your own blog. While, you definitely want to get people over to your own blog to drive the SEO mentioned in #6, you can’t ignore the power of the audience on these other platforms. Before the new year begins, map out a strategy of which of your content will go where. Make it part of your #3 editorial calendar. Hint, you should not put everything everywhere. More about Twitter getting in the long-form game here in Contently’s article, Twitter Dropping its 140-Character Limit Signals a New Era in Content Marketing.

With all the planning and budgeting and just plain finishing the year strong, it can be tempting to focus on the NOW. Don’t let it happen to you. Januaries and first quarters are often the toughest time of the year for marketers. If you get ahead of it now, you can not only make it easier for yourself next year, but also up your game significantly. I’m cheering for you!

Photo by: Sarah Ackerman