Business Plan photo from ShutterstockThe New Year is right around the corner. Hopefully you’re finishing the year off strong in your business. But while you’re dealing with increased holiday busyness, it’s also a good time to begin preparing for the next year. Before you can make plans for your business next year, you need to have a sense of what’s going on in your business now. Here are tips to gather the information you need to start planning for next year.

Who Loves Ya?

The first rule of marketing is to know your market. Knowing your market is so important it helps you develop your products or service to better meet their needs and create marketing strategies that speak to them. As a new business owner, you defined who you thought this market would be; however, if you’ve been in business for awhile, you should gather data that tells you exactly who your market is, because you could be wrong.  For many years, I ran my site targeting 30-somethings, but recently discovered that over 50 percent of my traffic are people over the age 40.

There are several ways to you can learn about your market in the real world. One is through analytics, such as Google Analytics, which not only gives demographics, such as gender and age, but also information about their interests. Other ways to learn about your market include social media, blog comments and email, which help you understand who is sharing information and asking questions.

What Do they Love?

This information is crucial and something you should stay on top of all year long. Why? Because this information tells you what your market wants and needs. By fulfilling its desires or fixing its problems, you’re going to increase traffic and sales. And with a fast changing world, these wants and desires can change, so by staying abreast to market needs, you can better meet them.

Once again, analytics is a good source for information about what your market wants. Analytics will tell you what pages of your website are most visited. It reveals the words and phrases your market is using, giving a clue to its wants and needs.

Other methods for identifying your markets desires include tracking your best selling products and services, or in the case of affiliate marketing, your top affiliate sales. Research your blog and social media posts that garnered the most engagement. And finally, find out which email blasts led to the most clicks and sales.

How Are They Finding You?

Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive anymore, but it’s still time consuming. You’ll get more bang for your marketing buck and time if you track your marketing efforts to focus on what’s working and tweak or eliminate what’s not working. For example, I was surprised to learn that Pinterest steadily held the number two spot for sending traffic over the course of this year. My business has nothing to do with food or crafts, and yet, Pinterest still beat out Twitter and LinkedIn to send readers to my home-based career site. This tells me I need to be sure to include sharable graphics in my blog posts and spend more time at Pinterest.

Analytics is a great way to find out how and where people are discovering your site. Not only can you learn where they are finding you, such as through social media, advertising, guest appearances, etc, but also the specific words and terms they’re using to discover you.

Once you have a picture of who your market is, what it wants and the best ways for reaching it, you can use the information to plan your products, services and marketing for maximum results in 2015.