Last Updated on 29 March 2023

Whenever we get toward the end of the year, we start thinking about next year. The plans, programs, and activities will allow us to meet and exceed our goals. Here are our seven steps to building your annual plan like a pro!

We approach nearly any planning as if it were a road trip. Like a road trip, you need to figure out the following:

  • Where you are,
  • Where you want to go, and
  • What you need to get there.

We’ll break it down into these bite-sized chunks:

  1. Goals, Goals, Goals,
  2. Focus / Business Themes,
  3. Seasonal Objectives,
  4. Seasonal News,
  5. Budgeting,
  6. Consumer Promotion, and
  7. Localized Goals.

Now a little more detail on each area:

1. Goals, Goals, Goals

How easy or hard are your sales goals for next year?

How well did you meet this year’s goals? Do you need to be super aggressive? Or can you relax a bit?

Break your sales goals down by quarter and month. Then, concretize goals by converting them to understandable quantities.

Instead of asking store teams to increase sales by $45,000 per location, it is much easier to grasp if they can:

  • Add 10 more customers per store per day,
  • Increase ticket by 50 cents more per customer, or
  • Try to get 3 more dessert orders per shift.

So, once you figure out what sales goals need to be met, you can plan to add non-sales-specific initiatives in the “easier” months. Conversely, you’ll want to plan marketing initiatives when it seems that making goals will be challenging.

Beyond sales goals, what about your performance with Customer Service scores? Local Review Sites? The number of hours of community service or donation amounts? How is your customer database of newsletter subscribers?

What goals do you have for Customer Experience or the Brand for this upcoming year? Are you continuing existing initiatives? Need to start new ones?

Keep all these goals in mind. They may drive a key focus, messaging themes, and promotions, and must be incorporated into your planning calendar.

2. Focus / Business Themes

A business focus or theme represents overarching sentiment, messaging, program, or experience for a time period. It may center on a customer-facing initiative such as customer experience, new products, or services. Or it may be internally focused, supporting competitive issues, strategic weaknesses, etc.

Their duration could be for years, a quarter, or a season. Like anything you want groups to rally behind, a business focus often has a tagline, a rallying cry! Here are a few faux examples:

  • “100 in 3!” – A goal to increase sales per location by $100k during a fixed period. “Grow $100k in 3 (months).”
  • “5 Star Success!” – Service goal to get locations to score 5 stars on their secret shopper reports.
  • “Light Bright” – Competitive goal to increase sales during your slower evening daypart.

Sales Goals + Business Theme → Seasonal Objectives + Seasonal News

Typically your sales goals and your business theme will drive your seasonal objectives and news. Sometimes you’ll use your seasonal goals to determine the focus.

3. Seasonal Objectives

Use your Goals from above and split them appropriately through the year. Break them down by season, quarter, or promotional period. For example, at Starbucks, the Christmas holiday season was a very intense sales period that lasted from mid-November to just after the New Year. Sales and service goals were set solely for this 7 or 8-week period.

4. Seasonal News

What do you have planned to meet or exceed your seasonal objectives? These may include:

  • products,
  • services,
  • programs, or
  • initiatives.

Back to the Starbucks example. For the Christmas season, the “news” is intense. Back in the day, for a limited-time in-store would feature:

  • Holiday beverages (Gingerbread Latte, Eggnog Latte, Peppermint Mocha Latte),
  • Christmas Blend coffee,
  • Tazo Joy tea,
  • Special food items (Cranberry Bliss Bar – that tastes awesome paired with Christmas Blend),
  • Holiday-themed serveware for home – coffee mugs, plastic tumbler cups, etc.,
  • Coffee Brewer / Espresso Machine sale,
  • Christmas music CDs,
  • Product Bundle Giftpacks and gift tins (created specifically for the holiday season),
  • Community Give-Back Coat, Toy or Book Drives,
  • At one point, Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” merchandise (profit went to charity), and
  • Pushing heavily, Starbucks Gift Cards!


This promotional period had the highest number of featured and new products and the shortest number of weeks. But we knew a great Christmas season would roll into a great new year!

All these new, limited-time items create news for customers. During the Holiday season, Starbucks turns their white cup with a green logo into a red cup design. Some customers start to salivate just seeing the red cup. For them, Christmastime starts when Santa is in view during the Macy’s Parade, and the red cups arrive at Starbucks.

Fun fact: January thru March – the First Fiscal Quarter of the year and typically a slower time for restaurants and retailers is Starbucks second fiscal quarter. Starbucks decided Q1 takes place from October thru December – a busy time of the year. This ensures Starbucks starts off the year strong with a great Q1. Clever, huh?!*

What do you already have planned that is “newsworthy?”

If you don’t have news, you may need to create it. This is where – during the Sales Goal portion of your planning – it is important to have an honest understanding of how hard or easy it is to make your goals.

5. Budgeting

If you haven’t already, you must determine the investment needed to fund the programming to meet or exceed your goals and objectives. This may range from training to advertising/marketing budget, product or service development, etc. There are two ways to look at this funding…as an expense or an investment. We always feel the money spent to improve customers’ experience is an investment that delivers a return.

6. Consumer Promotion

I’ve always thought of a promotional theme as the bow that ties together all the programming and activity for the customer in a relevant and meaningful way. This is where we build communication and marketing programs to communicate the themes and news to our customers. Since you know what you’ll be featuring, what your “news” will be – what will be the theme to tell the story?

7. Localized Goals

If you aren’t a single-location organization, you’ll want to consider how you’ll split the sales responsibilities among your leaders, departments, and locations. And you’ll want those teams to break goals into those concrete, understandable measures.

Yes, we know we’ve simplified the steps, but hopefully, this will serve as a nice guide for you and your team in prepping for an amazing next year.

Happy Planning!

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