School’s been back in session for a few weeks now – in some cases a month or more. Do you remember being in school and – by this point – already feeling behind? The fall seems to slip away before it’s barely begun, and suddenly it’s time for Halloween and midterms and Thanksgiving and finals and then… it’s over. Winter.

Marketing can feel a little bit like that this time of year, too. We’re barreling headlong into a busy events season, balancing Q3 wrap-up and Q4 execution with 2016 planning… and it can all start to feel a little overwhelming.

The best thing to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed? Go back to your fundamentals. In marketing there are three core activities we always need to be on top of: goal-setting, aligning with our audience, and making sure we have the right content mix to meet our goals.

Keep reading to find out how you can get your marketing assignments back in shape in time for the busy season ahead.

Refine your objectives

What are you really trying to accomplish before the end of the year and as we go into 2016? What’s the business goal you’re working toward?

Whether it’s bringing in a certain number of net new leads or nurturing existing contacts to hit a qualified leads goal, laying out your core objective at the start makes you that much more likely to achieve them.

When thinking about goal-setting, many marketers swear by the SMART criteria:

  • Specific
  • Measureable
  • Assignable
  • Realistic
  • Time-related

Try fitting the objectives you’re targeting for the rest of the year into the SMART framework and see if it gives you a better handle on what you need to get done. Then, use that clarity to energize your activities for the rest of the year!

Get cozy with your audience

Before you start marketing on auto-pilot, take a minute to make sure everything you’re planning is clearly lined up with your audience.

If you haven’t identified buyer personas, now is a great time to start! If you already have a strong handle on your personas, you should plan to update them regularly (or deepen them with additional research).

Then, make sure you have your buyer’s journey mapped out for each persona. Where do they go to research solutions? What kind of content do they want at each stage of their journey, and what questions will they have as they progress (ideally) toward a purchase?

Lori Wizdo at Forrester has a helpful process for defining the buyer’s journey and laying it out in a readable map. She recommends starting with the “5 W’s” for the buying process – who, why, when, what, and where.

Inventory your assets

Now that you’ve laid out your buyer’s journey map, ask yourself: Do you have everything you need to succeed over the rest of the year? Take a look at the content you have to fuel your demand gen programs and make sure you’re not missing anything.

OpenView Venture Partners has a great content audit template that can help you with this process, aligning content to buyer personas and journey stages and helping you see exactly where the gaps lie.

In addition to filling gaps, you should also think about the performance of each asset. Is your white paper seeing diminishing returns in terms of clicks or leads? Are your competitors trying out new and engaging content types that you haven’t thought of yet? Dig into your analytics and identify any weak spots.

If you’re seeing lagging interest in your static assets, it might be time to try out a new type of content asset. Interactive content is a handy way to repurpose your existing assets into something more fun, engaging, and ultimately valuable for your audience. Even adding a poll onto your blog posts can spice things up.