Although every quarter of the calendar year is important to sales and your bottom line, Q3 and Q4 are your last opportunity to adjust and align with your goals for the year. The fourth quarter happens every year, but it also seems to arrive more quickly than anyone expected. Now is the time to plan throughout Q3 for upcoming holiday sales and strategies.

Each year, the marketplace is a bit different. Perhaps more of your customers buy online from year to year, or maybe the products you carry shift. However, there are some strategies you can use in Q3 and Q4 that apply to marketing strategy time after time.

1. Get Feedback From Employees

You shouldn’t just be reviewing your employees’ performance — you should also ask them to critique company-wide performance. The feedback you receive from those working on a project is valuable. They are absorbed in the work and can easily explain what works and what needs to change to reach goals by year’s end.

Ideally, get feedback in Q3, so you still have time for adjustments, but you can also get feedback in Q4 in preparation for the next year. Employees should feel free to share ideas without fear of punishment, so feedback can be in-person or anonymous.

2. Review Last Year’s Analytics

Spend some time poring over last year’s Q3 and Q4 reports. Now is a good time to see what areas need improvement and to look at sales and marketing through the lens of what worked well in the past. Review more than one year back, even going back as far as five or 10 years to identify various patterns.

Once you’ve noticed some patterns, adjust for this year. Don’t wait until the end of the year — do it now. Acting on what you’ve found gives you the highest chance possible of meeting company and department goals.

3. Plan Holiday Campaigns

The holidays are on the way, so Q3 is a great time to plan what campaigns you want to push in Q4. Once Q4 hits, you’ll be so busy you won’t have time for careful planning. Look at past engagement for different products/services, as well as which marketing campaigns had the highest return on investment last year. Looking back at previous years helps you plan campaigns in the current year.

In addition to planning campaigns, Q3 is an excellent time to create social media posts and get them scheduled. If you’re crazy busy, you won’t have to try to figure out how on earth you’re going to plan that extra social media boost. You’ll already have the work wrapped up and ready to go.

4. Invite a Speaker

Invite a new motivational speaker to inspire your workers to drive sales further than ever before. At the midway point of the year, many employees start to feel a bit burned out. The weather is nice outside, and they’d love nothing more than to be poolside, but they’re trapped in an office building. Fresh perspective helps align goals and drives everyone toward higher effort.

A speaker also breaks up the monotony of the year and sets a new tone for the second half of the year. Even better, seek a speaker who understands how marketing works for all aspects of the business and gets everyone on board with your goals as a department. Sales and marketing often work together, but also tend to not work well together. A great speaker unites both departments toward a common goal.

5. Study Market Reports

Take time to dig into industry marketing reports and discover any trends. Tap into these trends through your marketing, or even which products you order to sell in Q4. For example, let’s say you sell toys, and you discover the hot toy of the Christmas season is going to be a robotic bug. If you normally sell a small robotic bug, you can easily ramp up your order numbers and create several marketing campaigns centered around your toy.

Market reports offer a snapshot of what consumers want and what big changes are afoot in your industry. Taking time in the less busy summer months to study these reports gives you a boost for the fall and winter selling season.

6. Take Inventory

Even though it is a task no one looks forward to, it’s important to take inventory at this point in the year. This allows you to find items that haven’t sold and see what’s out of stock and needs replenishment before the end of the year.

Have an item that just sits in the warehouse? Center your Black Friday specials around pushing it out the door. Have an item that is out of stock consistently? Ramp up your stock before Black Friday hits.

7. Map out Q1

Start looking ahead to next year. What won’t you accomplish this year? Can you push some things to the first quarter of next year? Remember how busy Q4 is and how quickly the end of the year zooms past, as employees take time off for holidays. Planning for your first quarter now allows you to hit the ground running after Jan. 1.

Map out where you’d like to see Q1 take you and have a plan in place beforehand. By planning Q1 now, you implement info from the first quarter of this year, but create a focus on goals you’ll need to continue working on into the new year to see projects to a successful conclusion.

8. Create Word-of-Mouth Goodwill

Think through what gifts you’d like to give out to your top customers for the holidays. Thoughtful gifts keep each individual in mind. If you have 10 top clients, choosing a gift for each one shouldn’t be that difficult.

If you have more than that, you may need to focus on giving out something most people would appreciate, such as a nice cooler or tickets to a local sporting event. The idea is that your top customers are likely to tell others about the great service you give them. Word-of-mouth advertising drives growth. Seventy-four percent of people say what they’ve heard from others is one of the top things influencing where and why they purchase.

9. Keep Momentum

Even if it’s your slow season, don’t pause activity. Keep marketing and working on sales ideas with your sales department throughout the year. Many companies consider Q3 as a breather of sorts, but this lack of effort in the summer months can add up to a loss of sales at the end of the year.

If you already have momentum heading into Q4, things will only ramp up from there. Even though you’re planning out Q4 marketing campaigns, continue to spend time on current campaigns. This time is an excellent opportunity to reach out to your clients and ask what you can do better.

Q3 and Q4 Expectations

Each year, Q3 and Q4 have a similar rhythm. You spend Q3 preparing for the rush of Q4. What if you could turn that tradition around and still prepare for the fourth quarter, while making the third quarter better than ever before? Don’t be afraid to try new things and make your Q3 different than years past.