Now that the year is new, your firm should be putting the final touches on its 2006 marketing budget. Companies that would like to be included in that budget know this and have pulled out all the stops in the hope of getting a piece of the action. In all likelihood, your firm has been approached to sponsor events, renew existing advertising and the like. Before tossing it all into the circular file, let me share a personal experience that could help you decide how to make your marketing investments.

Last winter my 13-year-old car started to act up a bit, and I decided it was time for a new one. When I started shopping around, I found I was stymied. There were simply too many choices. My husband came to the rescue with an issue of Consumer Reports that sorted all the cars into categories and provided detailed information, such as gas mileage and repair history, for each one.