You do everything touted to bring success: you network, you read in your field, you do social media, you work early and late and grab opportunities as they come your way. So why is it that you still feel behind?
How do you explain the sense of overwhelm and helplessness when you confront your Monday “To Do” list?
Why do you know in your gut you could take it to a new level?
When is it your turn to have “it” come easily?
These are the questions I regularly field from solopreneurs during workshops.
While some report unprecedented successor general vagaries about how well their business is now doing, my experience is it’s been a tough year.
The economic challenges combine with a learning curve spelled c-h-a-n-g-e.
I missed the Mark Zuckerberg 60-Minutes interview, but you can check out the highlights from Mashable. What an example of real-time media. Zuckerberg discusses changes to the Facebook platform to “better serve” the greater good. Do I hear “continuing learning curve?”
Facebook isn’t the only challenge. I know some who opt out of all planning, using the speed of change as a reason to quit. “What’s the use?” they say. “It’ll only change anyway.”
Have you looked at your upcoming year and determined priorities? Do you have a game plan? Because some plan increases the likelihood of goal achievement. Whoops. I forgot a question: do you have goals?
A small group of business owners agreed to meet to review and revise and activate their business marketing. The benefits include:
Commitment – each of the group signed a contract stating their intent and promising to do the work outlined
Alliance – working with like-minded individuals facilitates networking, offers opportunities and encourages support.
Synergy – thanks to small group interaction, ideas get a sounding board, suggestions create discussion, focus increases effectiveness and plans move from thought to action.
Staying “on top of your game” implies you have a plan, you’ve thought it through, and most importantly, you’ve begun a series of actions calculated to move your business forward. Magical.
Where are you in the process?
NOTE: Contact me if you’re looking for the accountability of a small group.
When you choose to adopt an editorial calendar for your own newsletter, you’ll simplify the planning of that publication. Best of all, you’ll stimulate the production of additional ideas and topics for that newsletter.
Without a plan, life gets in the way. Newsletters fail to write themselves. Inconsistencies arise for any number of reasons. Here are just a few examples from my own experience:
One coach is waiting for inspiration. She’s not produced a newsletter in four months.
A client called to say they have decided to downsize to a quarterly newsletter. NOTE: This year’s monthly actually published three times.
The proliferation of information can cause overwhelm. One friend ceased publication of her daily newsletter after 10 years. Although the daily had produced fodder for two books, it was no longer fun to find a daily topic.
Avoid these traps with pre-planning. It’s not just for the “big guys.”
You might find it easy to work with a quarterly theme. List your four themes, add three supporting topics, and once again, you’re prepared for the year. Example:
Quarterly Theme: Cold calls
- My best cold call conversations start with
- Three “warm-up” prospecting ideas
- Five tantalizing voice messages to create response
Instead of quarterly themes, your newsletter calendar could consist of 12 expert interviews or 12 books that might serve as resources. The possibilities are endless.
During week three of the six week marketing plan, you listed 50 potential topics for your blog. What a great start for an editorial calendar. Review your list and pick the 12 best topics. There. You’re set for the year.
Once you create a general outline, add information on each topic to its file.
Without pre-planning, your newsletter will wax and wane when it needs consistency in order to create a strong following. Begin now with an editorial calendar. What are you waiting for?
Need a different approach to your marketing? Today’s topic is day thirty-eight of a 45-day step-by-step marketing master plan. Choose to take your business to a new level topic by topic, day by day, with specific actions, based on clear worksheets. Act now to maximize your time and return on time invested. As a result, you’ll be in an entirely new position this time next year.
In a recent post I asked if your marketing suffered from shiny object syndrome? Several people identified with the analogy.
Just as a buffet overwhelms willpower with temptation, too many marketing choices divert a loosely structured plan. Faced with hundreds of choices, some do nothing and others do too many non-related things.
How can you simplify?
I advise clients to begin with the end in mind.
“What do you most want to do?”
Whether you want to sell your consulting time, book speaking engagements, or increase traffic into your store, you must decide on your outcome. Form your answer.
Then, begin to layer tactics systematically so as to keep your funnel full. Outline what might work for you segment by segment. I lump every option into one of three segments: advertising, networking or external segments and internal outreach.
Includes but is not limited to direct mail, magazines, team sponsorships, trade shows, yellow pages, radio or tv advertising, and more. Dozens of media channels vie for your dollar.
Networking/Alliances/Events – external segments
Your community involvement falls into this category. There’s no shortage of options for you to spend your time and time becomes the primary currency in this category. It’s wise to consider dollars as well, because luncheon expenses and membership dues add up. Before each event, make a conscious decision about the return you expect. “I plan to make three quality contacts at this meeting,” for example.
What promotional outreach do you conduct to follow up on your advertising or external outreach? The answer can range from a free consult to thank yous to a special business card. Or, you might choose to apply for awards that then enhance your credibility in other areas. Your work in internal outreach will ensure synergy throughout your efforts.
As you brainstorm your year, write commitments on a calendar. One client uses a giant erasable calendar for the year in order to visually remind her of the commitment involved.
Building a promotional plan can generate rewards such as increased focus, employee buy-in and better organization all of which contribute to the synergy and success of your business.
How will you structure your plan?
Need a different approach to your marketing? Today’s topic is day thirty-seven of a 45-day step-by-step marketing master plan. Choose to take your business to a new level topic by topic, day by day, with specific actions, based on clear worksheets. Act now to maximize your time and return on time invested. As a result, you’ll be in an entirely new position this time next year.
Ever watched a child play? Toys are strewn about, discarded when a flash of brilliant color or a special shape or a new sound captures attention. It’s shiny object syndrome. And it’s not just for kids anymore.
Consider the current shiny-marketing-object of social media. BIG attention. Little planning.
In my experience with local clients, the all-consuming Facebook page dominates thoughts. Instead of strategic questions, the owner asks:
“How many fans did we get today?”
“Are we at our goal of 500 fans yet?”
“Did you post on Facebook this afternoon?”
It’s not much different with Twitter. Again, I hear non-strategic comments:
“Build a following. We’ve only got nine people.”
“Did anyone retweet your comments about Black Friday?”
If there’s an owner question at all, it’s this one:
“You don’t think our audience is on Twitter, do you?”
Informal tests conducted by my mastermind group confirm audiences spend more time planning a vacation than planning their marketing.
We avoid planning because we don’t know how to plan. No one teaches the art of planning. No one encourages you to hold the enthusiasm, get the plan down. Instead, the word “plan” causes a freeze in thinking and analysis paralysis sets in.
I think of plan avoidance as shiny-object syndrome. Playing with a shiny object is far more gratifying than planning, at least on a short-term basis. It’s easy. It’s entertaining. It’s fun.
A shiny-object, like a new app, makes the present all-consuming, and lets one avoid thinking about the end result, the consequences of current actions.
While a plan doesn’t provide all the answers, it certainly outlines a path and lets you measure and track success or the lack of it. Your plan could begin as a series of milestones, fairly detailed for the next month or two, less detailed for the following quarter, and merely outlined after that.
Give yourself permission to avoid shiny-object syndrome. Build a simple, one-page marketing plan.
This seven sentence Guerrila Marketing plan from Jay Levinson, the father of Guerrilla marketing offers some good choices:
- What is your marketing asking people to do?
- Which benefits are you going to stress?
- What is your audience?
- Which marketing weapons will you use?
- What is your niche or positioning in the marketplace?
- What is your identity?
- What is your marketing budget?
Take just a moment to reflect on your last 12 months of marketing. Suffering from shiny object syndrome?
Need a different approach to your marketing? Today’s topic is day thirty-six of a 45-day step-by-step marketing master plan. Choose to take your business to a new level topic by topic, day by day, with specific actions, based on clear worksheets. Act now to maximize your time and return on time invested. As a result, you’ll be in an entirely new position this time next year.
- No connection. A great visual and name combined with a strong specialty item for emphasis, fell flat when the speaker made no reference to either item in his presentation. Could this happen to you? Are you guilty of assuming the audience “gets” your message? Drawing the conclusion, or reminding the client of the benefit your product provides, cements the sale.
- No quality. One consultant who shall remain nameless posts dozens of comments, adds video daily and points to the prolific nature of his work as proof positive of social media expertise. Don’t be fooled. Quantity won’t trump quality – at least not on a long-term basis.
- No benefits. I recently reviewed a postcard in which the company presented a laundry list of its credentials on the front of the card and then stated charges on the reverse. I wanted to shout, “Silly. Your customer will ask, ‘What’s in it for me?’” Instead, I suggested they re-consider the “hook,” since there was none.
- No target. In another meeting, I experienced a consultant who provided not one but two beautiful brochures for each person attending. The brochures made an expensive statement, even more noticeable because she was the only attendee with such strong collateral. Still, the cost doubles or triples when the audience has no sense of appreciation for the person, product or opportunity. Brochures provide a connection tool. Use them appropriately or lose the effect.
- No keywords or wrong keywords. Many clients rant about the money tied up in their website. Today’s cost of doing business demands an Internet storefront. Rather than developing the site and then discussing the strategy for it, spend time on the front end to talk about purpose. What do you want from prospective visitors? How will they use your site? If your comment is, “I optimized and all it got me is calls from people wanting free information,” you probably picked the wrong keywords.
- No attention. Texting, tweeting and taking calls during any meeting definitely sends the message that your time is important and others take precedence over those with whom you’re face-to-face. If this is your behavior, why are you so surprised when I leave without scheduling an appointment?
- No white space. I like breathing room. In a crowded gathering place, I feel constricted, cramped. Tons of tiny copy generates the same sense of overwhelm. Give me white space.
- No plan. Most of us give more thought to our breakfast order than to the next Facebook post. (And puh-leeze. Don’t tell me what you ordered!) Based on what you’re selling, what is the #1 topic you should be talking about in your posts?
- No way. If you’ve commited the other nine sins, don’t be looking to me to be your next customer. My answer is no way!
As a woman marketer, I have experimented with strategy templates. Capturing the essence of a plan on a page or two focuses your thinking and forces you to review the steps you will take to succeed.
Like purses, planning templates are seldom one-size-fits all. First of all, it’s not easy to get your strategy on a single page. It requires paring verbiage, thinking through opportunities and outcomes and being willing to do things differently.
In a dozen questions based loosely on the journalist’s “5 W’s and an H” marketing and leadership speaker David Meerman Scott manages to capture the essence of planning for small business owners.
This template ensures you’re ready to address the issues – your buyer personas – and you have at least some understanding of the mechanics involved. Scott translates the three-letter question “Why?” into serious consideration by asking “How are you remarkable? What value do you bring?” In typical Scott fashion, he prompts your brain with the twist from “Why?” to “How?”
To complete the questions, you must move beyond “biggest,” “most qualified,” and the other blah, blah, blahs, and communicate with your buyer.
Page Two, Strategy, is brilliant, forcing the owner to walk through how he/she communicates with the customer and to what purpose.
The path from Back Links to Outcomes includes a visual to incorporate social media and offers four choices: Enquire, purchase, download, and participate.
An action list at the bottom offers an opportunity to refocus, an absolute necessity in a dynamic industry.
The template can work for any size business. It’s licensed under creative commons and you’re encouraged to download and share it.
The Marketing Strategy Planning Template is deceptively simple and beautifully presented in landscape format. In a perfect world, it would be in an Adobe Acrobat form so it could be filled out online.
The Marketing Strategy Planning Template is one awesome start to a BIG challenge that every entrepreneur faces: the PLAN.
Disclosure: I may have tested more purses than marketing templates, but it’s a close race. I’m always looking for the perfect all-purpose template.
How smoothly did your launch go? Let me count the ways:
1. From idea to completion, you beat every time table.
2. You received consistent and positive feedback.
3. Beta test participants tracked perfectly, meeting deadlines, offering unsolicited additional information.
4. Nothing had to be rewritten.
5. Every design element translated from Microsoft Word to Mac perfectly.
6. No real world changes outdated your information prior to publication. Voila! Perfection.
7. Your benchmark calendar looked lovely with no adjustments, a perfect display tool.
8. Every cost was anticipated ahead of time.
9. You managed your life, your business, and a major launch project easily, quickly, seamlessly.
10. Because everything went so well, you had a number of sales waiting to ring the cash register as soon as your URL appeared in public.
If the preceding reads like a wish list, welcome to my world!
Today I launched a process: The Six-Week Marketing Plan. My 167-page e-book began as a workable idea, continued in spite of itself, and is now ready for public scrutiny.
To celebrate, I’m sharing cathartic diary entries:
August 2009: I re-wrote a marketing plan for my client and decided to walk my talk. (Notebook entry to self: “Simplify branding. Change practice name from Connecting Point Communications to Merrigan Group.)
September 2009: I discussed benchmarks for the transfer of my WordPress site with webmaster and design expert, Maria G. Nozza. She made further recommendations. She also got excited about the completeness of the marketing plan outline.
October 2009: Maria and I agreed to challenge ourselves with a 45-day plan during which we would spend one hour per day to take our own marketing to a new level. The 45-day master marketing plan was born. Meanwhile, work on my site revision continued.
November 2009. I wrote week one, recruited ten “beta” testers to work though each successive week and started on week two. In a moment of brilliance I used the accountability concept to force me to complete each week’s work.
December 2009. Little did I realize the beta group would actually complete their sections (or NOT!) during the holidays. The last three days went out December 21. I called each participant and begged for input, resigning all of us to work through the new year.
Proofing began in earnest. I found myself searching for week 1, revision 8 or some such thing. Didn’t I accept those changes last time? I conducted informal focus groups about the name. We revised everything to Six-Week Marketing Master Plan. What a pain. Too long of a URL. We revised again.
January 2010. I stopped revisions and sent a final Word document to Maria, design diva. (NOTE: In my mind, the website would go live January 15 or so. I was confident when family members asked about the project but I neglected to commit to a date publicly. Connecting Point was still around.
February 2010. The shortest month of the year came and went with no e-book completion. We re-wrote our sales page yet again. On a positive note, Merrigan Group debuted.
March 2010. I concentrated on other projects, avoiding friends who might ask if the website was “on” yet. “Under construction” is a post it note I never again want to see. Maria reported problems with Adobe form fill. Although each form worked on its own, the combo, a large file, seemed corrupt. Step-by-step, the promise of the ebook seemed far from accurate.
April 7, 2010. In a final review, one resource URL in the document could not be found. What happened to www.Spacky.com? We revised again. No luck yet getting Adobe Form Fills to work in the complete document.
April 22, 2010. Launch. Look at our baby! Progress! Completion! I’ve got to celebrate.
Moral of the story: when launching any new product, allow twice as much time as you planned for, no questions asked.
Robert’s business grew quickly, passing the million dollar mark with ease. Two partners, three senior staffers and five additional employees produced volumes of work. Revenues increased. The firm survived fifteen good and not-so-expansive years. Then, things changed.
Contracts slowed or stalled. Jobs fell off. The application pile of good job candidates increased and so did the pressure inside the company.
“Money’s tight these days,” Robert said. He introduced weekly meetings to discuss ways to close more deals.
“Nobody does what we do,” he emphasized and brought in a sales consultant. The staff got quotas.
Robert fought down a panic attacks: “What if nothing changes?” he wondered.
I sat down with Robert (not his real name) to discuss a marketing plan. We began with a SWOT analysis.
- What is the firm known for?
- What do repeat customers cite as their reason for doing business here?
- How has innovation played a role in the firm’s success to date?
- Are there known vulnerabilities?
- What kind of deadlines, time constraints and money pressures are facing the firm?
- How has the firm been impacted with market changes?
- Where in the industry is the least competition at this time?
- Could joint ventures present monetary advantages?
- What projects earn the highest rates or highest margins?
- Will market demand change in the near future?
- What unconsidered obstacles might emerge to impede progress?
- Is sustainable financial backing available for the foreseeable future?