Here’s a serious hot take from a former ad exec and a current marketing consultant, coach and trainer – how about NOT writing out a full 12 month marketing plan!
“What’s happened to you Jennifer?!” you’re wondering.
I talk ALL THE TIME about putting strategy first and not just jumping in to the fire, or ‘winging it’ on marketing – whether you’re one of my nonprofit clients, a growing small business, or a client-focused solopreneur like me. I still advocate for smart, strategic marketing activity. I’m not saying to throw all planning out the window!
I've tossed my big, complex, 12-month planning charts off my desk and this is the approach I'm taking right now. More doing and trying, and less planning myself into ‘analysis paralysis.' Willing to take the leap with me?
I think all solos need to have vision for what we want to achieve, who our business can best help, and what success looks like. Doesn’t matter if you sell physical stuff, digital products, or serve clients 1:1, like a coach. We all need plans.
Or we never make the time for marketing and business development because we are too busy doing the work with our clients. Marketing planning seems like it’s too big to take on.
That’s what I heard echoed in some recent conversations with successful, super smart, super busy solopreneurs I know.
Instead of giving you my 12-month content creation and planning that I was working on, I’m saying let's dial it back to what we can easily do and feel mighty about!
We need to remember, or get clear, on what we do and who we work with. And I’ve really come to believe we need to narrow our time focus as well, and stop trying to plan too far in advance. We can get stuck or spend all our time planning – where it often feels safer. But then it feels hard to adapt or change 6 months down the road.
So let’s return our focus to the basics so we can clearly move on to steps 2 and 3.
This plan will be your broad map to guide you to those 6- and 12-month goals. It helps set up the monthly and weekly task of the action step stage.
Think of the working plan like when you enter your destination and starting cities into Google Maps to get directions. It spits out different colored lines to show the possible routes you could take, how long it might take you, if one option is all toll-roads, etc. Your possible routes are like the potential marketing strategies you might employ in your 6 months. There are several viable options – pick where you will prioritize based on YOUR business and situation right now.
It’s ok to take out a paper calendar, print your Google calendar for the next 90 -180 days, create an Excel chart – whatever helps you visualize in 90-day increments as well as longer range as you need it. We're planning out our ‘big rocks' or the ‘scenic stops' or mini destinations along our longer route.
Now it’s time to break the plan down into smaller, actionable steps. Like in Google Maps when you pick a route and ask it for the turn-by-turn directions. You know exactly what you’re supposed to do next to keep moving forward to your goal destination. We need to create turn-by-turn directions for our business and marketing.
It's overwhelming to declare “I want to write a book this year” and then sit down at your computer every day and think “time to write the book.” It would be a lot easier to tackle if you started by brainstorm a list of all the potential steps in between the idea of the book and holding it in your hands. And it’s ok to not know all the steps! One of your steps can be researching what comes next after a given step, or how to get from one town on your map to the next town that’s on the way to your dream destination.
Think through all the possible steps that might have to happen before X event, or Y product launch.
Ok, that may still seem daunting … so try with something smaller and more regular, like sending emails to your list. Write out the steps it takes you for writing a weekly or monthly email newsletter – it can even become a checklist you use every time so you don’t forget a step and so you can plan your week around it.
Don’t forget, we need to take into account our resources – not just our budget or bank account, but our time and energy resources too. Plan within your resources and allow extra time when trying new things.
Let’s break down that Before-During-After I mentioned that surrounds those big milestones, goals, or events on your longer-range planning.
What steps do you need to take in the Before plan for an event on your calendar, such as that speaking gig?
There could be more steps for you – or less (maybe you're speaking at a local chamber of commerce event) – but you should have a good outline of what optimally comes before one of those ‘big rocks' in your plans and route to your overall goal. You're looking only at the next month, and 90-days out, not from now until December or next year. Seems a little more manageable, right?
This is your list of action items to get you from Point A to Point B on the map, now figure out how they go in your schedule. What gets done in Month 1, 2 or 3? What happens first? What mini-deadlines will you set yourself weekly? When you break up the tasks it’s easier to work on a larger project for 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there, in between client work and the rest of life. It’s easier when you have your action plan to follow.
Now don’t get thrown off here! You don’t need super long lists of action steps all at once. Remember how we decided at the beginning to narrow our focus and take the year 1 quarter (90 days) at a time? That’s so breaking things into action steps is easier to plan and easier to do. Action steps are your turn-by-turn directions on the map towards your destination this year. You CAN do this and keep it manageable and achievable.
Still not so sure how to break the big bits up into snackable bites and find your action steps? Grab a Borrow My Brain session and we’ll take 60 minutes to look at your goal or big picture, narrow your focus, and you leave with an action plan you feel good about. An action plan you actually take action on!Get Unstuck, Borrow My Brain!
I want all of my solopreneur pals to feel confident and mighty in their marketing - sharing what makes their work special and so vital to their clients. No B.S. or fluff here. I do the digging and research for you, translate "marketing-ese" into simpler terms, and help you avoid marketing headaches.
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