Hot Take – Don’t Write a Big Marketing Plan

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Hey Solopreneurs! You Need a Marketing Action List More than You Need a Full Blown 12-Month Plan

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!

Mighty Marketing Mojo Don't Write a Big Marketing Plan Focus on Action steps

But I see the busy lives of solos and think we need a shorter, more action-oriented approach.

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.

BUT big plans can also keep us stuck in planning mode instead of DOING.

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!

Here are 3 marketing planning steps I think we need and let’s focus more on the last 2 ….

  1. Narrower focus
  2. A working plan
  3. Action steps

First step – we need to focus.

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.

  • What problem do we solve for our clients? Do you know why they call on you, and not someone else? What’s your big business “WHY?” Why do exist out here as solopreneurs in the first place?
  • The specifics of who are we helping (or whom do we most WANT to be helping) and do we know where to find them?
  • Can we distill down what we help our clients achieve in 1-2 sentences (our marketing message)?
  • How will we talk to our ideal clients and show how we solve problems, over the next 90 days? [It’s always wise to plan marketing around showing results we get, problems solved and yes, start narrower and more focused than a 3 year plan or even a 12 month plan]
  • What’s our business goal for the next 90 days? For 6 months from now? Ok, go ahead and write down a bigger 12 month goal too – but just 1! And make it super clear and focused.

Second step – create a working plan.

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.

Big picture marketing plan like Google Maps route choices

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.

  • Drop in the big items to plan around or for – speaking opportunities at events months from now, a time of year that’s big for your niche or industry, a course, product, book, or service you want to launch, etc. (some experts and planning methods call these the ‘big rocks’)
  • For those larger, time-sensitive events, you’ll be creating a BDA plan (Before-During-After). It takes time to create and implement what you need for promoting those items/services/launches. Planning helps you see when you need to start various parts of a project. Steps 2 and 3 our revised marketing plan help you map out that timing and see what you need to do and when.
  • This doesn’t need to be a multi-page plan! Keep it simple, clear, and focused. Do what works for you and feels easy. It has to be something you can look at and feel “Ah, I see what’s next. I can do this” and not “aaarrrghhh I will never have time to do all that.

Step three – translate your route into action steps.

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.

Break out more paper, a Word or Google doc, mind mapping software if that’s your thing – just capture ideas and steps.

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.

  • Give yourself time off for when you have meetings, summits, conferences, vacations, or big client deadlines.
  • How much time are you spending serving your clients right now and how much time is for business administrative tasks (your bookkeeping, sending invoices, sending reminder emails, prepping for a client, following up with a client, etc)?
  • Can you dedicate X amount of time per day to writing that book, turning out blog posts, creating social-friendly videos? Ok, how much time CAN you dedicate and when will you schedule those chunks? You can do a lot more than you think in 1 hour time blocks.

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?

  • Do you need a speaker 1-sheet, a new bio, an updated headshot, or materials to supply the folks who you want to book you for that gig?
  • Will you need to schedule that headshot with a photographer? When?
  • How long will it take you to outline, then draft your speech, edit it, put it aside, come back and re-edit?
  • How long to find or create graphics to accompany your ideas, build any slides or presentation materials, or create handouts?
  • Will you need to have materials printed in advance or sent to the booking organization to print for you?
  • Plan for the time to pre-schedule some of your social media posts that talk about and promote your event or launch. Create any graphics you might need for those posts in advance.

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?

Marketing Project planning gantt chart style in Google Sheets

If a Gantt chart is your style go ahead -but you don’t have to!

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.

Google Calendar content marketing plans color coded

I like using a color-coded Google Calendar for marketing content plan

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!

About the Author

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 translate "marketing-ese" into simpler terms, help you tell your story, and avoid marketing headaches

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