Most of us try to figure it out on our own. We’ve got brains, after all. Certainly, our technical skills are beyond reproach. So we think, once we settle on our plan and get this thing going, marketing our business should be easy. Right?
Well, it could be a lot easier … except for one small thing. We often don’t settle on a plan. Planning is the first step to figuring out the way forward. Yet in reality, it’s the last thing many people want to do.
The reasons are natural. Perhaps we’re so busy trying to deal with the urgent demands of the day that we don’t think we have the time to sit down for some kind of “dreaming” session. On the other hand, one hour of planning now can save you a whole lot of effort down the line.
The reality is, planning is a time-saver, not a time-waster. As a roadmap for future success, planning shows you where you want to go and saves you from scrambling around for quick solutions when your year takes a turn you don’t expect.
Or, maybe we’ve got a few ideas knocking around in our head, but we don’t see the need to write them down. However, most of us, especially in busy times, don’t remember nearly as accurately as we think we do. It’s like hearing directions: “It’s two lefts, then a right,” and you walk away and wonder moments later, “Wait, was that two rights, then a left?”
Don’t trust your company’s future to your memory or your vague idea. Your business and the successes within your grasp deserve to have a written roadmap. And here’s what happens when you take that step.
Planning allows you to bring together your natural skill sets and your select opportunities and organize them into a structure that will help you meet your potential for growth and profit. It gives you something to aim toward.
Or said another way: If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.
So, planning’s starting to sound better, right? But wait … there’s more! Creating a marketing plan for your year helps you, too.
DEFINE YOUR GOALS
Some may instinctively say, “My goal is to make more money.” That’s definitely a welcome outcome, yet it’s more of a wish than a goal. Wishes are basically words without structure — a way you hope a lot of good things will happen, but you haven’t envisioned how you will bring any of it to fruition. A goal, though, is a target that you can reach once strategies are in place.
“SMART” goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.
A specific goal, for example, is to increase customer retention by launching a maintenance agreement program during the first quarter. The goal identifies what you want to do and why. Tasks can be outlined to get there based on when you want this goal enacted.
This goal also fits into the other letters of SMART. You can measure how many signees have joined. It’s attainable if you have the foundation (established business processes and trained techs) to get it going. It’s certainly relevant to the services you provide. And the time-based target gives you the focused pressure of a deadline.
MAP YOUR METHODS
Goal-setting takes you to the specificity of actions, programs, tasks, and timeframes to accomplish your objectives within a certain budget. It helps you see the vision for where you want to be, and you can fill it in with the nuts and bolts for how you want to get there.
You make selections that will spread your investments across online and offline media to keep your name in your market all year long. In doing so, the hard part is upfront as you set your direction and narrow your focus. Then, once you’ve created your plan, decisions become easier. You can move through your marketing seasons with confidence and at the same time, keep track of results.
MEASURE YOUR PROGRESS
If you’re operating without a plan, it’s hard to know if you’re where you need to be. Yet with a plan in place, you know what to measure. Also, just as importantly, if your plan isn’t working out as you’d hoped, you can adjust as needed. It’s much better to adjust a plan in the second quarter and have a better third quarter than proceed blindly to the end of the year and say, “Well, that didn’t work.”
Remember, a plan is just that — a plan. It’s not a carved stone monument to your ideas. It’s a tool for learning what’s working and what isn’t. If needed, take a detour or change your route as road bumps appear.
So, how do you get to your big-picture thinking?
TEAM UP WITH AN EXPERT GUIDE
Don’t try to go at it alone. When you’re so involved in the day to day that you can’t see the forest for the trees, you’ll be wise to enlist a well-trained coach to guide you through your marketing decisions.
Another set of eyes can help you detect your blind spots. We all have them (and we can’t see them). Yet a seasoned coach can point out the opportunities you have overlooked, the problems you can avoid, as well as the missed steps you’re about to repeat.
A second brain can help you prioritize your efforts. By asking the right questions, your coach can help you sort through a laundry list of possibilities and bring your goals into focus.
You can also learn how others who’ve faced business decisions like yours make turns toward a more profitable future and achieve far better results. You need more than your own ideas to become successful. You need access to practices that have worked well for others.
Running a business is trial and error, and a coach can help you avoid some of the common errors people make. In that way, coaching saves both time and money by helping you bypass pitfalls in favor of tested strategies.
Importantly, coaching is confidential. It’s not often where you can speak frankly about your business — and even reveal the things that concern you most. Through this trusted partnership, you have someone that is on your side and is invested in helping you achieve your goals.
Coaching also provides accountability, which we all need. One of the upsides of running your own business is that you get to make the decisions. However, one of the downsides of being “the boss” is that nobody can make you do anything.
A coaching process provides the built-in accountability that keeps you on track toward the goals you are pursuing. As Dallas Cowboys Coach Tom Landry once famously said, “A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.”
In summary: If you want good luck this year, start with a good plan. To create that plan, start with a good coach.
Publication date: 1/14/2019