This is very “shoemaker with no shoes” of me, but I used to really struggle with marketing my business consistently. My clients? Totally had those under control. My students? ON IT with helping them plan. But myself? I found myself scrambling all the time. I’d do well for a while, and then all of a sudden, it would have been months since I sent an email. And when you’re a marketing professional, that’s not a good look.
But a few years ago, I decided to reaalllyyyy dig in and not just plan a week of marketing, not even just a month, but 12 MONTHS of marketing. It was one of those crazy ideas that came to me in the middle of the night one night, and that totally overwhelmed me when I woke up and tried to get going on it the next day. But once I figured it out, it truly changed everything.
I’ve always been a “big picture” type of thinker. I may not have today or even this whole week planned out, but I know what I’m trying to accomplish overall, and that is what makes this method of planning so perfect for business owners like me. Which brings us to point #1…
1. Looking at the “big picture” helps me to not miss things.
By starting with the next 12 months, it’s like a huge brain dump. I say to myself “okay I know that I want to run this sale, launch this product, post something for Small Business Saturday, have holiday specials, celebrate my business anniversary…so on and so forth. I might not have every single detail in place yet, but I know it’s happening and it’s now on my radar, so I know it’s not going to slip through the cracks.
Before I started with this method, a special day like Small Business Saturday would come and go, and I’d be thinking “CRAP I missed that AGAIN.” Now, I keep a running list of things that I want to celebrate, acknowledge and share with my community so that when I go to plan my next 12 months of marketing, important things aren’t being missed.
2. What’s written down becomes real.
When things are solely in your head, they’re easy to blow off. There is no real sense of commitment because what’s in your head can change by the day, hour or minute. That was also part of my problem…I would know that I needed to post something or send an email, but if I found myself running out of time or working on other things, my brain would simply say “it’s okay…do it another time.” And then “another time” turned into never.
By writing down your plan for marketing, you are committing to marketing your business. You go from having ideas in your head to having actual tasks written down…just waiting to be checked off (which is the most satisfying part) 🙂
3. There’s always something.
I mentioned earlier how I used to always feel like I was “scrambling.” That’s the best way I know how to put it. I knew I needed to post something, email something, share SOMETHING, but what? Trying to come up with ideas on the fly just burned me out over time, and left me never feeling satisfied because everything seemed thrown together. And if you know me, I don’t like ANYTHING to feel thrown together, let alone my business.
By planning everything in advance and packing my calendar full of special dates, products and other noteworthy things, I always have something to post, email or share. I don’t find myself scratching my head and wondering “what should I post today?”
4. When you know what’s coming, you can plan accordingly.
I work backwards by starting with what’s happening, and then thinking about how and when I’m going to promote it.
So if I know I want to run a sale for my birthday at the end of April, I’ll look at the calendar and work backwards three or four weeks and give myself tasks like “send email” or “post this,” and then I work back a few days or a week from those tasks and give myself tasks that say “draft email” or “draft post.” Picking up what I’m putting down?! By doing it this way, you eliminate the scrambling entirely.
5. This method gives a strong, general plan, but it still allows for flexibility.
I know as well as anyone that things come up. When you’re a small business owner, there’s a constant need to always be able to pivot and go with the flow, so a concrete plan doesn’t always work. What’s so great about planning things so far out is that there is always room for flexibility. If something more “real time” comes up on a day that I had a social post and email planned, I can either pop it in there and have an extra, or simply shift everything out a day or two.
I truly believe that having a general plan in place is of the utmost importance, but it’s equally important to be able to bend and make adjustments as needed. And this method of marketing planning allows for that. It should be a working plan that grows and changes as your business grows and changes.
6. It makes it easier to identify (and fill) gaps.
When you own a business, the ultimate goal is to always stay top of mind with customers and potential customers. So while you don’t always have to be selling (because that can get annoying), you want to stay in front of people. By planning 12 months of marketing in advance, it’s easy to identify gaps where you aren’t promoting anything, and then fill in those gaps so that you’re always strategically putting your business out there.
Writing out all of the events and tasks in a calendar format like this also helps to visually identify gaps. Any calendar, or even a notebook works! If you want a calendar like mine pictured above, you can snag one of my Small Business Marketing Planners here!
7. You can start any time, and you’re never “behind”
I’ve always been a lover of planners, but something I’ve never liked about most planners is that they’re dated. Without fail, I would always miss a few weeks at the beginning of the year, or even a few months, and that left me feeling like I was behind and wouldn’t be able to get on track.
With this system, it’s solely about planning the next 12 months. Whether those 12 months start in January, February, or November…it really doesn’t matter. And you can start in the beginning, middle or end of the month. The point is to START WHERE YOU ARE and make things happen. And that is why when I created my own marketing planner, I made it undated. If you want to start in July, simply fill out the entire planner through June of next year.
So that’s the gist of why I implemented this method years ago and still use it to this day. It is a system that has transformed the way I approach marketing my business, and I’m hopeful that it will help other small business owners, too!
Like I said before, you can TOTALLY implement this method using nothing more than a notebook and your favorite pen, but if you’d like some additional tools, feel free to check out my Small Business Owner’s Marketing Planner and my class The 30 Minute Marketing Year. The planner is a place to get everything down on paper (did I mention it includes color coding?!) and the class walks you through my method, step by step so that you can plan your own 12 months of marketing in about 30 minutes.