So, why is it important to have a marketing strategy, and how do you build a business case for carving out the time each week to review and implement your strategy?

I'm sure you've all seen those annoying memes that do the rounds regularly on social media about failing to plan is planning to fail ... but how seriously do we take these words of wisdom? 

We're already planning our lives strategically

When you think about your personal life - whether it be organising the chaos of a multi-child household, a busy social life, or even what episodes are released on what days on Amazon Prime or Netflix (I'm a huge Outlander fan, so don't you dare disturb me on a Tuesday night, OK?!) - I'm sure you take time each week to check what is coming up, make sure you're prepared and have the time in your diary, maybe a reminder set.

You see, we are already planning our lives, and making time for the things that matter.  If we've got a night on the town with our friends coming up, you can bet we've already got the outfit, decided on the shoes and handbag, and probably have sorted out childcare, organised the taxi and have set up a WhatsApp group to plan and chat with our friends.

Why don't we do the same for the important task of marketing our business, whether you're a freelancer/sole trader or a large company?  

I'd suggest, it doesn't take more skills or more knowledge than we already have to start thinking strategically about how we market. It just needs us to focus on intentionally doing this, regularly and consistently, and the results will start to show.  We already have the tools in our toolbox, let's use them!

It all starts with a plan

Whatever in life we are organising, we start with a plan. A long term vision that in six months' time, we will be going to Greece for a girlie holiday with our friends.  Six months seems like a long time away, but we have a lot of things to do in that time. Save money, book flights, find somewhere to stay, research the local area, figure out if our friends have any dietary needs and what their interests are.

The same is true of a marketing strategy.  Our plan might be to bring in a certain number of new projects over the course of a year, or to achieve a specific sales target. Maybe your job is to ensure customer satisfaction, so your plan might be to raise your customer satisfaction rating by a certain percentage.  Whatever it is, there needs to be a 'vision'.

Chunk the plan down into simple steps

Organising a holiday seems like a daunting task for most, that is, until you break it down into smaller chunks. The same is true of hitting your sales goals or whatever your vision might be - breaking it down into small chunks that you can attack and achieve makes it much easier to move toward your target.

I don't know about you, but I'm much more inspired and encourage when I can look at my tasks list at the end of a busy week and know that I've ticked off the things I needed to do - likewise when I am 'miss procrastination' the same list of things I need to do keeps me focused and driven, rather than a big unwieldy task like 'do the marketing' or 'follow up leads'.

Set up a system for checking in regularly

I've tried all kinds of systems from Trello boards to Wunderlist and everything in between. What I've found to work best for me is a blend between digital and analogue - yes that's right, the geeky nerd that I am, and my life is organised with PAPER AND PENS!

I live by my Google Calendar when it comes to appointments, meetings and events. I share my calendar with my partner and my team, so I will always continue to use it for that purpose.  When it comes to tasks, I have a blended approach. First and foremost, I am a Bullet Journal user. I have an old-fashioned, paper-and-pen notebook which I use with a particular method inspired by the original Bullet Journal method and some inspiration from Kara over at Boho Berry. I also apply the GTD methodology with everything - journal, email inbox, etc.

I'll write up more about the system I use at a later date, but the important elements are: 

  1. Reviewing each month what tasks need doing, events need attending, calls need making and so forth
  2. Reviewing at the end of each week what I have managed to get done, what needs to be brough forward, what I need to delegate, what is coming up that week, and what's on the horizon
  3. Reviewing at the end of each day whether I achieved all the tasks I needed to do, what needs to be brought forward to tomorrow, what might be urgent and what needs to be delegated

For a strategy to be successful, regular action and review is essential. When the smaller chunks are drawn up, simply decide when you are going to focus on them, slot the tasks into your workload for that week, and get it done. Check back in with yourself at the end of each month and see how you're progressing against your strategy. What is working? What isn't working? How can we improve on this area to help us meet our goals?

In the coming weeks I'll be preparing some tools to help you with building a marketing strategy, planning what you want to achieve, chunking down into actionable tasks, and setting up the methods for checking in regularly to keep yourself on track.

Let me know in the comments below how you keep yourself focused on your strategy - what works for you? What are you finding difficult?

Have a great week folks!