I think one of the biggest things that gets in the way when you’re trying to grow a business is feeling completely bamboozled by the number of ideas you have, and the volume of ‘stuff’ that you know needs doing in order to get you there. ‘Idea overload’ is definitely something I’m guilty of myself sometimes!
There are always new products or services to be developed, better content or images that need adding to your website, systems to organise your finances so everything is under control, social media platforms to crack, new networking events to try out and it can easily go on and on and on.
There’s one tool that can bring huge clarity to all of this though, and help you to decide what’s a genuine priority versus what can wait. And that’s a business plan. Not a 38 page plan with 3 bazillion cashflow forecast spreadsheets and hundreds of graphs. A short, straightforward and relevant business plan that gives you real clarity about exactly where your focus needs to be and what the distractions are that need to be avoided.
So here are some tips about how to create your own simple, but really effective business plan.
Stop and assess where you are right now
It’s so easy to get into the habit of constantly looking ahead at everything that still needs doing so that you never have the time to look backwards and check what’s actually working already and to congratulate yourself on what you HAVE done. But the irony is that by not pausing to reflect you’re very likely to miss the chance to repeat some of the great stuff that has happened recently. Taking the time to review the last 3 months in your business can be spectacularly valuable to you over the next few months, or even years.
All you need to do is set aside 30 minutes and ask yourself these 3 really simple questions:
- What were the best things that happened over the last 3 months?
- What would I/we do differently if we could repeat the time?
- What have we learnt about ourselves or our business?
Define who you really want to work with
Getting clear on this is one of the things that will help you most with defining a clear direction. Trying to appeal to everybody, or to offer services that cover every corner of the market makes it really difficult for you to be specific in your plans, your marketing, and your focus. Which leads to confusion and overwhelm. The clearer you can be on this, the more defined your actions will be. So spend another 30 minutes thinking about exactly which kind of customer you want to focus on for the next 3 months. This isn’t a ‘forever’ commitment so don’t worry about excluding people.
You may want to think about a particular industry that you really want to break into, or the size or style of business you’d really like to work with. It might be nothing to do with those kind of details for you though, and could be about the type or person or a specific ethos that you want to share with your customers. There’s no right or wrong answer here, it’s about what most appeals to you. But be specific!
Narrow down your offering
It can really help with focus if you choose to concentrate on a particular product or service every 3 months, rather than trying to promote everything all the time. Which doesn’t mean that you stop offering the other things, it just means that your marketing can have a much clearer goal and will therefore be far more likely to resonate with people.
You might want to think about things like:
- Which of your products has the most untapped potential?
- Which is the easiest to deliver?
- Which offers the highest profit margin?
- Which do you most enjoy delivering?
Create a marketing plan
Now that you know which service you want to really focus on and exactly who you most want to appeal to you can plan your marketing for the next 3 months. Again, be as specific about this as you can and add some measures so that you have real clarity. For instance, if social media is going to be a big focus define exactly which platforms you’ll use and how frequently you’ll post. Then think about the type of things you’ll share – for instance will it be written posts, images or videos?
Work through that process for each marketing method you intend to use, whether that’s networking, direct mail, telemarketing, blogging etc. When you have your clear plan for each strategy document it in a week-by-week format so you know exactly what activity you need to do each week to stay on track.
Look at the plan again and ask yourself how realistic it is. Have you planned a similar amount of marketing to what you currently do or have you planned to increase it massively? I can honestly tell you that most people plan a huge increase. And that’s why, a few weeks in (or a few days in some cases) it all goes to pot and the plan just becomes another part of the chaos. Focus on small, sustainable increases. That way you’ll make a lot more progress than you will by going hell for leather for a while but then giving it all up again.
Streamline the meaty bits
That covers the day to day marketing of your business but it doesn’t include the meaty things like website development, creating new products, or building systems that make your whole business more consistent.
And to add to that, on my Business Planning workshops we also work through things like organisation and time management routines; financial management and getting all of that in order; creating or improving your sales process; and tracking everything using simple metrics to keep the whole thing in order.
But I don’t want to overwhelm you with all of that if you’re going to do this exercise on your own. What I would recommend you do is choose 1 or 2 key actions from each of these other areas and then schedule them into your diary each week. Make that an absolute maximum of 1 per week though or you’ll quickly find yourself falling behind again. Scheduling in less but getting it done will help you much more than scheduling in everything and then throwing your toys out of the plan when you realise there’s no way you can get it all done.
So there’s a lot to take on here I know. If you love the idea of having a plan like this but still feel as though you wouldn’t know where to start then get in touch to talk about my Rocket-Powered Business Planning days.
I promise they’re ace!