This time between October and January is what I call “Planning Season”. Traditionally, this is the time many corporate budgets are set and when executive teams across the country (and maybe the world) get together to strategize about the upcoming year.
In some ways, I’m intuitively drawn to reflection this time of year. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s been ingrained in me after spending nearly 30 years in corporate environments, or whether there’s just something about this harvesting time of year that draws me to reflection. Either way, I’ve also noticed that a lot of small business owners are so enmeshed in running their business that they don’t take the time to reflect and think. As if thinking isn’t work. As if thinking is time wasted. As if thinking doesn’t make you money.
You Are So Much More Than a Stimulus-Response Mechanism
In my high school biology class we did an experiment involving the impact of alcohol and sugary soft drinks on our bodies. We dunked our droppers into some kind of slurry and placed a drop of this slurry onto a slide that we then placed under a microscope. When we looked through the microscope we saw a “village” of daphnia, these single celled transparent organisms. The teacher told us to take a look and notice their heartbeats. I can’t remember if we were supposed to count these heartbeats like you would if you were calculating your heart rate, but the idea was to see them in their natural state.
*As an FYI This was taken using a Canon EOS 7D, at the CanonExpo I met a lot of photographers who would shoot with nothing else.
Then we took our droppers and added a single drop of beer to the slide. Again, the teacher asked us to notice what happened to their heartbeats. They slowed way down. Then she asked us to take a drop of Coca Cola and see what happened. That was a bit more traumatic as their hearts began to race so fast that some of them literally exploded!
These poor little daphnia were little stimulus-response mechanisms. In this case, they were at the whim of our droppers. They didn’t think, they just reacted.
Don’t be a daphnia. Don’t allow yourself to be at cause of what is going on around you. Take the time to think things through, make choices and create a business and a life that achieves the goals that you’ve set for yourself
The DIYMarketers Guide to Thinking Profitable Thoughts
Enough philosophizing, let’s get practical about the work of thinking. How do you make time in your crazy-busy life for the kinds of thoughts that will take your business and your life in the direction you choose? Here are a few brainstorming ideas for you to try.
- Document your dreams. I’m not being #woowoo. It’s a researched fact that people who wrote down their goals were twice as likely to achieve them. The time to dream isn’t in the midst of running your business — it’s in the planning stages. My preferred practice for documenting my dreams is to sit down with a cup of coffee (or your beverage of choice) early in the morning just before my day has started, when everything is right with the world. I pull out a notebook and start creating my life a year from now. I write a narrative, kind of like what I’m doing here (it’s by design). I pretend I’m writing a diary; what time did I wake up, what did I wear, where was I going today, what was I doing, what am I excited about, who are my clients, what am I driving? ?This is all yours, so make it whatever you like. I use both a spiral notebook for this as well as Evernote.
- Reverse Engineer your dreams. I come from a manufacturing background and love some of the skills I’ve learned there. One of them is reverse engineering. The idea is to work backwards from something that exists. I bring out my “dream narrative” and start highlighting those elements that would require a series of tasks to achieve. Think of your dream narrative as your “Voice of the Customer” research. Except that this time YOU are the customer. And the things you’ve listed in the narrative that you want to achieve, such as the customers you are working with at the time. Then ask yourself – “How did these people or companies become my customers?” List those possibilities — these will become your marketing channels. Was it word of mouth? Was it through social media? How did you build those relationships? Now go through this process for all of your documented dreams.
- Watch, read and do?things that are seemingly unrelated to your business. While inspiration can certainly come to you inside of the actions around your business, inspiration can also come from doing something completely unrelated to your business. Give yourself the time and space to get away from your business; take a walk, take a trip, read something unrelated to your business, watch a movie, a video, a TED Talk — whatever you’re drawn to. Play a game with yourself of taking what you’ve seen an applying it to your business. You’ll be surprised at what you discover.
- Mindmap your thoughts and ideas and transform them into a plan. ?Take what you’ve developed so far and start playing around with it using a mind mapping tool. You can try Mindmeister, Mindomo or play around with sticky notes or on a whiteboard — whatever works for you. Don’t worry about getting it right, the simple act of putting one of these together will open up your mind to even more ideas and possibilities for your business. I’ve even done entire marketing plans using a mind mapping format! This is now my new favorite way to plan my year because it makes my goals visible and frees me up to be flexible and add new ideas or make connections I may not have seen before.
Everything you need to build a successful marketing plan and strategy is right in front of you. Don’t be so wrapped up in your business to miss those inspirational nuggets around you that can take your business to the next level.
I’d love to know where YOU draw your inspiration