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You’ve been building your business for a while. You start by taking on as many customers as you possibly can. After all it’s all about cash flow. But before you know it – things start getting complicated. At first all that customization was a real differentiator – but now it’s done nothing but breed complexity and a bunch of customers who all need the same stuff just a little differently.

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“It’s time for some of that Marketing Stuff” you say. “But where do you get that and how do you even begin?” It seems so easy at first, but you haven’t done anything and now so much needs to be done that it’s overwhelming. The best thing to do is stop and take a deep breath. You will get to it all – in due time.

  1. Start with a clean slate. Put yourself in that same state of mind as you did on the very first day of school. Somehow everything seems possible. Don’t bring last year’s problems into this year’s marketing plan.
  2. Set about three goals. Keep them general. Do you want to build your brand? How about launch a new product or service? Maybe you’re going to go after a new industry or that big customer. That’s good enough.
  3. For each goal, set about three objectives. Remember to keep them specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and give yourself a time frame to meet them. In fact, break those objectives down into tasks that are centered on “success behaviors” . For example a success behavior might be – “write a daily blog post.”? That is a small bite that will yield big results.
  4. What will hold you back? Think about what obstacles or conversations will hold you back from achieving or completing your success behaviors. Now what will you do when those things happen? Planning ahead for obstacles makes them remarkably insignificant when they happen.
  5. Who can help you? Usually we think about money or resources. How about putting a twist on that and thinking about WHO can help you. What expertise are you missing that could really help you achieve your success behaviors and meet your goals.
  6. What will be your milestone events? Is it an event such as a trade show? How about the beginning or ending of the month or quarter. If you have specific milestone events – list them and work your plan backwards. If not, then create your own milestone events. Find opportunities to partner with others who need what you are working on – this will force you to stay on task AND you will be co-branding to a broader audience.
  7. Play. Finally, don’t work your plan, play your plan. You are doing this job or running this business because you love it, because it is fun. So have fun with it.

Most small businesses fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to marketing because the traditional marketing plan can get complicated. It doesn’t have to be that way. Take the time to think and dream about what you want to create for your business and your customers. Then create it in any form that’s fun and comfortable for you. Try a collage or an outline using cut-outs of magazine pictures. Whatever works for you.

So what DOES work for you? How do you plan for marketing success?