#17: “In With the New”

(what to include in a quarterly marketing plan)

New Year, New You”, right? 

Some of us will go even further: how about a new business or at least a new direction for current business. 

Like with any defined milestones, New Year brings the feeling of hope. It’s an opportunity to start again, to change and improve. We make resolutions to better ourselves, our lives, our relationship. 

This is the time when we sign up to the gym (before Covid) or pick up running (during Covid).

But how long does this renewed enthusiasm last before we go back to our old habits? A month, two, three?

I used to love the beginning of any school year. 

In September I cherished the smell of new books and notebooks, promising myself that this time I will definitely be more organised. I will be making notes during the lessons and studying them afterwards. 

By October, I was photocopying my friends’ notes and pasting them into my notebook. 

In November, I only did photocopies. My notebooks lay abundant and forgotten in some kind of drawer, covered under newly bought binders full of photocopies.  

The biggest problem with annual goals is that we make them once, we make them vague and we forget that we might need support and accountability to keep going. 

Quarterly Planning

Luckily, in business, we have more opportunities to make new plans and because we set them for a shorter period of time there is a bigger chance of accomplishing them. That is because we plan in quarters.

The beauty of quarterly planning is that each time it covers only 90 days (3 months, 12-13 weeks), which is much more manageable in terms of sticking to a goal and delivering on a promise. It also means that within one year we can achieve more. As each quarter we focus on a small number of goals, which have a bigger chance of completion. 

Finally, because we plan in shorter increments of time, we are more flexible in our overall business direction. Instead of locking ourselves to annual or even 3-5 yearly plans, we can focus only on the next 90 days and adjust the direction after 3 months if the plan is proving not suitable (for whatever reasons) or we experience unexpected circumstances (like a global pandemic, family emergency, new opportunity etc).

What are you measuring? Your actions or outcome?

Three years ago, as a business newbie, I had no strategy for planning. I was told by some mentors that I should plan my desired income and how many new clients I wanted to have. 

This might work for some people but it didn’t work for me. As money did not motivate me and cold calling or pushing for sale is not in my nature, such goals were not useful to me at all. They just created a sense of inadequacy. 

I also had no data to use. I did not know which of my actions would lead to the desired outcome. I did not have a funnel nor understanding of how my clients are most likely to make purchase decisions. 

Eventually, instead of focusing on what I wanted to happen, I started focusing on how many actions I took and noting what works and what doesn’t. 

At this point, I am still experimenting with different marketing strategies. I am also developing new offers. Each offer requires a different marketing approach. 

With that in mind, what works best for me is to plan a sales funnel for each offer and then focus on the actions, knowing that I can always improve them in the future. I also try to detach from a specific outcome (like income or number of new clients).

What is measured - grows

No matter how you plan your quarter, you should definitely decide on a few metrics that you can track and measure. This way, you can assess your efforts and see progress. 

It doesn’t have to be a complicated system. As you add new strategies keep a record of their to recognise which of your actions leads to new clients and which do not work at all and you can cross them out of your list. Where you could make improvements and so on. 

For example, you might find that sharing your lead magnet on a particular social media platform helps you grow your email list. That’s great! However, as people sign in, a large number of them unsubscribe within the first few weeks. You are also not seeing that your list is converting into paying clients. 

Seeing such results might make you feel confident that your lead magnet is what people want, and because of that, this part of your funnel does not need more work. Sharing it on that particular social media platform also seems like a good strategy which means you have chosen well.

The next step would be to identify what is not working: 

  • Is it your email sequence?
  • Is it your offer?
  • Or is it that you are targeting completely the wrong audience? 

With time, as you try different approaches and collect more data, you should be able to identify the problem and then set up a specific quarterly goal to correct it. 

Develop a reward system

Outside of tracking results, it’s vital to measure your actions so you can simply reward yourself. 

Each audience group will have a different conversion rate and period. This means that if you take some actions in Quarter 1, you might not see the results until Quarter 2, 4 of even a couple of yours into the future.

So to keep yourself motivated, consider a system of rewards. 

You can buy yourself something nice. You can take yourself to a nice place (post-Covid, most likely, but it’s nice to plan for it). It can also be as simple as congratulating yourself for the effort. 

Last year, with a couple of my business buddies we ran ‘celebratory sessions’. We met at the end of each week on Zoom and shared with the others our weekly actions and successes. We celebrated each win, no matter how small. 

It sounds easy, but it took us several weeks before all of us learned to ignore the negative thoughts and unhelpful honesty (“this is what I planned but I failed”). It took a bit of the time and the support of the group to break those unhelpful patterns and stop punishing ourselves for the lack of results or for the lack of action and instead congratulate ourselves for all the little things we actually did. Over time we noticed how much more productive we felt and how it lowered any possible anxieties.  

Sometimes, seeing a list of things we actually did can be enough to feel rewarded. I mark everything in my Bullet Journal and this is also where I keep a record of my actions listed next to the goasl. This way, I have everything in one place. It allows me to have a quick overview if I want to check my priorities for the quarter or month. It also helps me see the progress, even if I can’t see the tangible results yet. 

Include Self Care Plan

When planning there is a risk of focusing solely on the business, especially when it’s the main source of income, and completely forget about ourselves. However, and this is especially important for solopreneurs, it is crucial to plan in some rest. Until you can rely on more automation or can outsource certain work, your business needs you healthy and active. Running yourself into the ground will not help you achieve your goals. 

So when you are doing your planning, consider some kind of care plan for yourself too. What do you need in order to stay energised, focused and keep the positive mindset? It could be the right nutrition, exercise practice or regular time off work. 

After all, your business is there to help you live the best life possible. Not the other way round.

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