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$pa Marketing: The Low-down on Business Plans

“A good plan is like a road map: it shows the final desination and usually the best way to get there.” -H. Stanley Judd, author of Think Rich

A business without a plan is like a ship set sail without a destination. Simply put, a plan (and preferably a written one) is an essential tool in helping owners manage their businesses more effectively and turn visions into reality. It’s surprising, however, how many business owners ignore this tool. They’ll spend more time choosing paint and fabric colors for their retail spots and reacting to day-to-day obstacles than determining how and where the majority of their precious time and money will be spent.

Consider this comparison. You’re invited to a new friend’s party, and you’re really excited about it. She gave you the party’s address, but instead of easily plugging it into your GPS, you drive around aimlessly for hours searching for the party. You’re angry at traffic, frustrated by the lack of street signs, totally confused, and you end up missing the party altogether. Why would you do that? It’s insanity, right? Yet, this is exactly what happens when a business forges ahead without a plan: instead of being proactive, we become reactive, using up all our daily energy dealing with complaints and mini emergencies. While factors such as these are also key to running a successful business, a few moments looking ahead in the form of a plan instead of always looking down at what’s happening in the moment would have highlighted the iceberg down the path. And every business faces an iceberg or two.

Albert Einstein is often credited with defining insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” So, if you don’t currently have a plan and consistently wonder why your business is either struggling or frustrating you unnecessarily—it’s time to GPS your business.

Working Backwards

Another mistake I believe business owners make is by creating unattainable and/or unspecific goals. Don’t get me wrong, goals are important, and there’s nothing wrong with thinking big. But you have to know how to get there. Instead of stating, “I’m going to make $100,000 next year by working ‘really hard’,” get very specific with the steps you’ll take to reach that goal, and start by working backwards.

If your financial goal is $100,000/​year, think first about what marketing efforts you’ll make. Will you send out mailers and e-mails? How about social media posting (how often, and what type of content best suits your business model)? What about special product promotions such as buy one/​get one free? Maybe you’ll cold call potential customers, too. Now, a plan is starting to take shape. Divide the $100,000/​year by 12 months, which is $8,333. Then, break it down by weekly sales: $2,083.​25. How many customers would it take to achieve your weekly goal? If you are a medical spa selling anti-aging facial packages, selling just four packages weekly at about $500 each would set you off to the races.

Checking Back

Once your plan is in place, don’t let that ship try to steer itself. Remember, you’re still the captain, and it’s your job to stay on course. If one week you sold only three packages, you’ll know right away that the following week you’ll need to make up for it. Avoid waiting until the end of the year to discover any discrepancies between what you want and what you actually did. Failures are inevitable, and it’s not what happens in life but how you deal with it. But with a solid plan in place, you, too, can see your business dreams come true.

Top Tips for Successful Business Plans

1. No I in Team. No man (or woman) is an island, and you don’t have to go it alone. Consider how your employees and/or co-workers can help you reach your weekly goals, incentivizing them to get on board and be just as excited about your plan as you are.

2. Write It Down. Put your plan in writing—numerous studies have shown that writing down your goals leads to a much higher success rate in implementing them.

3. Remind Yourself. Post written, inspirational reminders for yourself and your staff regarding your weekly goals. When an employee has gone beyond a daily/weekly goal, make a big deal out of it. At the very least, buy them a Starbucks gift card, pat them on the back, and say thank you.