“Marketing without a plan is like hiring builders before knowing if you want an office building or a swimming pool.”
This is a little thought nubbin I shared on Facebook yesterday, which I was surprised and pleased to see got quite a few likes. (Because that’s how I measure my worth as a person. You do too. I know.) It was a conclusion I came to by way of increasing frustration with current and prospective clients who don’t want me to plan out anything I do. Or at least are completely indifferent to any plan I might create for their project, and have made it quite clear they’d prefer I keep it to myself, thank you.
So that was my Major Issue yesterday. Today, it’s that I’m a total hypocrite.
I’m going to admit something that may possibly lower my standing with you, my clients, and all of the amazing entrepreneurs I worked with at Count Me In and berrated about their resistence to planning:
I have been in business one year, and I don’t have a business plan.
Still there? Ok.
Hello, My Name is Amy, and I’m Afraid to Commit
It doesn’t take much soul searching to figure out why I don’t have a business plan. It’s because, honestly, it took me well into my first year of being in business to decide I truly wanted to be here. After I got laid off I looked for jobs for a solid six months while also taking on clients, somehow believing that getting through my daily to-do’s was the way to proceed towards some master plan I just didn’t know about yet.
I took whatever came my way, hoping that “the market” would determine the best direction for my business. I was afraid that creating a plan in one direction would constrain me, and in not being 100% open to every opportunity I’d miss that magic moment of discovering the “right” thing to do.
And that is very stupid.
Things You Think You’re Afraid Of
When it comes to my clients, the story is pretty similar. In every case so far, they’re businesses who have, at best, had dipped a toe into social media and were afraid that to go in any further would be over their heads.
Enter: me. The first part of every first meeting with a potential client involves my best efforts to have them define their business’s objectives. The conversation leads to how we’ll work together, which starts with 1) an assessment and 2) drafting a plan for review by the management/leadership team.
And this is where I lose people.
Reasons I have heard for why businesses don’t want marketing consultants to produce marketing plans:
We want social media, don’t know what for; our budget might change; our org chart might change; our goals might change; we know something is changing and don’t want to make any plans until it’s done; it’ll take too long; we can’t afford it.
In other words: they, like me, are afraid that by planning to move in one direction will prevent them from ever going in another. And if, jeebus forbid, they spend money on producing a plan they may as well sign it in blood.
Things you should be afraid of
The #1 thing you should be afraid of? Doing nothing.
When you don’t have a plan, you’re just spinning your wheels. It’s possible that you’re still doing a lot, and seeing outcomes from your work feels like good results. Even more possible is, like me, you literally don’t know what to do with yourself when you’re done with your daily to do list.
The #2? Not knowing what you’ve done.
Back to the good results thing. Are you sure? You have a whole bunch of new Twitter followers and the little green arrow on Facebook Insights hasn’t gone away, but without defined objectives and tactics, you can’t really know if you’ve accomplished anything. Opportunities to create relationships with influencers and respond to customer service issues are wooshing by while you’re posting another opinion poll on Facebook.
Plans are like roads, not railroad tracks
The lesson I’m learning here, and I hope you are too, is that there’s no more reason to be afraid of a plan than afraid of a map. Thinking through an idea to its logical conclusion, doing some research, and putting it down on paper is still the closest human are ever going to get to seeing the future. Putting it that way sounds like a pretty good deal, no?
And if you don’t like where you end up, scrap it. You just saved yourself months of going in the wrong direction.