It happens to the best of us. We have brilliant plans for marketing our business, but the rest of life keeps getting in the way. We know we won’t succeed if we don’t spend time on marketing, but somehow days and weeks slip by, and our marketing to-do list gets longer instead of shorter.
What’s a self-employed professional to do? Here are ten tips for keeping your marketing plan on track despite interruptions, setbacks, and well… life.
1. Build a ceiling and a floor. A missing element from many marketing plans is how much time they will require. When you don’t estimate the time needed for marketing activities, two things can happen. You can end up not having enough time to get tasks done, or you can spend too much time on just one task, trying to make it perfect.
Include both a floor and a ceiling in your marketing plan. The floor should be the minimum amount of time you will allocate to marketing each week, even when you are busy. The ceiling should be the maximum amount of time each activity should take. These benchmarks will help you fit marketing into your busy life.
2. Identify the saboteurs. What most often derails you from following through with your plans? Are you short on time? Missing tools or information? Struggling with self-promotion fears? Do your best to uncover what is stopping you in as much detail as possible. For example, if your issue is not enough time, what else are you spending time on? Are all those activities more important than marketing? If you can identify what’s pulling you off track, you may be able to get back on it.
3. Take one step in the right direction. When other priorities are pressing, you may not be able to do all you originally planned. Try to find just one action you can take about marketing in the time you have available. In 10 minutes, you can make a phone call, write a note, send an email, jot down an article idea, make a social media post, or identify a place where you might speak. Small steps like these can make a big difference to keep your marketing plan moving.
4. Tackle what you’re resisting. If there is one item that stays on the top of your marketing to-do list day after day, you may not realize how much of your energy it’s consuming. Every time you look at this incomplete task, it takes time and energy to consider it once again, and probably also causes you some stress.
Whenever you notice yourself repeatedly resisting a marketing task, either take it off your list or take at least some action on it right away. Your entire day (and the rest of the tasks on your list) will go more smoothly when you are no longer weighed down by that one undone item you keep staring at.
5. Make appointments with yourself. Many professionals find that the only way for marketing to become a priority is to schedule it like an appointment. Block out marketing time in your calendar every week, and treat it just as seriously as a client meeting. When a conflicting priority arises that you can’t ignore, instead of cancelling your marketing time, rearrange your calendar to reschedule it to another time. Give yourself the same consideration you would give one of your clients.
6. Put marketing first. Sometimes the only way to make sure that marketing has priority is to literally put it first. Try setting aside the first hour of every day for marketing activities, and work on them before you check your email or voice/text messages. This one simple change can make a world of difference in how much marketing gets done.
7. Create accountability. If you are the only one who knows what’s on your marketing plan, it’s easy to put it off. But once you tell someone else what you plan to do, there’s a much greater likelihood you will do it. That someone could be a friend, family member, colleague, mentor, business or marketing coach, business buddy, or fellow members of a business mastermind group, action group, or success team.
8. Hire some help. A wide variety of helpers can assist to get your marketing plan moving again. A part-time assistant can free up more of your time, working with a consultant or coach can provide guidance about what to do, and hiring a professional can get marketing collateral designed, sales copy written, or your website updated. Having someone to help you with marketing also creates an element of accountability, and helps you feel less isolated and more supported.
9. Reconnect with your mission. If marketing tasks keep getting derailed because you lack enthusiasm for them, turn your attention to the goal instead of the task. Why are you in this line of work? What are you trying to accomplish in the world that must be marketed in order for people to benefit from it? Sometimes just a few moments of visualizing the ultimate goal of your marketing can be all it takes to get re-energized about it.
10. Make a plan that fits. Sometimes the plan itself is the faulty part of the equation. If your marketing plan consists of a long list of activities you don’t enjoy or don’t know how to do, it’s no wonder you are avoiding it.
Instead, identify just a few things you could easily do to market your business, and focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses. If you don’t like to cold call strangers, have coffee with colleagues to build your referral base. If you don’t enjoy public speaking, write a series of articles instead. Creating a marketing plan filled with activities you won’t ever perform can stop your marketing before it starts.
Life keeps right on happening. But as long as you are in business, marketing needs to keep happening, too. So take that marketing plan out of the drawer and start putting it into practice. Your brilliant marketing ideas are still just as clever as they were when you first wrote them down. They just need a little help from you to get off your desk and go out into the world.