Plan: The 4 Letter Word in Business











Plan.  For some of us it’s a four letter word.  Though some parts of my business, I’ll admit,  are a little fly by the seat of my pants, I’m pretty serious about my yearly planning.

Here’s how I do it (This is how I plan for my businesses, in another post I’ll talk about how I handle my personal annual planning through an exercise I like to call New Years Roles & Goals):

I start with a look at financials and see if I’ve met my money goals.  I dig deeper and then look at how many new customers I acquired the previous 12 months and look especially at the percent of repeat customers.  I look at customers that have been previous customers but didn’t order at all last year.  This provides me a whole lot to look at and spend most of my review time here.

Next, I look at where I spent my marketing dollars and track my return on investment for each of my ads, events, networking groups, etc, individually.  (If you don’t currently track your return on investment for your marketing dollars I suggest you make this a priority this year.  It’s very enlightening.)  When I was studying marketing back in college, I learned that your marketing efforts over time should yield a four times return on your initial marketing investment.  In today’s marketing, you should be excited if you can get a two times return on your investment.  That’s why it’s so critical to see if your marketing dollars are, in fact, turning into qualified leads and customers.

Then, I review my processes and see what can be streamlined, outsourced or delegated.  This is my favorite part.  I get serious about what I want to focus on and what I can have someone else do.  This is where I get empowered in my personal goals and what I want to spend time on in the coming year.

Finally, I set some goals.  I make a vision board, and I post both where I can see them everyday.

This quarter, I’m rewriting my business plan from start to finish.  When I started Doodads 15 years ago the internet wasn’t nearly as beneficial as it is now.  The internet has completely changed how I interact with suppliers, place orders and involve employees (who work from home!).  So, I’m starting with a clean slate to see what I come up with.  I’m excited and scared at the same time.   Send chocolate. ;)

If you haven’t done so already, you’re probably saying, “This is too much work!”  Planning isn’t meant to be daunting, but it’s meant to be thorough.   And it’s meant to provide you a clear view of the past so you can move forward with confidence.   In time, your planning will become something you crave instead of something you curse.

I believe in the adage (that some credit to Benjamin Franklin, though the internet wasn’t clear on final credits) “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  So my charge to you: it’s not too late.  If you haven’t already done your annual review, make plans to do it now.

I know that this isn’t the only way to plan.  How do you do it?

Until then, happy planning!

Creating Effective Marketing Systems – Where Time Management & Marketing Management Intersect

Creating Effective Marketing Systems with Michelle McCulloughWould you like more business?  Would you like your marketing to be more effective? Unless you’re lucky and you landed a perfect word-of-mouth, self-sufficient campaign – chances are, your marketing takes a lot of work.  For most busy marketing professionals and small business owners, those marketing efforts look a lot like elaborate and detailed to-do lists – or worse, they are just ideas in your head, not tracked anywhere.

Have no fear, I have some ideas for you.  But before we go there, I want to set a foundation for marketing.  There are a LOT of definitions of marketing out there.  I agree with a lot of them, but here’s mine:

Marketing is getting the right MESSAGES, through the right MEDIUMS, reaching the right MASSES so you can make MONEY.

All too often, I get phone calls from entrepreneurs across the country saying, “My marketing efforts aren’t working.”  or “Facebook doesn’t work for me.”

As I dig deeper, it’s not that the efforts aren’t working it’s that they either:
They don’t have enough lead generation activities going at once, and as a result the pipeline is only dripping business instead of pouring business or
B. They aren’t giving marketing the time, routines and systems needed to do an adequate job.

As long as your marketing efforts are a “To Do List” item instead of a regular routine on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, you won’t see the sustainable results you desire.

Here are some suggestions for regular marketing routines:

– Strategic social media posts (If you need more support with social media, I suggest you watch this video about Focus and Connection in your social media efforts.)
– Relationship building – Though marketing is about mass exposure, building relationships is key for small business relationships.  I have “to do’s” to send thank you cards, make calls (actually picking up the phone, not just email, text or facebook) to check in, etc.  We’ve all heard the phrase, “People do business with who they know, like and trust.” That happens in one-on-one connections.

– Content creation and posting on your blog or site (at least weekly!)
– Networking meetings – EVERY industry can benefit from personal connections and relationships.  I’m a big fan of my BNI group for Doodads, my promotional products company.  Other people see success with the local chamber, NAWBO and other association meetings.  Make them part of your marketing plan.
– Sales connections/calls – Do you have routines around your cold and warm calls?  Generally speaking for every 50 calls you make you’ll have 10 conversations and make 3 appointments.  It’s a numbers game.  What routines do you need to create (or have your team create) for your outbound one-to-one marketing efforts?
– Exposure through Paid Advertising – Pay Per Click Search Engine and Social Media ads, where appropriate for your business.  A lot of these track on a weekly basis.

– Exposure through third party marking outlets like print, broadcast, etc.  Most advertising contracts through publications and sites are for monthly contracts.
– Evaluation of the month’s activities – This is a key part of marketing.  Ask yourself, “What worked?  What didn’t?” for every marketing activity you do. What mediums are working best for you?  How do you track it?  What MESSAGES are working best for you? Pay careful attention that you could be using the right medium, but the messages are wrong and vice versa.  Test messages by using different approaches to see what gets the best results. Social media is great for this.  What tweets are retweeted the most?  What Facebook posts are being shared the most?  How can you duplicate those in the coming months without saying the same thing?
– Creation and brain storming time – Schedule time each month to brain storm new ideas and work on detailing and mind-mapping your ideas.  Don’t just have ideas, make them happen!

– Experiential marketing like events, booths, sponsorships, etc.  Your clients and prospects want to experience you.  They want to test your product or get to know you as the subject matter expert.  Whatever your business structure or if you’re B2B or B2C, you need to create experiences.
– PLANNING – It’s in all caps because I feel so strongly about, and I’m surprised how few people are actually doing it.  Do you know your marketing objectives for the year?  Are you trying to grow your email list, increase the page views on your website, IN ADDITION to your sales goals?  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  Marketing is no exception.
Create a marketing funnel.  If you don’t have one, or if this sounds foreign to you, check out this video.

Of course, this is a simplified list, but I think you’ll agree that that the routine and schedule is just as important as the “what”.  You’ll have different tasks that are important to you specific to your industry, your business culture, and your current business challenges and success.

What else is on your list?

Once you’ve made your list, SCHEDULE them into your calendar.  Your marketing activities are just as important as a meeting with a client or lunch with a friend.  If you make time for your marketing, you’ll find you’re a LOT more effective.

Try putting your weekly items on the same day each week. For example, I create my podcast every Monday afternoon and I’ve scheduled time to create and produce each episode. I create videos most Tuesdays.  For many years I attended a networking group every Tuesday and I knew that my hair and makeup would be done on those days.  (Sometimes as an entrepreneur that has a home office, that’s not always the case!)

For most small business owners, it’s not that they don’t understand marketing, it’s that they don’t make the right time for it.  I believe anyone can learn and master marketing, if you just make it a system and prioritize it.  (If time management is a bigger challenge for you even beyond marketing, you may enjoy my quick Amazon Kindle read, “The Time Blueprint for Entrepreneurs.”)

Hopefully these ideas get you thinking about marketing in terms of routines and systems that are ongoing and keep your pipeline full.  I would love to hear the routines you have in place in your marketing plan.  Share your thoughts ideas through our Make It Happen in Marketing Group on Facebook!

Michelle McCullough & Tony Wilkins on the Tonya Hofmann Show – Video

It was a pleasure to be on Tonya Hofmann’s show!

More about Tonya Hofmann:

–CEO & founder of the Public Speakers Association & Career Speaker Academy

-Globally Sought After Speaker

-Host of Tonya Hofmann’s Fabulousness TV Show

-Best Selling Author of 6 Books

-Winner: International eWomenNetwork ‘08 Business Matchmaker of the Year

-Winner: 2015 Females are Fabulous Award

-Finalist 2015 Central Texas Women of Influence

-Winner: 2015 The Sip & Chat Movement Empowerment Award for Best Speaker

-Cover of the National Speakers Association/CAPS April 2015 magazine “Speaking of Impact” w/ Featured Article

-Cover of the “Be the Boss” Magazine February 2015 with Featured Article

-Cover of the “America Let’s Talk” Magazine June 2015 with Article and on the “America Let’s Talk” Houston TV Show

-Contributing Author in the Podium Monthly Magazine

The Campaign Blueprint

Product Shot.001

yellow_buy_nowI’m excited to share with you:
Creating your mission & campaign message that will resonate with your audience.
Creating brand consistent graphics without an art degree.
Choosing the marketing & media outlets that are right for your audience.
How do you know if a campaign works? You’ll learn what metrics to track so you can improve your next campaign

You’ll also get the Getting Started Guide, Assessment and step-by-step checklist to create your first campaign.

Plus for ELEVATION attendees (live and livestream) you’ll get these bonuses.

– Marketing Playbook (a planning tool for all of your marketing activities) – Includes both the audio tutorial and the digital files.

– Social Media Blueprint (four steps to a stronger social presence, includes the 4 different types of social media status updates) – Digital downloads of the audios, videos and presentation slides.

– One ticket to my live MARKETING BLUEPRINT WORKSHOP in December.  Attend live or livestream.

All this for only $197.  I have NEVER made an offer like this before.  yellow_buy_now


Why New Year's Resolutions Don't Work – Video

Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

Thank you for watching  I’m committed to providing you with quality content and valuable resources.  If you’d like more content like this, be sure to sign up for my newsletter list to the right!

I’m passionate about helping you achieve your personal and professional goals.

Also, if your a Utah local, come to my “The Life Balance Myth Workshop” that is on November 30th from 6:00 to 8:30 PM.  We’re going to talk about how to make 2012 your BEST YEAR YET.  Register here.

The #2 thing I've been asked consulting with women entrepreneurs over the last 3 years

Can you guess?  The number 1 thing I’ve been asked over the last 3 years while talking with women entrepreneurs through Startup Princess is, “How do I get more customers?” (We’ll have a marketing conversation later… 😉

The #2 thing I’ve been asked is: “How do I balance my business and my personal life?”  For a while, my answer was, “If you find out, let me know!”  (and I was the “business expert”!?)

Now, I answer that question with ease and help women (and men) in all stages of growing a business AND a life through my Life Priority System.  They LOVE me for it.  I created this system based on the things I wanted to be not on my growing list of to dos.  Now my to dos still get done, but there is greater meaning to my days and my personal and professional life are thriving!  I’ve even lost 40 pounds in the last year!

This is the first time I have offered this strategy in a live public event.   My coaching clients pay hundreds of dollars to learn these strategies in conjunction with business consulting, but I’m offering them in this introductory workshop for only $25.  That’s right, $25.  This workshop is NOT introductory in content, it’s introductory in my offering it to the public in this way as I try to share my message with other like-minded business people.  And it’ll never be this inexpensive again.

Secure your seat by registering here.

AND, the first 30 people who register get a ticket to the “Pre-party.”  Make connections at Stand Up Speed Networking from 6:00 to 6:30 and then strap in for juicy content from 6:30 to 8:30 PM.  A good time will be had by all!  But you need to secure your seat for the event by Friday, October 17th to get the networking event add on for no charge.

Finally, I’ll give you a guarantee, if at the end of the event you don’t feel like you received $25 worth of goodness, I’ll refund your money.   No questions asked.   🙂

Register Today!

Don’t Make New Years Resolutions, Make Vision Boards

Post Written January 3, 2009 for Startup

I don’t believe in New Years Resolutions, but, before you judge (or think that I’m judging you) hear me out. In the past, I have started each year with a renewed sense of accomplishment and positive thinking.  I follow up this cheery thought with ambitious goals.  Lose 20 pounds, make X amount of money, send birthday cards to family on time…the list goes on. A couple months later I lose my positive attitude and stop focusing on my resolutions and then I fall into a slippery slope that ends in a mild depression. Then it takes me a couple of months to get out of my why-can’t-I-keep-a-resolution funk and get on with my life. Last year, at the beginning of 2008 I didn’t make a single resolution or a single New Years goal, I created a vision board and it was the best year of my life.

Though I haven’t been able to get back to my pre-baby weight (my son, Gavin, was born January 8th), I’m still struggling with getting birthday wishes to the ones I love BEFORE their birthday, and I had one of the worst years for revenue (are there bailouts for small businesses?? Just kidding.).  All that said I’ve never felt better about myself.  I didn’t have to get over the why-can’t-I-keep-a-resolution blues, which made my year all the better.

Does that mean that I don’t periodically set goals or evaluate where I am and where I can improve? No.  Does that mean that I didn’t have goals last year or things that I wanted to accomplish?   Certainly not.  I had a very productive year and made some great strides in my business.  I just went about it a different way.

Here’s what I do:

I create a vision board.  I updated it in September of this year for my session at the Startup Princess Touchpoint conference.  I have updated it for 2009 and am sharing a picture of it with you, here.  I like seeing my dreams in pictures.  I have a picture that represents my financial goals – even though I don’t put the actual number.  I have a visual of my marketing and media opportunities and ways I want to expand my business.  I even have pictures of the new office furniture I want, which sounds silly, but that’s the same way I got my new flatbed scanner.  I like visualizing myself having already achieved these goals.  I like to trust the universe and what God has in store for me, because I know that He thinks more good for me and my business, than I do for myself.

I take time, once a month, to relax, reflect, ponder and review.  I look at what I did, I look at what I didn’t do, and I look at what I want to do next.  Goals and resolutions are not a yearly thing for me; I work best in smaller chunks of time.  Though I get most of my success for imagining the end result and the big picture, from there I work backwards to break down my dreams into smaller manageable tasks and activities, and that’s where achievement takes place for me.

Finally, I say “no” a lot more.  I’ll admit I have a ways to go, but in 2008 I became a little more of myself and said no to events, opportunities and activities that didn’t bring me closer to the vision of my perfect life.  Sometimes that meant saying “no” to evening computer time and focusing on my family.  Sometimes that meant saying “no” to business lunches or partnerships that were more one-sided (and not in my favor).  I remind myself that my son is in the middle of my vision board for a reason.  I remind myself that I chose to own my own business so that I could have flexibility and so that I can rule my own time and not let others do it for me.

My final thought is do what’s best for you.  Though this one little change in my life has done wonders for my self-esteem and productivity, it may not work for everyone.  I don’t judge those who have blog posts on January first with New Year’s Resolutions.  In fact, I read them and send good thoughts to friends and family that want this year to be a good year.  I believe that there’s room for all of us to create the lives we want to have – even if we go about it differently.

What about you? Are you a successful resolution maker and keeper?  Do you have a system that has helped you grow in business and family? Are you making resolutions this year or is this the year that you give yourself a chance to try a new approach to life balance?