by Laura West
OUT with old, tired business planning methods.
IN with new modern business planning strategies designed for creative entrepreneurs with fast-evolving businesses and ideas!
Are you avoiding business planning because you feel it will take away your freedom and flexibility?
The very reasons you wanted to be an entrepreneur to begin with?
Shift your thinking about business planning from the idea of goals that strangle your creativity to a new way of planning that gives you the focus you need to succeed with the flexibility you need to release your creativity!
Creative business planning is about a lot more than just knowing when you are you going to launch a new idea. It’s a process that can help you step up your success in a bigger way without sacrificing your idea freedom.
There are 10 phases in the Creative Business Planning Cycle:
See which phase you are in and what you need to do to make this year truly your best year ever!
Phase 1: Gather & Organize
Before you dive in and start planning the New Year, take time to get organized and gather important information in one place to help your planning success.
Here is a list of what will help you plan the new year:
- Kids vacations/school off
- Vacations – Family Events – Spouse Schedule
- Conferences, Workshops & Events you are attending
- Special Promotion Opportunities – Cyber Monday, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, End-of-year, Beginning-of-year, Your Birthday…and other special times of year for your tribe (example: New Year’s weight loss or new business or personal vision)
- Ezines/regular communications – plan those dates and add topics you know want to cover
- Maintenance Marketing – products/programs/services that are evergreen – sending emails, social media, FB ads, blog posts,
- Revenue/expenses/profit from last year
- Current Programs, Products & Offers
Phase 2: Review & Celebrate
Take a few minutes to review last year and make notes on what worked and what didn’t work. What did you learn?
Most importantly, make a note of your successes. Big and small wins. External accomplishments and internal shifts.
This will help you acknowledge what is working and build on your strengths as you plan the New Year!
Phase 3: Visioning & Brainstorming
It’s easy to get caught up in fun, new creative ideas! Before you plan out those new products and programs, spend a few minutes visioning what the ideal year will be like.
This is the key to shifting into a bigger perspective and expanding your success – instead of just repeating what you did this year.
You don’t want to just plug in what’s been done before…ask yourself…what do you really want?
Then create Guiding Goals, programs and projects to support THAT vision!
Phase 4: Create Guiding Goals
I’ve found that most creative entrepreneurs resist goals. They remind them too much of a pass or fail grade from school or getting beaten up back in the corporate days.
It’s helpful to know where you want to steer your business. What milestones you want to achieve such as building your list, enrolling new clients and creating new products. However, you want the goals to have life and inspiring energy…or let’s face it, you won’t pay attention to them and you just won’t do them!
Create goals that are both tangible and also have engaging energy behind them. For example: “Grow My List to 5000 with creative digital content that is easy to create.”
This Guiding Goal is clear about what you want to do and also how you want the experience to be. You are more likely to be excited about it…therefore, more likely to do it!
Phase 5: Create 3 –Tier Guiding Money Goals
Are you avoiding setting a money goal for your business?
Many of us are afraid to commit because we might fail or we just don’t know how much we are capable of.
I circumvent this doubt by creating 3-Tier Money Goals for the year:
One: Set an “Easy” number that you can easily feel confident in creating.
Two: Then stretch into a “Great” financial goal. It stretches you but you can still see it happening.
Three: Finally – what is your “heaven” financial goal? The one that takes your breath away? What would have to happen for the heaven goal? What would need to be different?
I find that if you only have one goal then we often feel too pressured. By having a tiered approach you can let yourself go bigger without fear.
Phase 6: Plan What You Know
It’s tempting to want to dive in and plan all the fun new stuff! We creative types always love the shiny objects.
But I bet you have some programs, products and content that is already working well for you.
First plan “what’s working” into your calendar and make plans to maximize what you already have. After all – it’s easier to expand what’s there than create totally from scratch.
Here’s where to start:
- Create a Mind map or list of programs you already know you want to offer
- Mind map/list product ideas for creation/launching you already know you want to create & launch
- List your current products, programs, services you already offer and would like to promote
- Do any of your current programs need updates, content refreshing or redesign?
- JV opportunities you already know about
- Events (dates for free/preview teleclass, webinars, launch of ebook or product, start of a program)
- Launch campaign dates – including early bird marketing, special pricing/bonuses, and final signup deadline
- Planning/design/creation time for programs, sales pages, products, eBooks/books, sales emails, etc.
Phase 7: Brainstorm New Sales & Marketing Ideas
Now you are ready to add the new ideas!
First, create a mind map of all those juicy ideas you’ve been writing down in your journal, on napkins and on sticky notes all year!
Get them out of your head and onto paper. Guaranteed you’ll feel more empowered and less overwhelmed already!
Given what you know about what is working and what isn’t and what your most important Guiding Goals are…which ideas are you ready to fully commit to? Which ones do you want to test out?
Remember: Just because you have the idea doesn’t mean you have to create it!
Phase 8: Sticky Note Planning Method ™
This is my secret planning method to get creative to focus on a plan but still know they have freedom to change their mind!
Using a big wall calendar and several colors of small sticky notes plan out your year.
Plug in vacation time, days off, family events, school calendar, etc
Plug in the calendar events/retreats, trainings, etc. you already know you want to attend.
Use different colored Sticky Notes for:
1 – Touchpoint marketing (regular)
2 - Your events
3 – Marketing campaign
4 – Planning/creation
Launching Private Coaching/Training/Consulting Program, new group programs and products.
Use sticky notes to plan your Content Marketing Calendar.
Leave time to review and move dates around to fit your time and energy.
Phase 9: Integrate Your Creative Business Planning into Your Day
Ok, whatever you do… don’t just pat yourself on the back, check “business plan” off your list, and put it away for the year.
What you have created is a Living Business Plan – it will give you the focus you need to get your most important projects done AND it gives you flexibility to shift things as your business opportunities change and evolve.
You want to work with your Creative Business Plan each day. Then set aside time in your calendar to review and update weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly. It doesn’t have to take long to check in and make adjustments.
Using this process of gives you focus and flow – two key components for busy idea-laden entrepreneurs! You’ll have more success if you use it!
Phase 10: Set Yourself Up For Success
The next big key to success is to share your Creative Business Plan! Don’t keep it a secret!
Share it with your team, your mastermind and your coach. They can help you stay accountable, give you ideas and will appreciate knowing where you are going so they can support you!
Where are you in the Creative Business Planning Cycle? What would you need to do to make THIS year even better than last year?