I have done several 90-minute brain picking sessions with small business owners in the last few weeks. They all come to the session with a mind overflowing with ideas. If I’m meeting them in public for the first time, I can easily spot who I’m there to see by the slightly wild look in there eyes. This is, after all, the look of an entrepreneur.
What usually transpires in the first 20 minutes of our session is this: the small business owner talks about why they started their business, the mistakes they think they’ve made, and what they’ve done to market their business. Next comes a long list of what they’d like to do in the future. This often resembles a verbal dam being released. Finally! Someone to talk to about this!
Have I mentioned that I love these sessions? I love the look they give me at the end of their “brain dump.” Most often they’re a little sheepish, a lot overwhelmed, and rarely know what to do with all the stuff living in their brains.
When I started offering these sessions, I really saw them as an opportunity for people to pick my brain and get all those tidbits and tricks that make life easier but take a lot of time and effort to accumulate. What they have evolved into is an informal marketing calendar writing session.
I’m finding that once we’ve sorted through the ideas and picked a few priorities, the next step of pulling out a calendar and choosing when to work on activities and actually launch projects is crucial. You might think that a business owner would automatically do this upon returning to the office. Well, what actually greets them at the office door — calls to return, a few fires to extinguish, client projects to complete — often pulls them far a field of the marketing.
Writing Down the Plan is Important
I’m not talking about writing a thesis. I’m not even suggesting you include graphs and diagrams. I’m merely saying that doing the simple act of opening your calendar, writing down your launch date, and working backwards to find the milestone dates that will make the launch possible is important. Key, really, to getting it done.
The Overwhelm Quickly Goes Away
Best of all, once we’ve picked activities and dates, the business owner’s face loses the look of complete overwhelm. At that moment, accomplishing their marketing activities is very possible and success is achievable.
How to Do It Yourself
Feeling a little crazy right now? Try this exercise.
- Tell Yourself Your History: No one is listening. Go ahead and tell yourself why you started the business, what your initial vision was, and how you’d planned to get there. When you get to something that twigs a “to do” or reminds you of a plan you let go of or haven’t had a chance to explore, jot down a note.
- Talk About How You’ve Marketed Your Business: Again, run through the activities you’ve tried in the past. If something clearly worked, jot it down. If something failed horribly, ignore it. If something wasn’t given enough time or energy (or any), make a note.
- Brain Dump Future Ideas: This is where the crazy will start to leave your face. Make a list of everything you plan to do in your business but haven’t done — process changes, marketing activities, customer relations, employees, everything.
- Choose Three Things: From your list and the jots you’ve made during your stories, choose three things that you can work on immediately. Do not choose items that will take significant research or planning. Pick three items that will make a difference to your business. Make sure you know how to measure this difference (very important.)
- Schedule The Items: Pull out your calendar. Choose completion dates and then work backwards to identify milestone dates. What are milestone dates? These are when you will have tasks done when working towards the completion date. For example, maybe you’ve decided to post on Facebook three times per week. A milestone could be to sign up for Facebook (if you’re not already on there), another could be liking some pages that are complimentary to yours, and, finally, writing a list of what you could post about1.
Still feeling stuck? Have a colleague or friend review your list. Often that extra set of eyes — especially when they aren’t involved in your business — can make all the difference and see things you’re too used to seeing to recognize.
1This is often the biggest obstacle to consistent social media activity. By writing a list beforehand, you can always pull something off it should you be stuck for your next post idea.