5 Steps to Plan Any Part of Your Business
by Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
- Created: March 24, 2010, 5:47 pm
- Updated: March 2, 2012, 7:31 pm
Most of us plan all the time. Not just the whole big plan for our business, called;the business plan- as in capital letters, scary, THE BUSINESS PLAN; but also, all the time, the pieces of business that make it work. We plan the product launch, the trade show, the marketing programs, sales events, new product development, channel management, and so forth.
Planning your marketing, your product or service mix, your social media or web strategy, your post-recession recovery growth plan, or anything else in your business can boil down to five standard steps.
These can apply to any part of your business.
Step 1: Objectives
We tend to take this one for granted, as if it were obvious. But it is-t always obvious. Take, for example, your decision to establish a business blog or company social media presence. Yo're obviously thinking about the blog, the Facebook page, a twitter account, whatever.
Do you have a specific objective? Is this campaign about more visibility, perhaps? Is it to establish credibility to close sales, or to generate leads to put into the sales process? Is it to serve existing customers better, increasing customer satisfaction, or maybe i's about minimizing the impact of unhappy customers?
Do't assume. Think about it, talk about it, and write it down.
Regarding the writing it down: for this step and several following steps, I seriously recommend putting every plan into words and pictures you can access later. 've learned through the years that the value of printing it out onto paper varies: more often than not, printing it gives it a document existence that interferes with regular tracking and following up. I prefer leaving it as words and pictures accessible on your computer.
Step 2: Develop metrics
Ask yourself this important question: How will we know if w've succeeded? That leads to metrics. Planning is't about the plan, i's about the results; and you do't know results unless you know how to measure them. Sales, costs, and expenses are obvious, but there are others. Is it leads? Unique visits? Presentations? Trips? Participants? Attendance? Make sure you take the time to set the metrics you're going to track. Make it measurable.
Step 3: Set the steps
Think about the steps towards the goal. Make it as concrete and specific as you possibly can. Be sure to include start dates and end dates and associated intermediate measurement, plus expense budgets where appropriate. And in many cases the single most important element is the commitment of the people charged with making it happen. If you want implementation, you have to have people committed to achieving the metrics.
Step 4: Track results somewhere visible
None of the first three steps make any difference if you don't track and measure results against the original metrics. Planning is about helping humans get things done, and none of us humans are as likely to get things done if nobody is following up on those metrics. I love dashboards that show daily views of the main metrics in the business.
Step 5: Course correction
Nobody ever gets things all right from the beginning. Nobody consistently guesses the future correctly. So as the implementation of the plan rolls on and the horizon keeps approaching, you take that tracking process that you have and review actual results compared to originally planned results. Then you make changes. Planning is like navigation, or steering; it's a process. Drawing the original map, planning the original route, isn't enough. If the plan is like the original route plan, then the implementation is like changing the route to deal with unforeseen traffic, weather problems, and so on. Course corrections are part of planning.
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About the Author
Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, on twitter as Timberry, doing social media business planning at smbplans.com, and blogging at timberry.bplans.com. Stanford MBA. Married 42 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and www.liveplan.com and books including The Plan As You Go Business Plan, published by Entrepreneur Press, 2008.
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