Since I spent so many years in academia, fall always seems more of a time to plan and set resolutions, instead of January. And these days just about everyone has a planning system to sell you… everything from broad programs that dig deeply into your psyche to fill-in-the-blanks planners.
So why don’t these plans work? Why do so many people resist planning … and then, if they go through the motions, they never get going?
Reason #1: Planning focuses on micro-tactics.
A lot of marketing workshops will hand out a calendar and tell you to fill it up. I’ve been to classes like those and they tend to be very motivational… until about two weeks after the class ends.
Once you start implementing these micro-tactics, they seem different. You realize you absolutely hate doing networking, holding webinars, writing blog posts…some of the things you wrote down with the best of intentions. Some of them seem pointless as you get involved. And some will turn out to be ineffective and discouraging.
Reason #2: Planning horizon too far into the future.
Generally 3 months is the ideal planning window for most solo-preneurs. Beyond that time frame, it’s hard to project changes that will take place in the marketplace and in you.
In his book, The 12-Week Year, Brian Moran argues that it’s easier to get clarity and focus when you plan in 12-week intervals — and you’ll be more productive because you’ll actually implement the plan.
Some people who have been in business a long time are comfortable with planning a full 6 months or 12 months. But increasingly we’re seeing a trend toward shorter horizons, because it’s easier to course-correct and make positive changes in the next quarter.
Reason #3: Not feeling connected to your plan.
All too often clients show me a plan they’ve written, on their own or via a workshop. They haven’t taken action on the plan because “It doesn’t feel like me.”
When you don’t feel an emotional connection to your plan, you won’t be motivated to take action — and you’re probably doing something right. Trying to implement someone else’s plan can be disastrous for your own business.
What To Do Instead
When you’re trying to motivate clients, you turn to copywriting – especially the most important copywriting tool, storytelling. Stories help you connect with an audience, evoke emotion and increase involvement.
When you’re planning your business, your audience is you (and possibly your staff and support people). So why not use storytelling to connect with your plan?
When you tell a story, you project yourself into a scene. You quickly realize whether you’re resonating or resisting. You become aware of actions you can take and – more important – what it feels like to take those actions.
The use of stories for planning has a long and respectable history. I wrote about this in my book, Grow Your Business One Story At A Time.
For example: futurist Amy Webb explains that Herman Kahn, a Rand physicist, was asked to help the US military plan for the types of events nobody wants to think about.
If, for instance, the Russians (then the USSR) dropped a “thermonuclear weapon” on New York City, what would happen? How would the population be evacuated, for instance?
Kahn assigned team members to create “narratives…fictional stories rooted in the ‘if this, then that’ formula intended to be read as though they were reports prepared by people from the future.”
Kahn wanted his work to be taken more seriously than sci-fi. But he also wanted his audience to realize these narratives weren’t intended as factual, certain outcomes.
Kahn’s friend Leo Rosten, a Hollywood writer, suggested the movie term “scenario,” and that’s the word Kahn chose. His original scenarios influenced government policy.
Today we use the term “screenplay” for movies but the term “scenario” remains useful to describe possible sequences of events.
This type of scenario creation works extremely well for small businesses, who often lack data and detailed research capabilities. It’s also a helpful method for people who consider themselves creative “right-brain” types, preferring to avoid spreadsheet extrapolation and forecasting.
Storytelling can pave the way to use some of the other tools of planning or you may feel you have a strong sense of what you want to accomplish and how to use your time most productively. If you’d like to get a handle on telling your story, and using storytelling to simplify your marketing, sign up for a 90-Minute Risk-Free Consultation. Click here to learn more and sign up.
What are your plans for the coming year? Have you gained new insights over the summer? Add a note to the comments below.