It’s a curious thing that we tend to associate systems and structure with limiting freedom. In business the opposite is actually true: we set ourselves free through systemisation.
It took me years of working unnecessarily hard in and on my business – and some timely and wise words from a mentor – to understand this.
I had a successful corporate career before moving to Australia and setting up my own businesses. I was a project manager and as such worked in a heavily systemised way, within a large infrastructure and support system. I loved my job but something was missing and I left to see the world (another story for another day).
Freedom is one of my core values, so when it came to running my own business I was full of dreamy optimism about how amazing it was going to be, to have total control over my time, my actions, my work. In reality I came to discover that having too much freedom (by which I mean lack of structures, system and accountability) actually has the opposite effect: it can make you feel trapped.
You feel trapped because keeping all those plates spinning in your business can make you feel out of control and overwhelmed. Clarity on what to do now, what to do next, when to do what – all this can start to creep up on you and cause confusion and paralysis. Your results suffer when you operate in a structural vacuum. Especially if you’re a sole practitioner working from home.
Organisation vs Chaos
A mentor helped me realise not long ago that whilst I had been getting results in my business, they were coming at too high a price of time, effort and stress. He helped me understand that what I was missing was the systems and structure that I’d taken for granted back in my corporate days. I had always been super-organised at work, yet super-chaotic at home. Now the two worlds had combined and chaos was winning!
Systems don’t have to be large scale or scary: sometimes the very simplest of processes can make the biggest difference to your business.
When it comes to your marketing, you need to have a strategy and structure otherwise you’ll be operating from a place of chaos, and your results will be at best sporadic.
There are two very simple systems I encourage all my clients to use to keep them feeling on track, in control and enjoying a consistent flow of leads and sales:
Head down to OfficeWorks and buy yourself a laminated full year wall planner and a set of coloured stickers. If you can’t find one, get the biggest sheet of paper you can find and map out the year with a ruler and a marker pen. This needs to go on your wall and act as your central point of reference.
Make a list of every marketing activity you complete, or plan to complete, in an average year. Allocate every activity a coloured sticker and then map them out across your Marketing Calendar.
- large scale promotions
- new product and service launches
- direct mail campaigns
- ppc campaigns
- live events
- social media campaigns
- customer relationship management
- joint ventures
Ensure that your activities are evenly and logically spaced out, and that there is connection between them that ensures that you remain on-message and don’t confuse your market.
Content marketing and consistent, on-message communication is the most powerful way to win business in this age of information-overload and social media visibility.
The job of our marketing is to build trust and relationships with our prospects, to position ourselves as a credible expert in our field, so that making a sale becomes simply a matter of invitation and everyone feels comfortable with the transaction.
Once that prospect has become a client, our role then shifts to one where we’re not only fulfilling the promises made in our marketing, but also exceeding their expectations through added value so that they remain a client and refer us to their friends, family and colleagues.
When you create for yourself a ‘rhythm’ of content creation, and syndicating that content out to your market, you not only achieve all of the above goals – you also find yourself with a valuable bank of intellectual property which you can use over and over again. First, make a list of all the content that you create and publish. For example:
- blog posts
- facebook and twitter updates
- phone calls
Next, print out a ‘week to a page’ view from your online calendar and write down on each day what communications you will send out to your market, your leads and to your customers.
Align this with your yearly Marketing Calendar and you’ll find yourself with a marketing system that practically runs itself.
If you were to create your Marketing Calendar and Communications Schedule, and then work through each marketing activity also creating a documented, step-by-step system, not only would you find yourself empowered by this level of structure and organisation, with a huge bank of quality intellectual property, but you will also be perfectly positioned to outsource these activities as and when you are ready to grow.
Systems don’t curtail our creativity. They don’t repress us and constrain us – they set us free.