Everyone and their brother will be writing posts this week about making plans and resolutions for 2015. Since I’m focused on finalizing my own marketing plan and jumping into the new year, it’s on my mind too, so I’m adding to the chatter.
But I’m giving some thought to what I can add to the conversation that’s different to what you might be hearing elsewhere, and I’ve come up with the following two tips for you.
Tip One: Throw Everything Out
It can be awfully tempting when you begin your planning to start with what you had the previous year. And while it’s absolutely important and valuable to build on the previous year’s success and progress, it can be just as useful to start with a clean slate.
Heather Morse talks about how she starts her planning by cleaning off her white board. And that’s what I’m encouraging you to do – wipe off your white board, start with a blank sheet of paper, mentally wipe your brain clean and start fresh.
Yes, it’s scary and intimidating, but sometimes we can get caught up in what we’re doing and miss the forest for the trees. I did this last year – when I started planning for 2014 in late 2013, I was feeling overwhelmed by everything in the 2013 plan and not sure where to start.
So I started over.
I acted as if I was new to my job and had never written a plan before. I asked myself:
- What one to three things do my clients REALLY want?
- How can I add value?
- What goals do I and my organization think are important?
Once I had those items (it came down to two that are most important), I broke those down further with some general ideas that I felt would help me to reach those goals. Then, I broke them down further again with descriptions for how and why those ideas would get me there. That was the point at which I revisited the 2013 plan to see what I wanted to continue incorporating, and what no longer served me in pursuit of those goals.
Ultimately, I came up with a streamlined plan, which I review quarterly and set up individual task lists and deadlines to meet. It was much simpler and stronger overall. It also allowed me the creativity to come up with new ideas to meet the goals that we have, which I never would have come up with had I stayed stuck in my previous plan.
Sometimes, when you’re rushing to get the plan out of the way so that you can get back to the business at hand, it seems faster to build on the past. But when you throw out everything you know to start fresh, you may end up developing a more efficient and effective plan for the next year!
Tip Two: Try Something New
Another area where it’s easy to get stuck when planning is the temptation to just alter or continue what you’ve been doing all along. I’ve seen a great quote more frequently the last few days, from Rear Admiral Grace Hopper:
The most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘we’ve always done it this way.’"
Someone pointed out that this obviously wouldn’t work for, say, heart surgery, and I can hear some of my lawyers saying that it wouldn’t work for legal work either. And while that’s true, where you DO want to try new things is in your marketing and business development efforts (and really everywhere else). Trying new things can have significant benefits – a post on Psychology Today offers these four:
- It requires courage, which can open you up to being more courageous in other areas.
- It opens up the possibility that you’ll enjoy something new – maybe you’ll find a niche practice area that you love or a networking tactic that is wildly successful.
- It keeps you from becoming bored – when we’re bored with something, we give less of our attention to it, and less of our passion. It’s easy to say that a tactic or tool isn’t working if we’re bored with it.
- It forces you to grow and that keeps you open to new things, which can lead you to professional success and growth.
While you don’t have to sign up for skydiving tomorrow, try throwing some new things into the mix to shake things up:
- Had an interesting case in a specific niche area last year? Find out whether there are organizations that focus on that, or if you can start a blog focused in that area. This worked really well for one of my attorneys – Paul Howcroft at Fladgate LLP in London had an art law case that fascinated him. He authored articles and started a blog (Art Law London), and has developed a great reputation in an area that he very much enjoys. His practice isn’t limited to that, but it’s been a very successful focus for him.
- Start really small by reading a book that’s totally out of your comfort zone or usual genre. Pick up a magazine that you’ve never read, or subscribe to the RSS feeds for a couple of new blogs. Join Twitter and follow five people you’ve always thought were fascinating. Take a bike ride on your lunch hour, or try a different place to grab a sandwich. You just never know when you’ll meet someone, read something, hear an idea that will stick with you and change everything.
I’ll definitely be trying some new ideas myself in 2015, and starting fresh in small ways as well as big ones. What will you be doing in 2015?