The new year always includes a focus on new year’s resolutions while TV advertising and supermarkets are keen to encourage us to join weight watcher classes, get fit and eat calorie reduced food. However, it is one thing to decide on a new year’s resolution, it is another to carry it out to fulfillment. Like so many others, I do want to lose some weight but it is not enough to say I want to lose x lbs by April. To work towards success, I need to break it down into manageable chunks with a plan ie x lb per week and how exactly I will reduce my calorie intake and increase my exercise to strive towards success.
Creating Your Business Strategy for 2014
Your business is no different. As you return to work, you may be setting targets and business goals for increasing revenue, increasing sales, building more traffic to your website and growing your social media presence. You also need to build in those manageable bites towards success and that will require a strategy. This will need to incorporate a marketing/PR strategy and a social media content strategy.
As an example, I am going to share my own strategy with you. I am actually creating three this year – one for We Teach Social, one for this business Write on Track and one for my book at Irish Farmerette. As the latter is very much a start up, I’ll share that one with you. As many of you may be experiencing in your own start up business, the future is an unknown entity hence the need for frequent evaluations, and modification will be necessary.
It is up to you where you write your strategy – you can create a table and store it in your google drive or in dropbox, you could write it in evernote or you could write it on a large notepad – whatever works for you. The important thing is that it is written in a place that makes it accessible.
Here’s a little history on the book so far. The blog was started in September 2011, very much as a personal / farming blog. Following the popularity of a few blog posts, I toyed with the idea of writing a book. After attending a talk on crowdfunding on 7th June (having written 10,000 words) I decided to run a crowdfunding campaign over 35 days to test the market. This would decide if I had a deadline to produce a hard back book or if I would put it on the long finger and eventually produce it as an ebook. To cut a long story short, I received 1000 copies of my hard back book ‘Would You Marry A Farmer?’ on 29th November. I had sent out a press release to selected journalists and planned to send out some books too. To be honest, signing and packing up books takes much longer than I had anticipated which meant I didn’t get to chase up or re-send the press release nor did I send out as many books to potential reviewers as I had planned. For example, the local papers didn’t cover it and I never got to telephone them to see if they would like more information and if they would cover it. Yes, it sounds ridiculous but that’s life sometimes. I did receive small mentions in two farming publications but it was radio which was my most successful medium with three interviews on national radio. Indeed, if the book had been on sale in bookshops across the country the sales would have been much higher as I even had one bookshop telephone me to say they’d had lots of requests for the book. I had also arranged for a ‘book blog tour’ whereby six bloggers wrote about my book and that really heightened awareness and sales. 750 books were sold by 23rd December (of which approx 225 were due to the crowdfunding). I also sent out about 25 free copies – to journalists and as competition prizes.
What are your plans for 2014? One aim has to be to make money, the other is to ensure that you are enjoying what you are doing. In my case, as writing, teaching and blogging are my favourite pursuits, there is no point spending hours and hours on paperwork and distribution headaches.
- Sell more books. The second print run is likely to also be for 1000 books so I need to work out how I am going to keep up the PR and yet make the results manageable. I’m very conscious that I don’t want all the PR happening in the one week and then nothing for months.
- Write a second book – I removed many farming stories from my first book when editing and have decided to write a second book, somewhat different in style. It will be more narrative and personal. I need to ensure that I schedule in time to accomplish this!
- Teaching – I love working with small business owners particularly in small groups or on one-to-one. I would like to add my experience with crowdfunding and self publishing to my areas of expertise and teaching. I will be adding a 2 week crowdfunding (for creative projects) to my list of spring courses for We Teach Social.
- Speaking – I really enjoy speaking at events and haven’t been doing that much of it lately. I’ve been asked to put a proposal together showing the topics I can speak on at local libraries and writing groups so I’m going to start with that and see where it takes me.
What results do you want from your aims – in terms of sales, turnover, profit? You have to write this down as otherwise you will not know when you have succeeded (and you’ll miss out on the celebrations!). If writing down goals/results for the full year is too much at this stage, then do it for the first 3 months and then repeat every quarter. You must also evaluate the results at the end of the 3 months, evaluate what worked and what didn’t, use that information to inform your planning of goals for the second quarter.
- Book Sales – Sell my remaining 200 hardback books and 1000 paperback books by end March. Is that achieveable? I have no idea. I sold 750 pre-Xmas but how many of them were gifts? If I get more print PR, how many sales will that achieve? It might happen that I will only sell the 200 hardback books and a handful of the paperback but I need to aim high at this stage and then set a standard.
- Ebook sales – Yet again, I have no idea how many to aim for. Tales of sales of one or two a week by some authors and thousands by others leave me wondering how I will fare. I will aim for 1000 ebook sales by end March.
- Grow book sales outside Ireland too – for this I am conscious I will need an agent and a publisher – this is a goal over a longer timeframe.
- Speaking – To speak at 3 events by end March (local libraries etc) thereby sharing my expertise but promoting my social media business and the book too.
- Website traffic – Average traffic to my website is currently about 600 a day and I’ve also had surges when a post has gone viral and achieved 50,000 views a week twice last year. I aim to increase traffic to an average of 800 a day by end March and write one post that goes viral (easier said than done but will try).
- Ghost Blogging / Mentoring / Teaching – Due to writing the book, I really took my finger off the pulse in terms of growing my clients for ghost blogging and mentoring. I aim to grow my current clients to ten by the end of March and to sign up 20 people to my crowdfunding online course.
You have the aims, you have the goals laid out – now the trick is working out how you will achieve them. What methods will you use to ensure those goals are achieved within the timeframe.
#Increasing Book Sales
- Press Coverage – To plan a schedule and various topics to achieve press coverage across different media . To use Valentine’s Day as a focus given the title of the book. I have a good start with an interview on a national radio station secured for Monday morning and a journalist contacted me this week to say she is referring to my book in her article in the Farming Independent on Tuesday.
- Distributors – I need to get the book into bookshops. Apart from the fact that I would hate the paperwork involved, I just don’t have time to contact various independent bookshops and keep track of sales. Therefore I will contact the national distributor Argosy and see if they will agree to distribute to independent bookshops. They will take their margin of course but it should increase sales. I will also contact Easons to see if they will stock it across their nationwide stores.
- Ebooks – I need to spend time trying to understand how Amazon works and apply it accordingly. I will also add the book to kobo and iTunes.
- Traditional Publishing – Look into contacting suitable agents and see what happens.
#Raise Profile via Speaking
- Send a proposal to local library. Aim to give three talks by the end of March.
- See if there are any suitable conferences that just might be looking for a speaker on these topics. I might even send a proposal to the Dublin Web Summit, particularly as they are looking for more female speakers.
#Website Traffic & Sales Conversions = Social Media
- Pinterest has worked very well for the blogging/pinterest focused content of this blog – now to get it to work better for farming / writing content.
- Facebook and twitter drive good content – so to build followers there and continually use them to drive traffic.
- Now that I have the Yoast plug in – to ensure that I am using highly searchable keywords.
- Use an editorial blogging calendar (e.g google calendar) to ensure that I am covering all topics. It is very easy to not realise that you are leaving out important topics your audience may be interested in if they are not planned out. For example, I intend to do two book reviews a month, two ‘my farm’ posts, one ‘agricultural issues’ post, one ‘writing’ post and one post that plays on the book content in order to promote it. That’s 7 posts per month and as I am aiming for two per week that means I just have to think of 2 other ‘miscellaneous’ posts. If you are wondering which editorial calendar to use, try out one of these suggestions.
- Update this website – make the ghost blogging services more prominent. Promote on social media too.
- I really enjoy doing one to one training – contact previous clients to ask for testimonials and promote these services accordingly.
- Teaching – promote the online courses and apply for upcoming local tenders.
As I said above, everyone has their own ways that suit best for writing out their goals. I am using a table in a word doc divided into 4 columns: Month, , Topic (ie for social media), Results (which will be filled in once the month is over). I save it to dropbox so I can access it whether I am using a device or the laptop.
Work out how much money you need to earn in a month and how much comes from each area. If you fall behind in one area, you may exceed in another but if you haven’t a goal, as I said earlier, you miss out on those celebrations when you do make it.
I would also recommend getting a mentor – even for quarterly meetings. It can really help you to see the wood from the trees and having regular meetings means that you will work to achieve the goals set down at the previous meeting. I have to admit I don’t have an official mentor but I have a great friendship with Bernie Tracey, executive business coach and although we meet for ‘friend’ lunches, we invariably end up mentoring each other over the course of a long lunch. My business partner in We Teach Social is a social media coach, just as I am and I find it really useful to run ideas past Amanda and get her opinion. Contact your local Enterprise board (if in Ireland or similar if abroad) and ask if you can be assigned a mentor.
2014 is the year to grow your business but it involves taking the time to write out your goals and ensure that you measure your progress and evaluate properly to move forward. I will share my results with you on 31st March and let you know how I got on in terms of fulfilling my own business goals.
What goals have you set yourself for 2014? Oh, and yes, I still have to write out my ‘losing weight’ ones!