Aug 132014

marketing planWhen you see the phrase marketing plan do you cringe? Do you think of long and detailed plans that corporations use? Do you think of math and lots of detail and the time it would take? As a solopreneur starting out in 1980 I did. I even wrote a white paper on how to do one (in the 90s).

Do you look at successful entrepreneurs and say that some of them didn’t have a plan at all? They just flew by the seat of their pants (at the beginning). Or planning seemed to be a left brain activity and you’re right brained.

Everyone knows you should write a plan but like eating healthy or exercising many of you say you will do it but few of you do. So what’s stopping you? You have lots of excuses but the most prevalent is there’s not enough time.

I’m here to say that there is a happy medium – especially for solopreneurs. The standard marketing plan at least for solopreneurs is dead.

Use the word map instead of plan.

You can draw a map (right brain people) or use written directions (left brain) or both. Mapquest does. Why don’t you?

marketing planThink of planning for a trip. You decide on your destination and which places you’ll visit along the way and what you’ll do in each place. You choose your clothes according to these activities. You go on the trip and take lots of pictures. When you get home you feel relaxed and think about all the places you visited. You may even arrange a get together with friends to show your photos.

That’s a simplified version of everything you do before, during and after a trip. Now let’s compare it to planning in your business.

  • choosing your destination = writing your goals
  • what you’ll do in each place = assessing your uniqueness/ your ideal customer
  • your clothes = marketing activities
  • taking pictures = what you deliver in your business
  • getting home and thinking about where you’ve been = analyzing your results
  • having a get together = a celebration!

There could be much more but you get the idea. You’re really developing a plan. But you say that a trip is fun and so planning is easy! Why not make business and marketing planing fun too?

I recently read a book called The Right-Brain Business Plan by Jennifer Lee published in 2011 so being right brained isn’t an excuse. She found a way to make planning for creative types fun.

It’s about mindset. Change your mindset and you’ll see a business and marketing plan differently.

Tell me how you developed your business plan and whether you enjoyed the process. Remember if you love your business ….. loving planning goes along with it :-)

photo credit: Yahoo Inc via

Feb 012013

Mindmapping is a visual way to do a number of different things including planning what you want to accomplish in your business this year or what you have to do in a new website or to take notes.

I was first introduced to it by my friend and colleague Aletta de Wal “way back” in the late 1980s. She now runs  Artist Career Training . She uses it all the time and for everything including note taking on coaching calls with her clients. I’ve used it myself for planning and now that I can only use the computer in order to write, I use the Tony Buzan software.

As Aletta says “… Adapt your recordkeeping to the way that you think, instead of cramping your style. This visual note-taking and brainstorming method is a fun, easy way to get your thoughts out of your head and on paper.” She just interviewed Chris Welsh of Mastery of Learning who she introduced me to 20 years ago and they talked about “ideamapping” and how he uses it. You can find that interview here.

Tony Buzan is known as the originator of mindmapping and as such is world renowned and a respected authority on it.

Wikipedia lists some of the things you can use mindmapping to do.

  • problem solving
  • outline/framework design
  • structure/relationship representations
  • marriage of words and visuals
  • individual expression of creativity
  • condensing material into a concise and memorable format

Susan Gregory is a trainer and as a local Toronto person teaches productivity and thus mindmapping workshops and she adds to this list:

  • memory improvement
  • brainstorming
  • note tasking with clients or in meetings
  • organization of projects
  • writing blogs, articles and even books

Would you like to know how to use a visual method for your planning?  

Buzan suggests the following guidelines for creating mind maps:

  1. Start in the centre with one word and an image of the topic.
  2. Use multiple colors throughout the mind map for visual stimulation and to group things.
  3. Use images and symbols throughout your mind map.
  4. Use one keyword per line.
  5. Each word/image is best alone and sitting on its own line.
  6. The lines should be curved.
  7. The central lines are thicker from the centre and thinner as they radiate out.
  8. Make the lines the same length as the word/image they support.

If you’re looking for a non-linear approach to planning then mindmapping is for you.

How do YOU use mindmapping? Try it if you don’t yet and share your experience in a comment here. Remember to develop your own personal style.

Oct 302012

I’ve always been organized. When I was a child I had the neighbourhood kids come to our garage to watch a skit my brother and I had made. As a schoolteacher I volunteered to be the chair in the early 80s of a “computers in the classroom” conference of about 1200 people. As the co-owner of an Apple computer dealership in charge of finance and operations I took inventory every month.

Getting things done in an ordered fashion was second nature to me. I knew all of the steps to take — in my head :-) Of course noone is a mindreader so others didn’t know what I wanted. I didn’t realize at the time how writing them down would make my staff feel empowered.

proceduresIt wasn’t until I was involved in a conference company in San Francisco, that I wrote out the procedures for events. I did it so everyone knew step by step what to do. When I gave them to my staff they knew exactly what to do — and did it.

But I’m not organized you say. “I couldn’t do that.” Yes you can and I’ll tell you how.

Here are 3 ways to write down your procedures.
  1. Write as you do it. Everything you do in your business has a process that you follow. Start with an easy one like invoicing. Write down each thing you do as you do it. Edit it. Now try something more difficult but make sure this time it’s a revenue generating activity.
  2. Write the procedures from memory. When you’ve finished, use them to be sure you haven’t missed anything.
  3. Speak the process into a tape recorder. Transcribe the recording then use them as in #2.
  4. Use a new client. Record everything you do or better yet tape record the entire client meeting. For my interviews I got a small recorder since I intended to do them away from my home office. Make sure that the recorder can be plugged into your computer via USB and will download the recording automatically as an mp3 file. (I have the Sony IC recorder model ICD-UX512 which I got at Staples.)

It’s not a question of having the time but of making it. I read in the November 2012 print issue of Profit magazine the list of Canada’s top 100 Female Entrepreneurs about Chandra Clarke who started and runs in Chatham, Ontario. It’s an online editing and proofreading business and her meticulous attention to processes and having checklists for everything has allowed her to get work around the world and to work with staff virtually. Her business is also No. 89.

I took a telecourse in 2011 from Tsufit and one of the things she told us that I’ll always remember was that one of the ways we could differentiate ourselves was by having a unique process.

What is your unique process? Have you made the time to write it down?

Keep learning, and until next time.

Trudy Van Buskirk

 October 30, 2012  Posted by  Business Basics, Planning Tagged with: , ,  1 Response »
Sep 112012

marketingThere are all kinds of marketing strategies you can do. These can be both off-line (bricks and mortar) and on-line. They include such things as advertising in magazines, mailing a flyer by snail mail and email, and writing for a local newspaper or putting your article online. (Photo courtesy of )

Why market?

You’ve probably had most business owners tell you that money and marketing are the most important things every business needs. You know why money is vital but why is marketing? Well you market so that people can find you and your product or service. It’s as simple as that.

How do you know what kind works best for you?

Keep statistics on what marketing brought customers to you, who is buying, and what they bought. You may say that you don’t have to the money to do any advertising and anyway customers come to you from word-of-mouth. Bear in mind that word-of-mouth is a type of marketing. And advertising is only one of many possible kinds of marketing you can do.

But what if I was never any good at math?

Ooooh! Many of you don’t like numbers but you have to use some to reach your goals. You know the annual sales total younumbers want to reach, don’t you? That’s a number. I’m going to tell you what you need to keep track of and why and how to do it. (Photo from )

What to keep track of

1. Who are your clients?

The first thing to track are your clients’ names. Know who your clients are. Are they in your target audience or not?  If you already keep track of exactly who they are then you’re ahead of the game.

2. What do you people buy from you?

The next thing to keep track of is what they buy. You know this already even without statistics. They buy your coaching, consulting, chairs, hats, purses, scarves, books, computers and their service, and all kinds of things you sell.

Ask yourself whether people buy products or services or both. Check to see what they bought and whether this is what you wanted. Even if you haven’t done so yet, look at your invoices. Use a database. You can use something written for your industry, do something custom on database software like FileMakerPro or use what came with your computer like Excel. You don’t need the best method but use what works for you.

3. How do they buy it?

You can see what they buy and how they bought it on your tracking form so you know what is working or not. Or can you? You may or may not know which of your marketing activities worked unless you ask. Ask clients right away if you can. If not, then phone them or send an email.

Test your marketing. (This is a whole article or book.)

If you do any online marketing and sales then there is a way to know if a particular campaign worked or not and how well.

4. What are you going to add to your marketing?

Now that you can tell what is right for you, keep doing it. Add more marketing to your mix BOTH offline and online even if you have a physical business. More people are on the Internet than ever before and they want lots of information and look for it online.


Go into your competition’s stores and to their websites.

After you find out who you want to sell to, how they buy, and what your competitors are doing, do your marketing a little differently. Write a how to booklet and give it away. And put how to get it in your email newsletter and on your website.

Keep track of everything in your database – not just your bookkeeping. Learn everything about your clients and your competition.

What have you done so that you know which marketing activity works best for you?

 September 11, 2012  Posted by  Marketing Basics, Planning 1 Response »
Jul 192012

partnership - connectingOver the 40+ years (you can tell that I’m an “older” baby boomer!) that I’ve been self employed I’ve owned several businesses and like many entrepreneurs have done many things. I’ve had partners twice and both were men. I did several things wrong in my first one and vowed not to do the same things in the second. So I asked the second fellow when he was still a potential partner to write down what he thought he was responsible for and good at doing and I would do the same. (Picture courtesy of )

Eventually that didn’t work because I looked at both lists, saw that his was all about “being” and mine was all about “doing” and thought that even though this was the case, it was something I could deal with. I couldn’t.

But there were good things in both partnerships too. Not everything was troublesome.

I learned from them and now that I’m older and wiser I would do things differently. I want to share four things to do with you baby boomers who are thinking of going into a partnership or are in one already.

Four things to do if you have a partnership or are thinking of getting into one.

  1. Make a list.Have each person make a list of what they’re responsible for as they understand it. Be as detailed as possible. For example don’t just write marketing but list some of what’ll be done such  “Put profiles on facebook, twitter and linkedin. Send out press releases. Attend networking events.”Analyze these lists. Do they complement each other? Do the things on them overlap? Is anythin important to the business missing?
  2. Discuss money. What attitude do each of you have toward money? Do you talk about it? Do you spend it as soon as you get it? Do you save it?
  3. Get a mediator. My first partner and I were in both a personal and the business relationship. So when we broke up personally we went to a therapist because we knew our ownership ratio in the business was an emotional issue. We decided there what the percentages should and then we went to our lawyer and had him do it. We saved a lot of legal fees that way.We waited too long. Our lawyer had told us before we started the business that a partnership is like marriage. Get the agreement at the beginning while you are friends not at divorce time.
  4. Take the KOLBE.This is a useful test both people should take and you can do it online. I took it years ago (before the internet) and my results are the same today as when I took it. As with many tests there are four quadrants. Go to their website at and check it out. There is a sample there that shows you what you learn.

Try these things. They don’t predict success but they will ensure that your partnership will work or not.

What other things have you with partners tried? Did they work? Tell everyone.

Jul 112012

target marketThere are lots of coffee shops to choose from along Queen Street in the Beach in Toronto and a friend and I were commenting about each of them as we drove along. We described each as homey, corporate (Starbucks even though it’s friendly), wheelchair accessible, friendly, bright, staff are always helpful and right there when you need them, cottage feel (the Pie Shack where we hold our monthly networking event) etc. The list goes on. (Image from ) .

With so many to choose from, how can we pick the one that’s “right” for us? Well that’s how people often look at your business. How do people pick you? What are you known for — and as? That’s why it’s so important to know what makes you unique – BEFORE you begin – whether you’re a startup or are making changes.

Who are you?

How do you want to be seen and known? What’s your “brand”? Who is YOUR target market?

Choosing a coffee shop or bank or grocery or drug store or clothing store is the same as choosing YOUR target market.

The following suggestions will get you started.

Make sure that everyone you ask is very specific. What do you DO?

  • Ask your friends and colleagues what makes you unique. Is it your “opposite” ideas from the norm? Is it your clothing? How do you treat people? Do you use “jargon” or “ordinary” language?
  • Ask clients why they chose you over your competition. What made you different from them? How do they describe your business to others when they’re talking about you?
  • Publish a survey and ask only one question – what makes you unique. Remember to give concrete examples.

That should get you started.

What else have you done? What have you tried? Did it work or not? Tell me in the comments.

Dec 272011

Have you made any resolutions? Set any goals? You may have one about losing weight, stopping smoking, starting a business, or starting a blog. Many don’t work  … UNLESS you really mean it. Do you?

It really helps if you ..

  • Focus. Choose a business goal not just personal ones. Pick one that is really “doable”.
  • Write it down. Studies show that putting something in writing really works. After you write the goal, put it where you’ll see it every day – in your kitchen, beside your computer, on the bathroom mirror. Be creative!
  • Tell it to others. Make the goal public. Say it out loud – to individuals or a group.
  • Take action. As the Nike slogan goes “just do it”!

And if you haven’t chosen a goal yet, sit quietly, by yourself, with your eyes closed, and it will come to you.


 December 27, 2011  Posted by  Planning Tagged with: , , , ,  No Responses »