In my early 20’s a group of friends and I headed to the Outer Banks. It was a last-minute trip so we were all going with the flow. One morning we spent an hour discussing where to go for breakfast, I couldn’t take the indecisiveness any longer. I stood up, stated which restaurant I was going to and invited them all to join. There was a sigh of relief as we jumped in the cars and fed our hangry selves. I’m all for weighing all the options, but who has time to waste? The research could have been done in advance, we could have split and tried multiple restaurants, the drivers could have taken the lead, etc. That morning the fun was ruined by the lack of a plan, and no one wanting to take the lead. Have you had a similar situation?

Failing to PLAN is planning to FAIL – Benjamin Franklin developed my personal brand statement with this quote more than 2 centuries ago. I’ve had some form of planner/organizer/calendar since I can remember, from Franklin Planners to Palm Pilots, to my current mix of digital and paper planners. I love to plan a meal, décor, vacation, event…you name it and I’ve probably planned it. Even my team has coined me #serialplanner. 

(Benjamin Franklin had a daily schedule and would define what good he could do that day.)

As the CEO, my thoughts are constantly on what improvements and changes need to be implemented so that In The Lights can have success. Stephen R. Covey said, “the best way to predict your future is to create it.” We strategize, analyze, seek feedback, do research, brainstorm, identify key players, and then set a plan in place. Over time we’ve developed some great marketing planning best practices that have set us up for success. 

Yearly, Quarterly, Monthly, and Weekly Team Planning 

The In The Lights team does yearly, quarterly, monthly and weekly planning as a team for In The Lights AND for all of our clients. Each of us also has our own daily planning process. 

Yearly: We set marketing goals (based on analysis and research or on desired outcomes) and determine strategies and tactics. This is focused on core marketing aspects such as branding, PR, advertising, social media, digital, and community efforts. We share the vision of these goals with an end of year review/upcoming year strategy meeting – both for ITL and with our clients. 

Quarterly: Quarterly meetings provide the opportunity to check-in regularly on the status of results and review and redefine goals for the upcoming quarter. 

Monthly: We meet monthly as CEO and account leader to review accounts, successes, and challenges, and discuss upcoming tasks. We created a monthly planner that we use for these meetings which helps give an at-a-glance understanding of workflow and support needed. 

Weekly: Lastly, we hold a weekly team call on Mondays to review the upcoming week and support needed. The recurring call helps team members stay on top of their personal planning as well. 

This might seem like a lot of meetings, but over the past 6 years, the bulk of challenges we faced in our business were a result of unclear expectations, poor communication, and lack of formal policies/contract terms. Since we are a remote team these planning touch points have been helpful to set ourselves up for creating success. Some of the above planning efforts happened from the onset, many have changed and evolved, and even recently started as a practice. That’s the great part about making a plan, it gives you structure but allows for changes along the way. 

Policies, Organization and Templates 

Working heavily with arts non-profits we’re often working within super-tight budgets, and we’ve spent a lot of time as a team to find ways to maximize our efficiency so that we can be focused on the work that matters most for our clients. 

As such we’ve created specific policies, organizational tracking docs, checklists and templates to help us manage all accounts with the same diligence. We’ve found that planning and organization go hand in hand for maximizing efficiency. It takes a little more time at the outset but helps quickly turn around reports, analysis, and communications needs. 

Do You Need a Marketing Plan? 

This definition of marketing by expert Allen Dib says it all:

“If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying ‘Circus Coming to the Showground Saturday’, that’s advertising.

If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that’s promotion. 

If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed and the local newspaper writes a story about it, that’s publicity.

And if you get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s public relations.

If the town’s citizens go to the circus, you show them the many entertainment booths, explain how much fun they’ll have spending money at the booths, answer their questions and ultimately, they spend a lot at the circus, that’s sales.

And if you planned the whole thing, that’s marketing. 

This blog is the 1st blog in a series we are writing as a team that is focused on planning. We will discuss the marketing timeline for your next show, give a sneak peak into the planning process for a press campaign, talk about best practices for planning your Instagram grid, and discuss budget planning. We’ve learned through trial and error that planning meetings, organizational tools, checklists, and policies help us stay on top of marketing strategies for our clients. So we encourage you to take a look at your practices and identify ways you can boost your planning efforts for creating, tracking and delivering year-round campaign success. 

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