Never start at the beginning
Ok, we've all been there. It's first thing in the morning, you have your coffee at hand (likely your second or third cup) and you're staring at a to-do list a mile long wondering what you should do next. You know it is a #GSD kinda day and you want to make some headway. Soooooo....what do you do?
Do you give up because it seems impossible to get it all done? - I doubt it. After all, failing isn't an option.
Or possibly just throw away the list, start working on whatever pops in your head and then hope for the best? - I really, really hope not.
Where to start
Starting is the hardest part, for sure, so make sure you set yourself up for success.
The easiest answer would be, start at the beginning. But I will challenge you to think beyond just getting "tasks" done and start at the end. - Wait, what?
Seriously, ask yourself, what do I need to accomplish today? this week? this quarter? this decade? Figure out what that means in terms of your desires so you can start your journey backwards.
I know what you are thinking "Why would I want to go backwards?" You don't, but the best way to figure out where to start, is to know where you want to be once you have put in all of the effort.
No, this is not about time travel and telling your younger self to get your act together. It is about focusing on the results/goals so you have a clear path to accomplish it.
What are your goals?
Starting from the end
Let's look at it like this. Here is a common "goal" I hear from clients that want to build their business.
I want to grow my marketing agency.
Ok, that's great. Sounds pretty straight forward. Many agency founders have said that to themselves a hundred times a day, but what does that actually mean?
Well, right this moment, not much. Hopefully after reading that "goal" your brain is buzzing with questions. Good!
Figuring out your goals in a way that makes them possible to accomplish, and therefore work into your to-do-list isn't magic. It isn't something that only 20-year veterans with a long list of letters after their title are able to do. That isn't to say getting a little help from a mentor or coach isn't valuable, but figuring out what YOU want is the mission here so let's break it down a bit.
Creating a SMART goal
Why don't we make the statement a little more specific so we know what we are shooting to accomplish.
Is "growth" something you need to focus on?
What type of growth would make your agency successful to you? More customers? More revenue?
Let's pick one and push forward.
I want to grow the customer base of my marketing agency.
Better, but I think we can get a little more measurable, can't we?
How do you determine you have grown?
What metrics are you tracking to determine "growth"?
You are tracking your efforts, right??
I want to grow the customer base of my marketing agency from 10 to 100 clients.
Getting closer. Now think...
Is that even possible?
Have you experienced 1000% growth in the past?
If so, awesome, GO YOU! If not, perhaps you should make it a bit more realistic.
Think about those things that would contribute to attaining more clients.
Do you have enough incoming leads to convert to customers?
What is your average close rate from lead to customer?
Can you push yourself enough, but not too much to get it done?
According to HubSpot's State of Inbound 2017 report, for 71% of sales professionals, focusing on closing more deals was their top priority. Make sure you aren't burying yourself before you start and that your goal is actually attainable.
I want to grow the customer base of my marketing agency from 10 to 40 clients.
Almost there. Now we get into the good stuff.
What efforts do you have in place (or can you put in place) that would allow you to experience that type of growth?
HINT: Spend some time here. Make detailed notes of these items, this is where your actual to-do-list starts taking some shape.
There will be some unknowns, but base them off of your actual documented metrics so you can be sure you are setting yourself up for success. And that you and your agency are capable of getting these things done, or contracting them out, so that your goal is ultimately realistic.
I want to grow the customer base of my marketing agency from 10 to 20 clients.
Last, but certainly not least, we need to tie this effort to the real world and set a date that we want to accomplish it.
HINT: Go back to that detailed list of notes from the last step and start adding dates you can realistically accomplish those items, your task deadlines are now revealing themselves.
Think about things like...
When will you have the budget to put the efforts in place to actually do everything needed?
Do you have the necessary staff to work on all of the tasks on your blossoming to-do-list immediately, or will you need to hire?
How long does it take your agency to put together a complete campaign to back this effort up?
How long will you have the budget/time/resources to run the campaign?
When will your reporting efforts be complete?
Consider these items carefully, if the latest deadline on your list is a year out, don't try to squeeze this goal out in only three months.
I want to grow the customer base of my marketing agency from 10 clients in Q2 to 40 clients by the end of Q4 2019.
Now that is a pretty smart goal. Not to mention, you now have an ultimate date to work backwards from for the overall effort.
AND if you were picking up on those not-so-subtle hints, you even have the list of tasks (with their own deadlines) that you need to start on to get there.
Speaking of starting, now you can. Simply take your list of tasks you have uncovered throughout the goal setting process and work backwards (there is that word again) from the last date you noted.
Delegate tasks to your team with their due dates. And if you are a team of one, make sure you have taken that into account with your deadlines, even if that means you need to go back and re-adjust your goal date or bring aboard some additional talent to help out.
Push your limits, but it is better to make those adjustments now than to set-yourself up for something that is absolutely unattainable.
Don't stop there
Make reviewing your goals frequently a priority.
Block off time on your calendar each year, every few months, or even at the beginning of each month (for shorter-term goals) to go through this exercise and you will never stare at your to-do-list again without a direction to start.
D’Ana Guiloff is a Marketing Consultant helping marketing agencies and companies create a path to success. Though solid operation plans and well-oiled marketing machines that do the heavy lifting, her expertise in getting the job done allows businesses to exponentially scale their growth. Connect with D’Ana should you or your team need a little assistance getting ahead along the way.