The new year is approaching quickly and all the online marketers (including myself) are encouraging you to come up with your goals for the year to come. But exactly how do you achieve these goals? How are you able to get from where you are right now, to where you want to be? Let’s take a look at the 7 secrets for successful business planning and the exact action steps you need to take there.
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Why Business Planning Is The Secret To Success For The Coming Year
Do you set aside time regularly to plan what you want to do in your business? If it’s not something you currently do, I strongly encourage you to embrace it for the remainder of this year as well as the one coming up.
Setting aside time at the end of the year, to plan out what I want to do and more importantly, what growth I want to achieve in the coming year has been crucial to my own success. Let me share some of what I’ve learned and what I’ve found helpful with you.
Let’s start off by taking a look at why business planning is “the secret” to success. There are a few different factors that come into play here. The first is efficiency.
When you go in with a clear plan, you can focus on what’s most important. Instead of spending time trying to figure out what you should be working on, what pieces of the puzzle are missing from your product funnel, or what you need to do to break through to the next income level, you know exactly what needs to come next.
With a clear goal in mind and a plan for the year, it becomes easy to walk backwards to create effective and efficient daily to-do lists. Work on what needs to get done each day and you will reach your goals.
Next, setting a big goal for yourself helps you think outside the box. If you don’t believe me, try it. Decide on a big income goal for the coming month. Write it down. Keep it in front of you. Then get to work and start to notice what happens next.
You start to think of things that didn’t occur to you before. You come up with creative ways to get more traffic. You decide to run a fun promo that adds dollars to your bank account.
The same happens when an important deadline comes up unexpectedly. Think back on that time in college when finals rolled around, or the last time your in-laws told you they would stop by later in the day. You got very creative about studying and cleaning respectively.
Last but not least, let’s talk about the subconscious. So far we’ve been focused on what we are actively doing to make progress by making a plan, setting goals and following through. There’s another dimension to all this and that’s what’s going on in our subconscious mind.
While we are busy plowing through our to-do list, cooking dinner for the family, and even sleeping, our subconscious mind is working towards those goals as well.
In short, planning and setting goals is important because it helps you grow faster. That means you end up with more money for yourself and your loved ones while spending less time slaving away at your desk.
You Have To Know Where You’re At Right Now To Measure Growth & Figure Out What You Should Be Working On
Are you ready to take your online business to the next level and watch some explosive growth unfold over the coming months? Great. Before you start to plot and plan what you want to do to make that happen, it’s important to stop and look at where you’re at right now.
Business planning for future success is all about data. You can work most efficiently and spend your time and money most effectively if you know exactly where you are starting from. By recording data, you can start to see what’s working, what isn’t, and what trends are starting to play out. And it all starts with recording where you’re at right now.
Let’s take a look at some of the things you want to record. First though, you should decide how you want to record this information. You can write it down by hand in a notebook, open up a word document to do it digitally, or use a spreadsheet. I prefer a spreadsheet because I have the option to have it calculate fun additional information like weekly and monthly averages and even map it all out in graphics to help me get a clearer picture.
- Traffic- To grow you need to expand your reach. That means getting more traffic, but also engaging the people that come to your website by encouraging them to click around and read more. Good things to keep track of are total visitors, unique visitors, bounce rate, and of course where the traffic is coming from.
- List & Subscribers- Your next goal is always to get these people on your list. Here you want to track the total number of subscribers, conversion rates for each of your opt-in forms and pages, open rates for your emails, and also unsubscribes. As you start to collect and review this data regularly, you’ll get a much better picture of your subscribers.
- Customers- Subscribers are great, customers are better. Start by keeping track of how many total customers you have and how many purchases per day, week, and month. Other good numbers to look at are the total lifetime value of your average customer, repeat purchases, and refund rates.
- Income & Expenses- Last but not least, look at your bottom line. This is your typical accounting data. You want to keep track of your income as well as your expenses. With those two sets of numbers, you can easily calculate your overall profit. I find it helpful to look at profit for the month, but track income on a daily basis.
Yes, you can look at most of this data in various different places like Google Analytics, your shopping cart, and your autoresponder service for example, but it’s important to have it all in one place. This makes it much easier to connect the dots and see the relationships between the different sets of numbers.
Now that you have your initial data collection set up, make it a habit to update the numbers regularly so you can see what’s working, what isn’t, and how much you’re growing as you move through the coming months and years.
Increasing Traffic, Subscribers & Customers
To grow your income, you need more customers. That in turn means you need more people to sign up for your list. Where do these new subscribers come from? You get them by increasing the traffic to your site. Some of the things you want to do and track then are:
- Get more traffic from various different sources. This should always be a priority and something you work on regularly. Track your growth as you move along and keep an eye out for fresh new ideas to boost your traffic.
- Your next focus should be getting more subscribers. As you start to get more traffic, your list will start to grow, but don’t stop there. Tweak your opt in-forms to increase conversion. Create a new lead magnet to get the attention of a different sub-group of your target audience. Set up a few dedicated opt-in pages and start driving traffic to them. Do what you can to continually grow your list and pick up speed in the process.
- The third piece of the puzzle and where things get real interesting is turning those subscribers into customers. You want them to spend money with you either by buying your products and services, or through your affiliate links. Offer more products. Raise your prices. Find more attractive offers you can promote as an affiliate. Work on your funnels. There’s a lot you can do to grow your bottom line once you have traffic and subscribers figured out.
The real power of this approach becomes apparent when you start to look at how these three things work in synergy. By getting more and higher quality traffic, while improving your opt-in rates, and creating higher prices products with sales funnels that convert well, you can quickly make a huge difference. Each of these elements alone will help, but by combining them, you will start to see exponential growth.
Let me illustrate this with an example. Let’s say you start out with 100 new visitors per day. 10 percent of them sign up for your mailing list, which comes out to 10 new subscribers each day. One of these people buys one of your products at $10.
Now let’s see you double your traffic. With nothing else changing, you go from making $10 per day to $20. But what if you can also improve your opt-in forms and get to a 20% conversion.
You also create a few more products and each of your customers ends up spending 3 times as much as before. When we add all that up you go from making $10 per day to 40 new subscribers each day which means 4 new customers. If each of them spends $30 shopping around in your shop, you end up making $120. That’s a pretty big bump from $10 while still only requiring you to double your traffic. Pretty impressive, isn’t it?
How To Work Backwards To Set Your Business Goals
Here’s how that works. It always starts with a money goal. It helps if that goal has a meaning beyond the dollar figure. For example, let’s say that I want to buy a new car. The payment is around $400. To account for things like taxes and just to be safe, I’ll bump the goal up to $600. In other words, I need to add an extra $600 (or more… more is always better) to my monthly bottom line. Once that’s done and I am seeing that level of income on a regular basis, I’m ready to order my new car.
Once I know how much money I have to make, I can start to think about different ways to do just that. I could find more customers for one or several of my existing products.
For example, if I have a $10 eBook, I would have to make an extra 60 sales per month. From there I can work backwards. If I know that on average one out of 10 email subscribers buy the book within the first month of signing up, I need to add 600 new subscribers to my list, which in turn takes 4,000 new visitors to my site. If that’s my plan, I know that my daily to-do list needs to include plenty of action steps to ramp up my traffic by an extra 4,000 people per month.
Of course that’s not my only option. I could also create another information product or eBook each month and sell it to both my existing and new subscribers. I could create a higher priced item so I need to make a lot fewer monthly sales to reach my $600 goal. For example, if I create a nice $100 product, it would only take 6 sales per month to pay for the car.
My daily tasks will include things like creating content that includes an offer to my eBook, a short report about using the eBook to build a targeted sub lists of people interested in the topic that I talk about. Then I start driving traffic to the content and the opt-in offer and start mailing regularly about the PLR membership. I may even craft a short autoresponder sequence to create an evergreen funnel.
Of course that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I could approach different the people behind affiliate programs to see if they would be interested in writing some guest blog posts, answering some questions for an interview style post, or even do a webinar, all of which would of course promote the membership.
By thinking outside the box and putting in some time and effort initially, it won’t take me long to get those visitors, subscribers and customers that pay for my new car payment. Because I really want that new car, I’m going to be motivated to get it done and grow my business by those extra $600 per month. In fact, chances are great that I’ll overshoot the goal by several hundred dollars and it’s something I can continue to grow month after month.
Why You Have To Write Your Business Goals Down
That isn’t just because it’s easy to forget. There’s a lot more to it and there are some very important reasons why you have to write them down.
The simple act of setting a goal, even if it’s just in your mind, doubles your chances of success. That’s a pretty big deal in itself, isn’t it? If you take it a step further, and actually write those goals down, you’re 10 times as likely to succeed. Read that last line again please. That’s right…you can increase your chances of making it by 1,000%. That’s mind-blowing.
There are a few different mental and psychological processes going on here that start to give us a glimpse into why it is so important and effective to write our goals down. The first is that it’s a lot easier to remember something that we’ve written down.
You’ve experienced this first hand with your grocery list. When you make a mental list of 10 or 15 things, you’re likely to forget about half of them when you get to the store. If you write out the list on the other hand, and then end up forgetting it on the counter, you will remember the vast majority of the items you needed.
This is explained through the fact that information has to be moved from one area of the brain to another to turn it from thoughts into written words on a page. A process called encoding is also involved. All of this helps you retain and store the information better. It’s the reason we’re asked to take notes during lectures in college.
Last but not least, when you write down your goals, you have something you can review regularly. This adds another layer of cognitive processing and increases your chances of success even further. Sadly, only a very small percentage of people make the time to regularly review and evaluate their goals. The ones that do are some of the most successful and highest achieving people out there. In other words, it’s something we should do as well.
Start by setting smart goals. Write them down in as much detail as possible. Set aside some time to review them regularly. This could be weekly, or even daily.
Give it a try for this coming quarter. Set yourself a goal. Be specific. This could be something like finally creating that first paid product or adding an extra $500 a month.
Decide by when you’ll reach your goal and how you plan to get there. Write it all down and look at it every morning. This will help you stay on track and make time in your busy day to work on making progress towards your goal.
Real Growth Requires You To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Can you think back on a time of real growth, be it in business, in your personal life, or anywhere else? More than likely, you had to step out of your comfort zone for that growth to happen. Yes, we can make progress by doing what we’ve always done.
But it will be slow and more importantly, by staying within your comfort zone, you are limiting your potential growth. It’s when we step out of that zone, try something new, take a bit of a risk, and allow for personal and professional growth that we start to see big changes for the better.
Let’s say you goal is to grow your reach and get out in front of a larger audience. What you’ve done so far, and what feels comfortable is writing a blog post a week and then sharing it on social media.
Yes, some readers will find you. Yes, if you double or triple your efforts, publishing more posts per week and sharing more often across all your social media accounts, you will see some growth and engagement. But you’re staying in your comfort zone.
What if instead, you used the time you would have spent writing another blog post or two per week and promoting it on Facebook, you took the time to write a guest blog post for someone else’s blog with a bigger reach.
What if you sat down and recorded a fun and informational video that you can then share on YouTube, embed in a blog post, and of course share via your favorite social media outlets. What if you used the time to set up and tested a Facebook ad that continually sends new leads into your funnel.
If those things are new to you, that may seem like a pretty scary proposition. But getting uncomfortable and doing it anyway can have some huge rewards.
Writing and submitting the guest blog post can give you a lot of added exposure by allowing you to get in front of an established audience. It also gives you the chance to start a relationship with a follow blogger that may lead to all sorts of other opportunities and collaborations.
Recording a series of videos gives you the opportunity to reach a completely different subset of your target audience. There are plenty of people who prefer video content to written posts and articles. There are people who spend hours each day watching YouTube videos who would never stumble across you and your blog otherwise.
Spending money on paid ads can sound like a scary proposition, but once you crack it and find something that converts well for you, you will get a steady stream of new leads in front of you without any added work.
There’s something else I want to mention, just in case I don’t have you convinced yet that getting out of your comfort zone is something you should be doing regularly.
You won’t stay uncomfortable for very long. After recording those first few videos, submitting a couple of blog posts, and spending those first few dollars on ads, you start to get comfortable with the processes.
You won’t stay uncomfortable for very long. After recording those first few videos, submitting a couple of blog posts, and spending those first few dollars on ads, you start to get comfortable with the processes. Before you know it, they become second nature and yet another tool in your virtual tool belt. Once that happens, you know it’s time to explore some other marketing strategies and ideas.
Before you know it, they become second nature and yet another tool in your virtual tool belt. Once that happens, you know it’s time to explore some other marketing strategies and ideas.
How To Engineer Explosive Growth By Stacking Your Efforts
A lot of what we’ve discussed so far has been actionable steps like writing down your goals as well as mindset pieces like the one about stepping out of your comfort zone.
You see when you use the basic concept of exponential growth to your advantage, it doesn’t take very much progress in any one area to see big results. We briefly touched on this idea back on day three when we talked about increasing traffic, subscribers, and customers. Let’s expand on this whole idea in a few different ways and tie it all back into setting goals and business planning in general.
The idea is to make progress on your goals and stack them in a way that gives you leverage. Here’s an example. Let’s say your first goal is to grow your current part time income by $500 a month so you can quit your day job.
Following the previous section, you come up with a way to get that done by growing your traffic, subscribers, and customers. Since you were able to then quit your day job, you have more time and energy to put into growing your business. You set more ambitious goals and add another $2,000 to your bottom line. Instead of taking everything out in profit, you decide to continue to work on this whole leverage idea.
You set aside $100 a month to play around with Facebook ads to see if you can turn that into a profitable income stream. You take another $200 to start outsourcing some of the ongoing tasks that hold you back. You hire your first VA and now you’re really making progress. This in turn gets the attention of a fellow online entrepreneur in a related niche who wants to work on a project together. Do you see how this works?
One goal builds on the next and they all work together to generate exponential growth. Of course this is just one little example. This can work in a myriad of different ways and will of course differ from one business to the next. My point is this…
If you start to think strategically and keep one eye on your next few moves, you can start to stack your efforts and engineer that explosive growth in a lot less time than you may think. Try it!
As an entrepreneur or a solopreneur, it can feel like you are constantly running on the content hamster wheel and not sure exactly what to focus on. Instead of doing the tasks that appear in front of you, take some time to sit down and do some business planning. Only then will you be able to take a step back, understand what you need to do and embark on a journey to success.