I'm often asked to help solo professionals re-vamp old and never-used marketing plans, but I can't do it without a mindset check first. Why? Because the surest way to waste your marketing budget and your time is to be unclear about what your business is about, what exactly you offer that benefits your customer, and why anyone would want what you are offering.
A few weeks ago I was listening to a potential client voice her concerns that her accounting firm was not “changing to meet the times.” She wanted her other two partners to get enthusiastic about a new specialty for the firm – adding on accounting services specifically for the elderly and the adult children who often end up having to manage their parent's finances from another state. She has quite a bit of passion about this idea and feels that the demographics support it. She wanted to hire me to help them come up with a new website and 12-month marketing plan for this new part of the business.
After just a bit of questioning, I found that the other two partners didn't support it. Older than she, they were nearing retirement and felt they had enough work and enough money. They were past the point in their careers where they wanted to build something new. This fact threw new questions into the pot. Would the woman push forward, putting her own time and money into the effort with only luke-warm support from the rest of the firm's partners? Would she break off from the firm and establish an entirely new business? If she did that, did she have the money to both establish a new firm and build a new service at thet same time? Would she do some of her old work to give her financial footing, and only work to establish the “geriatric” accounting services part time? Was she positioned well in her personal life to take on breaking away? Could she bring the other partners around to her point of view?
While she was impatient to “get started” I was not! The mindset and marketing required to make such a new endeavor pay off would be very different if she went out on her own as opposed to remaining part of the existing firm, which had been together for many years. My experience is that creating and implementing a marketing plan means that the basics are already in place. Otherwise, it's too easy to spend time and money only to decide that you must go off in a slightly different direction because of the shifting ground of your business and personal life.
My focus for working with the person became helping her envision how her idea might best work, the structure it would take to support it, assessing if she had the personal and professional ground in place (she was recently divorced, had just lost a parent, and had been ill for months with mono). After that ground is firm, we can build a kick-butt marketing plan. But you gotta answer the deeper questions first. Otherwise, you're going to waste your entrepreneurial energy. And that's a precious thing to waste!