Here are some suggestions on how to start breaking out of the cycle, with more to follow in my next blog.

1.  Take control.  It is important to switch your mindset from being a victim of the situation and seriously make plans for dealing with the situation.  Many people simply think it is beyond their control.  I am not suggesting you will ever totally control all the events and the environment that surround your business but you can make a huge difference to this problem.  In particular as a business you need to start to take control and ownership of the flow of work to your business.  By the way, you may not have thought of your work as a business.  I highly recommend you do.

2.  Plan the flow of work to your business.  There are many ways that revenue comes to a business and the field of marketing is huge and varied.  Many self-employed people and sole trader businesses view marketing as an added extra to doing the work, or worse.  Bringing income to the business is really a core part of the business and needs ongoing and consistent time, energy and thought.  In the story above, the flow of work to the business was controlled by calling contacts, networking and attracting people to the website.  It appears from the story that in times of famine when our hero / heroine (of pt1) gets into marketing mode, their actions are effective.  Work starts coming in.  What doesn’t work is that as soon as work arrives, the marketing stops, it appears to be haphazard.  As a business owner you need to identify what controls the flow of work to your business.  Is it referrals?  Is it tendering proposals?  Is it networking?  Is it advertising in Yell.com?  Then you need to sit down and plan the actions you need to take to keep the flow going consistently through the year.  Let’s say you identify cold calling as creating a flow of work to the business.  Let’s say that the process of getting work proceeds from cold call to email, to follow up, to meeting.  Your planning should then go something like this:
  • How much work do I want each month?
  • How many meetings do I need to set up to get that work?
  • How many emails do I need to follow up on to get those meetings?
  • How many cold calls do I need to make to get enough people to request an email from me?
 

This needs to be done for each flow of income to the business.  The planning will look different according to each flow.  A newspaper advertising flow is different to a networking flow.  At the start you will have to make some assumptions about how effective each of your actions will be.  For example you may not know how many emails you need to follow up on to get one meeting.  You will need to make your best guess.  As you go forward you can see if your assumptions are right and amend them.

As you go through your planning, you will start to get an idea of the resources you need to devote to the plan.  These will include time and money.  You will start to see how much time you need to put in to achieve the flow you want and how much money.  The time left over can be used for servicing your clients and your other admin.  You will start to see if the amount you charge allows you to devote the time and money you need into marketing.  This is a key moment!  If you find the amount you charge for your product or service does not cover the cost of your marketing, then your business has a fundamental problem.  You cannot ignore this.  Of course times of start up and expansion are times of investment and you would not expect the marketing to produce the income you require straight away, but if it does not balance over the medium term you must re-think some part of your business.  It is better that you find out now than in six months time when you are broke.

3.  Stick to your plan.  The marketing work is just as important as the delivery work.  It is never as urgent because the effect comes one or two months down the line.  Unless you break out of the temptation to ignore the marketing work in order to deliver the job you will never break out of the cycle.  Imagine you are a computer programmer and you have two jobs to finish.  You can finish one on time but not both.  What could you do to keep the relationship sweet with the client you are going to let down?  You could call your client, apologise and make contingency plans for completing the work to a new deadline.  It’s not ideal, but it happens.  Start doing that with your marketing work.  After a while it may get painful enough that you will make sure you can fulfill both the delivery work and marketing work together before you accept a job.

Get someone to hold you make sure you take the actions in your plan.  It could be a friend, a spouse, a mentor.  Maybe you cannot stand to do marketing or sales.  You could get an agent, a freelancer, a partner or even a spouse to do this.  If you do, make sure you plan time to manage them.  You will want to engage them and then forget about it but remember this is your business and you are taking control!

Maybe your plan turns out to be impossible to put into practice because your assumptions were wrong – the delivery of your service takes longer than you thought; the cold calling produces less results.  Re-work you plan with new assumptions so that you have a plan that you are confident of.

In other words do whatever it takes to stick to your plan!

Next post will deal with the mindset of scarcity.