The constant struggle to produce marketing campaigns and run your business makes it difficult to get everything done. But planning is the only true shortcut to running a business that will generate millions of dollars for you.

Once you have completed your planning, you’ll be better able to stay on task, monitor your results, and implement new ideas that may come up during the year. Without a planning calendar, it’s easy to get distracted by a great new idea and forget about the ideas you had already planned to implement.

Planning doesn’t have to be a long, ugly process. Instead, here is a four-hour planning success template. Use a wall calendar, so it’s easy to see the entire year at a glance. In one afternoon, you can create your operations plan for a year. Set aside just four hours to work through this easy, step-by-step process, and you’ll have the shortcut to success.

1:00 – 1:30 p.m.
A Candid Review of the Year
One of the most important parts of planning for the future is to reflect on the year that has just passed. Open your calendar and review your activities for the year.

Take a look at each month for two minutes or so. Write down a couple of successful activities from each month that you want to repeat in the next 12 months. Also, consider the activities that generated disappointing results and write those down, so you can remember to avoid them. It’s also good to make a note of the seminars and events that were productive for you, so you can attend them again.

1:30 – 2:00 p.m.
Create Your Business Targets
Before you can plot out your year, you have to give careful consideration to where you want to be when the year ends. Determine your revenue and customer acquisition goals for the year.

Do you have a customer list that you communicate with on a regular basis? How many names do you want on that list one year from now to allow you to accomplish your goals? From that number, subtract your current customers less expected drop-outs, and that will tell you how many names you will need to add during the year to meet your goals.

How many customers do you need to have to accomplish your profit goals? If you have more than one product, list them out and write down your goal numbers. Now, deduct the number of existing customers you already have less your expected attrition. This will give you the number of new customers you need to generate during the year to meet your goals.

If you are worried that all of these numbers are inaccurate guesses, that’s O.K. You can add a task for the coming year to create a better business statistic tracking system. These are all difficult questions to answer; just do the best you can and feel free to revise the numbers as you go.

You’ve worked for an hour, and your calendar is still blank. Twenty-five percent of your time is up, and you have “nothing” to show for your effort. While it may look like you haven’t accomplished anything, setting your goals now will make the next 12 months a lot more successful. Although you haven’t yet planned a single event or activity, you’ll be better for the time you have spent reviewing the past year and creating your business targets.

2:00 – 2:30 p.m.
Customer Acquisition
When you get embroiled in running your business on a daily basis, it’s easy to become focused on the operational deadlines. Handling customer paperwork, monthly reports, employee meetings, and vendor telephone calls can dominate your time. It’s much easier to have success and to generate profits by selling products to your existing customers, and a lot of business owners focus the majority of their marketing efforts there because they enjoy those activities. However, customer acquisition is critical to the long-term success of your business.

No matter how loyal your customers are today, eventually they won’t be your customers. It is critical to add new customers every month, so you can increase your business and also maintain it.

In the last planning step, you listed your customer acquisition goals for each of your programs. Now, you need to outline the marketing work for the year to generate those customers. For each month, map out customer acquisition offers, events, and marketing campaigns.

Consider if there are new marketing lists you can use for direct mail campaigns, joint venture partners, or new offers to try. The key is to make sure you continue your customer acquisition efforts throughout the entire year.

2:30 – 3:00 p.m.
Sales to Existing Customers
As your business grows, you’ll discover customer acquisition increases in cost. Perhaps this year, if you spent $3,800.00 on a marketing campaign, you could get 42 new customers. In the coming year, you may discover that same $3,800.00 delivers only 33 new customers. These increasing costs require you to focus a lot of attention on selling additional products and services to your existing members.

Plan activities that will generate additional revenue from your existing customers in two ways: 1) maximize the average amount your customers purchase; and 2) increase the frequency with which your customers purchase from you.

How can you increase the amount customers spend with you during each transaction? Are there little items you can add to give customers small options? What “premium” versions of your product and services can you create for those customers that want more expensive options?

What promotions, new product launches, and communications will you do each month to encourage your current customers to purchase more frequently? Is it smart for you to implement a points program that rewards your best customers and encourages all of your customers to buy from you more often?

3:00 – 3:20 p.m.
Fulfillment/Customer Relationships
Once you acquire a customer, the most important thing you can do is to keep your promises. If your marketing told the customer you would deliver a product that would solve a particular problem, you better deliver that product. Providing high-quality products helps you retain customers longer, makes them want to buy more, and encourages them to upgrade to higher level coaching programs.

Map out the activities you need to do to prepare your customer fulfillment. What are you going to do to make sure customers receive what they purchase? Also include time for product enhancements. What are you going to do to increase the value of your products to your customers?

3:20 – 3:40 p.m.
Administrative Improvements
Take a few minutes to note any administrative improvements you want to make during the year. It’s easy to leave administrative priorities off of planning calendars and then take care of them as they become important to you. However, planning for them makes it easier to execute your marketing because your momentum isn’t getting interrupted by emergencies that could have been avoided.

Do you need to add people to your team? Are your employment policies up-to-date? Do you need to create some educational materials for your team, so they have a better understanding of your goals and activities to help them do their jobs? Do you have scripts to handle in-bound customer calls? Are there problem vendors that need to be replaced? Do you need to set up an investment program to maximize cash you receive from your business?

These activities need to be planned out for the year to make sure you allocate time to complete them. There is no sense worrying about them or feeling guilty because you don’t get them all done. Plan some time each month during the year to get a few of these items completed. By the end of the year, you’ll be a lot better off than if you had tried to fit them in as you went along.

3:40 – 4:00 p.m.
Add Date Commitments
In the first step, you noted some conferences and programs you would like to attend in the next year. Go ahead and make a note of any of those dates that are available.

Note any dates for mastermind groups or coaching programs you participate in. Look for conferences within your niche that you should attend. Plus, this is a good time to note events you’ve wanted to attend, but haven’t found time for in the past.

4:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Big Picture Planning
Take a quick look at that list of successes and disappointments you created in the first phase of your planning. Are there any successes that need to be included in your calendar for next year? Are there any disappointments from last year repeated on your calendar that need to be removed?

Also, look at the work distribution. Did you load up too much work in any given month? Are travel commitments reasonable to maintain your workload? Are there ways to redistribute activities to make projects easier?

Look at the year. Are there ways to move activities around for efficiencies and to make sure you don’t create impossible deadlines for yourself?

4:30 – 5:00 p.m.
Update Your Personal Calendar
Open your personal calendar and put all of the dates and work you mapped out on the wall into your personal calendar. If you are running your business in addition to a job or another business you operate, plan around the work you have to do for that company.

But go through and set aside appointments with yourself to make sure you have the appropriate time to execute your business needs. Save some time for other activities that may pop up as you go along. Something always comes up unexpectedly, so give yourself several hours of flexibility per week at this stage of your planning.

Shortcut to Success
While it’s good to have your planning calendar up where you can see it, you may not want it on your wall all year long. If not, set aside an hour or two each month to pull out your calendar and see if you are on track with the shortcut you laid out at the beginning of the year.

If you discover you are behind on a couple of activities, it’s a lot easier to get caught up if only a month or two have gone by. If you remember four months later that you were supposed to do something to generate an activity or revenue, chances are you’ve lost that opportunity for the year.

Use this planning time as a year-round tool for success.

Tools of Success
Before you begin your planning process, collect these tools that will help you map out your activities for the year:

Jumbo yearly wall calendar (erasable)
Essential to the project, one of the 2’x3’ dry erase posters made by the At-A-Glance company will work. It allows you to see the year as a whole and how the weeks/months flow together.

Dry erase markers
When you buy your calendar, make sure you ask for dry erase markers. If you buy one of the eight-color packages, you can code each color for a different business function. You are free to come up with a color coding system that meets your needs; here is one option:
Black – Business deadlines, tax filings, administrative requirements of running your business
Red – New customer acquisition activities
Blue – Increasing your customer value (average purchase size/purchase frequency)
Green – Customer fulfillment and relationship activities
Yellow – Seminars/meetings/coaching programs you are attending
Orange – Personal activities/holidays/birthdays
Brown – Administrative improvements in your business that you should schedule in advance
Purple – Events you are producing

Post-it® notes
These are nice to have in case you want to write a little more than you can with the dry erase markers. Also, it’s easier to move a comment to a new date if you change your mind. The small 2” square ones in multiple colors are best. However, don’t try to use these small notes instead of writing directly on the calendar. The notes tend to fall off after a couple of hours, and you’ll find some of them on the floor the next day.

Round stickers
One-inch round color coding stickers are good for noting recurring deadlines, such as writing your newsletter. Just write a quick note on the sticker and put it on the correct date.

Author's Bio: 

Robert Skrob, CPA, publishes three newsletters a month for three different industries, and each year plans several events, seminars, and training programs that involve multiple speakers. Robert’s greatest skill is his marketing expertise, which allows him to generate customers for his business as well as for his consulting clients. Each week, Robert hosts Business Profits Radio, a radio show dedicated to helping business owners make more money and go home earlier. More info at