Work Backwards: 12 Steps for Planning Ahead

I spent Saturday with 8 yoga-instructor-slash-massage-therapists who had these amazing, innovative, touching ideas to honor the Moms in their care. And no one was writing the ideas down. No one was saving these universe-comforting ideas. No one was planning.

I wanted to bite through the radiator.

[Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at]

So here it is, the simplest and most logical way I know to plan ahead: work backwards.

Here’s a 12 Backwards-Steps To-Do list that you can apply to any marketing activity: mailings, presentations, grand openings, anniversaries, fundraisers, etc.

  1. Pick a deadline. For example’s sake, we’ll look at Mother’s Day. (It’s on the horizon. Oh yes, it is.) This year it’s May 13, 2018. [See our Calendar Awareness Dates for more.]
  2. Create list material just for this project. I like to make a paper file (I know, I’m antiquated) with blank calendar pages and scrap paper for lists. As you do stuff like this over the years, this file will contain last year’s plans, lists, and your after-event reviews. Write details so you can read them the following year.
  3. Write down your goal(s) for this promotion. Be very, very clear and specific about what you want to accomplish. Let’s say you are concerned about the commercialization of Mother’s Day. Instead of promoting gift certificates, you want to create an event where mothers and children can learn new/fun techniques to care for each other. Get really specific: age groups, health focus, what you want them to be saying as they arrive or as they leave.
  4. Brainstorm for your promotion and write all ideas down. All of them. I mean it. For a Mother’s Day gathering: Foot, head-neck-shoulder, hand-arm massage techniques. Healthy, easy cooking. Natural make-up demonstration. Stretching for sports, at work, to relax. Two other health practitioners to speak on supportive topics — make it a group effort. Bellydancing. Pilates.
  5. Run your brainstorm list(s) through several logic checks. Check it against your goal(s). It’s okay to adjust one to fit the other. Jettison the stuff that isn’t going to work for this event. But don’t throw your ideas away. You can use them another time.
  6. Now stop and critique where you are right now. Do you have a clear goal? How many people would have to participate to make this worth your while? Do you have enough clientele who would be interested in this? Do you have enough time to put everything together? Enough time to contact and gather the right number of clients?
  7. Run your plans by several friends and colleagues. No matter how great and appealing your ideas seem to you, it’s best to have someone ask “Why?”
  8. Plan and budget the most important stuff first. If you need to book a place or arrange for a speaker, get that arranged first. Then see what’s left in the budget. If you need 4 quarts of helichrysum hydrosol, make sure you can receive it before your event date.
  9. Start marketing. Contact the clients you think would be interested. Tell them how your event will benefit them, how fun it will be, how “bonding” the experience will be. Send letters, postcards, emails. You know the drill. If you’re doing an event, I recommend charging a registration fee or, if you don’t want to engage in dollars, do something like a potluck. What you want to do is to get some sort of obligation or commitment from your clients so they are less likely to “forget” about your event at the last minute.
  10. Do the fun stuff. Buy decorations, pick out snacks. Enjoy planning to make a memorable experience for your guests. Be sure to get napkins.
  11. Continue marketing. Make it a big deal. It is a big deal. If you still have space available, alert the media.
  12. Enjoy yourself. If you aren’t having fun with a promotion you’ve created, if you aren’t thrilled to be telling people about it, you’re not doing it right. When you plan things well, you get time to enjoy your success. People will know that you are happy and will want to be a part of your work. Promise.

However you go about it, planning ahead will eliminate missed opportunities. Every opportunity gained invigorates your practice and gives you more marketing confidence.