Growing Your Business with Marketing, Week 12: Following up & keeping on

This is Week 12 of a 52-week project/experiment in DIY marketing. Armed with nothing but a copy of the 2009 Grow Your Business Marketing Plan + Calendar and my bare wits, I'm applying the skills you need to grow a business in real time, day by day, and reporting on them week by week. You can follow along here every Monday; check in with my companion blog, A Virgo's Guide to Marketing, for additional links and information.

If you're working the Veteran's Calendar literally, you'll be launching your site this week. I've been tweaking mine, adding pages and features and thinking about some long-term plans for making it more manageable (and fun, which will keep it more manageable for me).

It's been a full week since I got back from my biggest conference of the year, South by Southwest Interactive, and I'm still playing a lot of catchup. (Mmm…ketchup….) I have yet to follow up with everyone I met, or even to get them into my system, but I have this project to keep me honest, so I know I will.

This week has been mostly about me recovering from the excitement and crazy expenditure of energy, and yes, even grappling with the little bit of depression involved in coming down off of a high. SXSW is a mentally energizing experience, but translating that into day-to-day work and maintaining the "high" on a long-term basis can get tricky. There's even a panel on it at the conference, so I know I'm not the only one dealing with this issue. Here's what I've set up to help me so far…

Behind Every Accomplishment Lies Accountability

For me, at least, it really helps to have systems in place to keep me motivated and on track. That's what this calendar is about, and that's what all my meetups, accountability partners and support groups are about. I have several things I put in place immediately to help me deal with what look like some pretty big self-directed projects ahead:

My marketing coach, Ilise, is the accountability thread that runs through everything. Sometimes I hate our weekly talks—when I'm stuck or frustrated or have been lax—and sometimes I love them. Sometimes I go into them hating them and end up loving them. I'd almost call this a luxurious resource except that for me, it's a necessity (or at least, it has been) for keeping me focused, calm and productive. I can be all of those things by myself when I have to, but I'm more likely to let myself off the hook if no one is looking.

And I can't overemphasize the importance of a common thread. Ilise helped me get my design business off the ground a few years ago; without her, I'm positive I might have made a go of it but I would probably not have met my financial goals (hell, knowing me, I probably wouldn't have set any!). Then she helped me make the transition to my more marketing-focused business of consulting and speaking. Now, since a revelation at SXSW, she's helping me focus it even more tightly by pushing me (gently) to stick to a writing proposal schedule. (I made some headway with a good publisher in Austin; not ready to spill it yet, but I'll keep you posted.)

I can see the value in having serial coached (mmm…cereal…) but having that thread means she's able to see my strengths and weaknesses more quickly, and to hold up examples from the past that may have bearing on the present. I wish for you someone in your business life like Ilise.

My friends are helping me with another accountability task. I really want to dial up the (paid) writing, and I started putting it out there. At SXSW, when I finally met my friend Gretchen Rubin in person, we talked writing for almost two hours. She drew my book idea from me and liked it; I asked her to help me with accountability and she agreed. (My first deadline is April 1st, for a Table of Contents.) Another friend who's in book PR has been funneling me ideas and gently pushing me to keep going, which—surprise, surprise—does!

I bring both of these up not to toot my horn but for two reasons: to point out the value of asking very specifically and respectfully for the help you need, and to point out that I know both of these ladies via the Internet. Gretchen is a new-to-me friend, and Gigi is an old high school friend who reconnected with me via Facebook because—hear this, Twitter deniers!—she loved my updates.

My other friends are helping me stay on the enthusiasm train.
I have a small group of women friends who meet up semi-regularly, and have been for the past four or five years. We talk about all kinds of things, but we definitely include our work projects. It's incredibly helpful to just have support in general, but also really useful to recount to someone what you've accomplished in the past two or so months since you've seen each other. It's easy to forget day-to-day what you've been able to do over a whole lot of days; these less frequent meetups help remind me and keep me encouraged.

My friend makes me hold her accountable. In a twist on that "if you want to really learn something, try teaching it to someone else" thought, being the one who holds someone else accountable can help keep you honest. When I get that weekly check-in, it's a shot of inspiration and a humbling reminder of the value of consistent work. I love my phone calls from my aspiring writer friend at least as much, if not more than, my own calls to my peeps.

Taking care of bread and butter stuff

Of course, while I took it a bit easier this week, I still tried to stay on track with some of my tasks and goals. I'm sorry to say that once again, I bailed on cold calls, but I did manage to take care of some other bidness:

  • I got back on the local networking train. It would have been easy to blow off my Freelancer Friday meetup (or anything else) this week, having just gotten back from meeting a slew of peeps. But I live here in L.A., and really want to keep building my ties to this community. Glad I went, because I met a super-interesting serial entrepreneur (and fellow smart-a**) whom I think may end up being a good friend, not to mention a good influence.
  • I added yet more pages to my main website. I've been meaning to add a policy page for some time, and I finally did it this week. The impetus was a decision to join an affiliate network that would let me recommend audiobooks and music downloads; they require a privacy policy linked to from the front page, ergo I made one. I also added a navigational column to the front page which gives people yet another way to find what they're looking for faster.
  • I added a new feature to my website. The Make-a-Referral thing that John Jantsch started is starting to take on a life of its own. I've had a brief initial email exchange with him about ideas for getting something going on a bigger, more official level, but for now, I'm instituting my own "Referral Friday" feature on the site. It lets me do something cool and gives me a topic to write around every Friday, which reduces psychic load. Win-win! (And take THAT, economy!)
  • I caught up on some backlogged items. I was two podcasts and many, many reply emails behind. I'm not all caught up, but I got the podcasts done, chipped away at the email, and also did some behind-the-scenes admin stuff I'm hoping will make my communications go more smoothly. More on that once it's in place.

The biggest, most delightful—and yes, surprising—discovery of the past couple of weeks has been seeing how the work I've put in so far pays off in mysterious ways.  A lot of the discussion at SXSW (at least, among the people I respect and admire) was about just doing really, really great work and putting it out there, and trusting that eventually, the right people will find it and you'll start seeing some success.

There's no question that putting myself out there again and again by writing a lot of articles, meeting a lot of good people, getting into a lot of interesting conversations and all kinds of other interactive things has made a difference.

It's helping me get through what feels like a natural dip in enthusiasm three months into this game. (Yikes! Three months!?!) At least, I think it is.

I'm curious to know where everyone else is at. Is your mojo flagging? Are you still on track with your goals? Are you seeing any return on your investment? Is it what you thought it would be, or something different?

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