The Magic of Marketing Time

I’ll confess it right now. I flunked the Marketing Plan + Calendar this year.

I started out with the best of intentions. I was really going to do my marketing work this year. I was going to get in the habit of doing it every day, following the directions, reading the books, listening to the podcasts, and checking off that wonderful little box next to the words “I did my marketing today.”

I was doing pretty good until about mid-March, when a wave of the type of projects I really love started rolling in fast and furious. I missed a day or two, then a week, and pretty soon the calendar was sitting on a shelf gathering dust.

The problem was I was still doing marketing when I “had time.” It’s easy to work up the motivation to do it when business is slow and you’re feeling a little desperate, but if you don’t keep at it when business is good, you’re only doing part of the work.

Three months ago I started the mentoring process with Peleg Top. We quickly realized that the identity I had chosen when I took the plunge into the freelance world seven years ago wasn’t working for me. I needed to re-invent my identity, redefine my position, write new versions of my vision and mission, and—you guessed it—do a lot of marketing work to launch the new concept. It wouldn’t be enough to do the work where I could catch a few minutes between jobs.

Then Peleg hit upon a solution that made the necessary time appear like magic. He said: “You need to get out of the house.”

A few days later, I started working in a “satellite office” (read: “local coffee shop”) for 2-3 hours of dedicated marketing time each week. I made a commitment to do it every week, no matter what.

As it turns out, the scheduled block of time and the change of scenery have been exactly what I’ve needed. I shift marketing time to a different day of the week if a work or personal commitment conflicts with my usual day, but I haven’t missed a week yet. I try to take as little of my “normal” office life with me. I bring a laptop, but it isn’t always open and I try to leave e-mail turned off unless I’m using it for a specific marketing task.

The results: in just three months I’ve completed more self-promotion work than I was able to do in the previous two years combined. In fact, the hardest part of the process was finding the right coffee shop (hint: there’s no free Wi-Fi at Starbucks).

Marketing time isn’t just having a positive impact on my business; it’s changing my life. I look forward to it every week as a break from my regular routine, and it’s been phenomenally productive so far. I still have a few months to go before I launch my new identity, but many key parts of the development work are complete. I know my position and my target market more intimately than ever, have a draft white paper in process, and feel more energized about my business than I have in years.

Here’s something else that I’m noticing: tasks that once seemed tedious and boring are now amazingly easy and interesting simply because I’m doing them somewhere else in a dedicated time slot. I’ve started doing things like sending hand-written thank-you notes to clients and colleagues. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but until now I usually felt too pressured to take the time.

Last week, something even more amazing happened. I was working on a copywriting assignment—a paying job that was due later that day—when I got an inspiration for the e-mail newsletter that I’ll be launching later this year. I’ve been doing this long enough that I know not to ignore this sort of thing…ideas have to be written down when they come, otherwise they may not come back. I opened a scratch file and typed a quick one-line description of the topic. Then I thought of another one. And another. Then two more…

Fifteen minutes later I had no less than 17 topics…enough to drive a monthly newsletter for more than a year. My creative surge over, I went back to finishing my assignment with the satisfaction that I had done productive marketing work in the middle of my regular workday.

In other words, by scheduling and sticking to my “marketing time” routine, I’ve started developing habits that creep into other times of the week. Yesterday I sent a hand-written thank-you note to a colleague that I wrote outside of marketing time. I’ll probably continue to do most of my marketing tasks during my weekly trips to the coffee shop, but I’m also operating from a self-promotion mindset more often during the rest of the week.

But here’s the thing that’s surprising me the most: for the first time in my solo career, I’m doing marketing work regularly…and I like it.

Thanks to Tom “TNT” Tumbusch of Digital Dynamite in Cincinnati OH.