Why We Use a Living Plan

Our boss has an old adage taped above his desk that reads, “That which is measured, is managed.” And lucky for us, the fact that he applies the logic behind this sentence to almost everything he does has enabled Solutions 8 to stay agile, competitive and fresh in an often unpredictable landscape.

That’s not to say it’s unpredictable all the time. In fact, it’s only unpredictable all the time to those who don’t quantify their goals, data and variables. Simply, people who don’t measure stuff have a hard time not only keeping track of what they set out to do, but also struggle to make good predictions.

Through measurement, we create plans that contain clear-cut objectives, make predictions based on past/present data and identify factors that can influence outcome.

Living vs. Static

Now that we’ve established that measuring and planning are marvelous things to do, let’s talk about plans and why we prefer ours on the lively side.

Anyone who’s seen a blueprint has seen a static plan. All components in a blueprint are meticulously delineated and, barring some awful miscalculation or accident, will remain unchanged throughout the project. Even the land will fall under the influence of the design, as it’s cleared and leveled to within a millimeter of specification.

And this works great for a structure whose purpose is to stand solid and endure immutably for all time.

But what if what you’re building needs to be somewhat fluid? It’s not going to rest on firm ground, nor will environmental changes be mild or easily predictable. Although you’re sure of your goal, you’re not at all sure how your plan’s going to look because it bears testing in different terrains, climates and populaces to see what works best.

If these are your circumstances, you might be a digital marketer. And you need a plan that’s malleable, that can slough off dead skin and grow new, that can be gently coaxed down strange avenues; you need a plan that lives.

Better Together

So now that you understand that we, at Solutions 8, would recoil in horror at the mere suggestion of no plan at all, we’d like you to know how much we thoroughly delight in building and becoming immersed in our non-restrictive living plans, which give us the chance to use what we’ve learned, experiment, learn even more, hone reasoning powers, get creative, etc.; all while staying on track.

But our favorite thing about the living plan is the way it keeps clients involved in the process. It might surprise some people to know that this is something we encourage and appreciate, but we find that it leads to greater understanding and unity all the way around.

Our living plan is developed in concert with our clients and lives in a Google Spreadsheet that is shareable, easy to navigate and contains every piece of information that has to do with a particular project. Information is constantly updated and all communications regarding the project take place within the plan, so that everyone involved is obliged to refer to it often and, therefore, stay informed and on track.

Here’s a good “for instance:” say you’re a daring entrepreneurial type (client) who just heard about a cool new marketing tool or a digital marketer (us) who’s feverishly trying to unlock the code and figure out how to quadruple clients’ conversions; you’re working in an überstimulating atmosphere full of abrupt, intense developments; and you’re on fire to make major changes in the plan right now!

This is when the calm, knowing living plan lays its hand on your shoulder and asks you, politely, to simmer down. The plan is in place to remind everyone what the original goals are, facilitate conversation as to whether all current strategies are in line with those goals and, if not, get everyone thinking about what strategies need to be tweaked or dumped.

And because it’s “alive,” the plan is flexible. It allows for loves change, as long as it’s organic to the plan and in line with goals. In the rare, but possible, event that the mission statement needs changing, a whole new living plan is most likely in order. In any case, change is how we gain traction when we’re stalled, how we avoid dead ends, how we learn and how we win.

Nuts and Bolts

Though the living plan is flexible, it’s hardly loosey-goosey. In fact, it’s quite beautifully organized and, because of that, easy to navigate and digest. Since it’s housed in a spreadsheet, each part of the plan occupies its own worksheet, the first one starting, befittingly, at the beginning.

01 Why We Use a Living Plan

Campaign – This worksheet serves as both project overview and touchstone, containing:

  • Campaign Info: Client contact info, monthly budget, agreed-upon units and ad budget.
  • Services: Breakdown of services to be employed within campaign, e.g. paid search, SEO, email, social, etc., with budget allotments for each, as well as which Solutions 8 team members will be handling which tasks.
  • Mission Statement: Campaign-specific and the heart of the living plan, serving as steadfast reminder of overall project goal/goals.
  • Scope of Work: Lists agreed-upon responsibilities/task and, if necessary, what they do and don’t entail.
  • M.A.R.T. Digital Marketing Goals: Primary marketing goals that need to be reviewed regularly and reported against. In order for goals to make this list, they must be Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-based. If they can’t be quantified, they aren’t goals.
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Data points that act as measurements of the success of different strategies against the goals they’re expected to meet, e.g. total number of leads in a week, monthly organic website traffic, total cost of customer acquisition, etc.
  • Project Links: All project-essential links, including the original proposal, onboarding answers, passwords doc., Asana (job site), Asana Training, Solutions 8 site, etc.

02 Unit Chart

Unit Chart – This worksheet list the types and numbers of content units the project will require, their itemized costs and the management/development services that go along with them.

  • Cost: Our “per-unit” pricing makes it easy to see exactly how much each type of content will cost.
  • Static Content: Includes blogs, emails, social media, brochures, infographics, quizzes, case studies, etc.
  • Dynamic Content: Includes voiceovers, slide shares, landing pages, typographic videos, animated videos, custom images, etc.
  • Management/Development: Includes web maintenance, AB testing, SEO management, Facebook management, microsite development, 5-point-funnel creation, etc.

03 Client

Client – Although most, if not all, of the items on this worksheet should already be in the onboarding document, we like these elements to remain highly visible so all team members never lose sight of who they’re representing.

  • Company Story (Soul): It’s important for us to know the unique story behind every company we work with and the “spirit” in which it operates.
  • SWOT: Breakdown of a company’s particular Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and T
  • Product/Market Fit: Tells us how a client sees their product changing their Avatar’s life, as they detail how their product adds value, changes mood, impacts an ordinary day and affects status.
  • Statement of Value: Client’s unique selling proposition, where they describe what their product allows their Avatar to experience.
  • Explanation of Product/Service: Comprehensive description of offering and how it works.
  • Competitive Analysis: Contains the names of your primary competitors, along with their URL’s, with a comparison of how their marketing campaigns are doing as opposed to yours, along with insights into what they may be doing right or wrong.

04 Avatar

Avatar – Much more than a “target demographic”, an Avatar is a unique, individual “real” customer whose head we’ve gotten inside and whose heart we want to win over. We like to create at least two with every client.

  • Basic Info: We want to know everything; like age, gender, marital status, children (how many, how old), location, quote, occupation, job title, income and education.
  • Psychology: Here we identify, develop and explain the Avatar’s goals, values, challenges, pain points, objections and role in the purchase process.
  • Sources of Information: What feeds the Avatar’s brain? This list of core influencers includes books, magazines, blogs/websites, conferences, guru, etc.

05 Funnel (Offer Name)

Funnel (Offer Name) – Named after the core offer (product, service), the funnel is the process we use to guide prospective customers toward conversion, starting with a lead magnet(s) at the top of the funnel designed to bring in leads.

  • Lead Magnet: A “bribe” offered to the customer in exchange for their contact info, usually in the form of content that we position to be perceived as valuable.  This section identifies the type of lead magnet being used and, in addition to those listed above, order form, sale, service delivery, short-form video service page, etc.
  • Tripwire: A low-dollar offer with high perceived value designed to get prospective customers into the habit of paying our clients money, thereby establishing them as actual customers, which can include $1 trial subscriptions, $8 sample packs, $20 trial memberships, etc.
  • Core Offer: These are products/services a company is most known for and what they should make/do better than anyone else.
  • Profit Maximizer: No one ever said that the best profits come from core offers. Just ask Ray Kroc, who hardly made anything off his burgers, but made a killing on the fries and sodas.
  • Ascension: Turning customers into repeat or high-ticket customers through both triggered and broadcast campaigns.
  • Return Path: Continued, frequent engagement with customers, such as loyalty programs, ad retargeting or exit offers, that keep them coming back in perpetuity.

06 Management

Management –  Besides rocks and milestones, this worksheet tracks accruing tasks, services and costs against those that have been ordered and agreed upon – this is where clients can see that we’re doing the things we promised to do, at the prices we contracted for.

  • Rocks: Overarching tasks that need to be completed against a timeline, like a website build, funnel development, paid ad campaign, etc.
  • Milestones: “Wins” that are smaller realize goals and, though they may not yield much value on their own, can be indicators of future success and can be used as a benchmark against which we place future rocks.

07 Content

Content – This worksheet features what all team members need to know about the performance of every piece of campaign content, for here we report month-to-month page views, time-on-page, bounce, conversion and shares so we can track progress and make changes as needed.

08 Reports

Reports – The final worksheet in our living plan are basically the results of its “physical exam,” complete with blood test, EKG and MRI. Yep, it’s thorough because it has to be, since this is where we find out how robust our plan really is and whether it’s going to thrive in its current state.

  • M.A.R.T. Goals: Remember those from Worksheet One? Here’s where we find out if we’re hitting them.
  • KPIs: We quantified these in worksheet one, as well, and now we get to see how we’ve been performing, both month-to-month, and overall.
  • Report Links: Links to reporting tools we use for different tasks like email, SEO, keyword, social media, etc.

When it comes to digital marketing campaigns, we don’t think there’s a better approach in the world than the living plan. Not only does it act as a highly intuitive guide to increasing fresh lead numbers—keeping acquisition costs low, skyrocketing brand recognition, boosting conversion rates and creating strong, loyalty-based customer relationships—but it also serves as a wisdom-packed template for future campaigns.

Wondering if a living plan might be right for you? Or maybe you’re in need of more specific marketing services. We’d love to give you a free digital marketing audit to help identify which elements of your current plan are working for you, and which could use improvement.


Our Living Plan (2)

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