Over 2,500 years ago, an ancient Chinese military strategist named Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War. In that book lies the answer to how you can grow your online business. In this post, I’m going to talk about what it is and how you can immediately apply it. The result of this mission – if you choose to accept it – will be less overwhelm, less confusion, and more structured action to get the revenue and traffic you want from your blogging.
But first, let me ask you a question…
Have you ever worked all day – or even a good chunk of the week – and got to the end of it and been struck with how little forward progress you feel you actually made?
What about doing that for months – or even YEARS!
Now, look at your blogging and your online business. What if you found yourself having worked for months at it and yet feel as if you’ve barely gotten off the starting line?
Perhaps you’re there.
Trust me, I know how it goes.
Even After 16 Years, I Still Messed It Up
What I speak of in this post isn’t something that I can honestly sit on a pedestal about and lecture you on. While I’ve gotten it right at many times in my long history online… I’ve also gotten it wrong.
See, for the last year or so, I was flying by the seat of my pants with my business. I would go from promotion to promotion, without really building real leverage in between. I’d get some idea and just run with it. From the outside (and the inside, most likely), it probably seemed like I was all over the place.
The podcast is a great example. I started it, then paused it, then restarted it, then paused it again.
Now, today… it has been restarted. This time I can pretty confidently say I will stick to the release schedule on it and that’s because of something I’m going to be talking about in this blog post.
And that pattern could be seen in other aspects of my business.
It isn’t that I didn’t know what I was doing. That’s the thing… I’m pretty good at what I do. But, you take all the knowledge in the world and don’t guide it, and the result will be the same.
Stagnation. And a lost war.
The Missing Ingredient
In the world of employment, things are honestly easier. You’re told what to do and in which direction to point. You don’t really have to think much about it. Your managers are supposed to know what they’re doing. You just do it and pick up your paycheck on Friday.
Being an entrepreneur is a lot more difficult because there’s nobody sitting there telling you which direction to go in.
Without that larger vision, many entrepreneurs end up concentrating on the outward appearance of success. I can’t tell you the number of brand new budding business owners who make it their top priority to get nice looking business cards. It is almost as if having a stack of business cards means they’re officially a business owner.
Online, many do the same thing. Only instead of business cards, it is all about the website, the blog, the Twitter account… all that stuff. So, before we have any idea what the actual PLAN is, we move full force into building a blog.
However, traveling that path usually leads to stagnation.
It is because you’re only concentrated on the FORM of the thing you want. On the outcome.
This Is Practically Natural Law…
The reason that mindless forward movement on the FORM of the business you want doesn’t usually work is because of natural law.
There is a principle of BE-DO-HAVE. It is just natural law. And it goes like this…
If you BE a certain thing, then DO a certain thing… then you will HAVE a certain thing.
Now, what many people do is reverse that. They think that if they HAVE a certain thing, they’ll be able to DO things they want and then BE who they want to be. So, in our example, one may think that having that fancy blog online will then empower you to do certain things, and then you’ll be able to BE what you want (fulfilled, happy, etc.)
It really doesn’t work very well in reverse. And trying to do it in reverse is often what leads people into total frustration on why they cannot DO the things that are needed (feeling overwhelmed, or not knowing what to do next) and why they can’t BE who they want to be (not stuck in a 9-5, free, etc.)
Your body would just sit there and do nothing if it weren’t preceded by your mind and soul. Your body would literally just be a clump of cells. And that would also be true of your blog if it is not backed up by knowledge (the mind) and a direction (the soul). Your blog is just a bunch of bits and bytes on a server somewhere until it is given MEANING.
So, let’s look at this as natural law dictates…
First, you need to BE. Then, by being that, you will DO certain things. And in the end, you will then HAVE certain things.
Now, back up to my last year of business… I was simply doing things and trying to have certain things happen because of it. But, what was lacking was the BE.
The question is… how the HELL do you translate this natural law into something practical we can actually use?
Here it is…
Developing A Strategic Plan
That’s the answer: A strategic plan.
But, let’s look at what this is. And to get started, I’m going to talk about war.
See, a war is usually a long-term effort. And within it are a lot of fronts and battles. And you may have heard the saying before that you can lose a battle, but still win the war.
Sun Tzu said in The Art of War:
The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.
Nowhere in history is a war which was won without strategic planning. The individual battles would be played out according to the overall strategic plan, and the soldiers on the ground would simply do what they’re told, often without knowing the overall strategy.
If we look at this in terms of BE-DO-HAVE, then it totally holds true. To have the war won, you need to do certain things. But, before all of that comes the BE. It is who determines the overall direction, the “why”, and the birds-eye view of how to get there.
In business and in life, the way we can do that is using strategic planning.
A strategic plan is a broad, large-scale view of:
- What you want to accomplish.
- Why you want to accomplish it.
- The general plan of action to get there.
In our online businesses, this is a plan which would encompass many months or even years. This is that time that you sit in your “temple” (as Sun Tzu would call it) and make your many calculations BEFORE the battle is fought. BEFORE you build your blog.
… or in the case of somebody (like myself) who has been at it for awhile, BEFORE you embark on your next project or effort.
Because without it, you’re literally like a chicken with its head cut off. Like a body with no soul.
And you can lose not only the next battle, but the war.
How To Create Your Strategic Plan
You can apply this to anything you want. In fact, it can be an eye-opening exercise to make a strategic plan for your life. But, for our purposes, let’s just talk about our blogs and the business we’re going to build to monetize it.
Ask yourself these questions (see below). And I encourage you to actually write down the answers, whether it be on paper or in a document. But, actually DO it.
Here we go…
- What is the situation now?
- What is the outcome that you want? What does it look like?
- What are the main differences between the situation now and the outcome you want? In other words, what things would need to be changed to make your current reality look like the one you want?
- Lay out a very broad series of plans to address those differences.
OK, now a word on this… because I would imagine many could get kinda “stuck” on number 4.
A strategic plan has to be REAL to you. It has to be something which you look at, get excited about, and know you can do it. I’m not saying you think it’ll be easy, but it has to be something that you see accurately bridges the gap between the current situation and your goal.
If you are in a full-time job, taking care of family members in the evening…. yet you made a strategic plan with all these high-and-mighty intentions that don’t take into account the fact that you’re pretty lacking on available time, then the strategic plan would fall flat. So, the plan needs to be REAL. You can absolutely still pull it off, but your plan has to be an effective bridge.
Secondly, the word “strategy” usually entails thinking of clever uses of available resources, various moves one is going to make, and general plans for overcoming obstacles in order to win the objective. So, that’s what you’re doing here.
You’re taking a very large-scale view of things, and putting down a broad series of actions you will do to make your GOAL become a reality in the real world.
Your strategic plan will be pretty general. You’re not necessarily supposed to figure out every little detail of HOW you’re going to do it… because honestly you may not know yet. Plus, things can change. As you learn something new, your approach my change. So, the exact TACTICS you may use to accomplish individual parts of your overall STRATEGY may evolve.
… but you still need that strategy.
It is a statement of purpose. It gives direction.
Without it, you can easily be swayed by any little idea you might read in somebody’s blog post. You can get distracted by some new shiny object which is launched. Without a strategic plan, you’re like a feather in the wind. It’ll feel like everything is constantly changing and you can’t keep up.
This is where all those feelings of overwhelm and “not enough time” come from.
How I Applied It Personally
I sat down a couple weeks ago and I revisited my own strategic plan for the Blog Marketing Academy. And I wrote the whole thing out in Evernote.
I started it out with my current situation with the business, where things stand. And what I feel needs to be addressed. This gives the “why” for the entire plan.
Next, I stated my purpose. It is a broad statement of the purpose of the plan, and entails a vision of what I want the Blog Marketing Academy to look like as a business.
Then, I went to town with my actual plans. I have 12 of them in total, each one addressing a major sector of the business that I want to do something about which will assist in achieving my purpose. Each of these 12 things are just statements of broad intention. They have not been broken down into the actual TACTICS of execution (that’s a separate matter).
While I’m not going to share all 12 here, I’ll give you an example of one:
Going to get a lot more “Dave” out there by way of bringing the podcast back, producing regular videos, and doing regular webinars. The plan will be to make the podcast weekly and the videos weekly. Webinars will be conducted possibly weekly, but at least monthly. Will determine whether GotoWebinar or Hangouts is the best medium to use. Videos can easily be product reviews (organized into a library of product reviews).
This point in the plan was based on a few simple observations:
- In the past, the more that I have personally been “out there” and interacting with people personally (as opposed to primarily the written word), stats have been better.
- Some of my biggest sales days have been on the back of a webinar.
- I still have people tell me all the time that they found my site via my podcast.
- The more people know, like and trust you, the more comfortable they will be doing business with you. This is just marketing 101.
When I compared where I wanted to go and where things were, I spotted the departures.
- I had gotten quite irregular about the podcast.
- I hadn’t done a webinar in quite some time.
- I got irregular about the video blog.
And so, one of the points of my strategic plan is a general statement of purpose in order to fix all that. From that general plan comes the actual executional steps. As you can see, I’ve already executed certain steps with regard to the podcast. The Tech Center is a framework for videos to come. And while you haven’t see anything on webinars from me yet (as of this writing), know that it is coming. 🙂
Over To You
I strongly encourage you to do this.
I also have a question for you…
What differences do YOU think you would notice in your progress with your blog or online business if you had a REAL strategic plan to work by?
Post your answer below. And here’s the thing…
This isn’t just a cute little exercise. I’m challenging you to actually do it, and by posting your answer to that question below in the comments, I’m asking you to future-pace it and see WHY it is worth the time to do it.
Thanks, and I’ll see you below.