All great companies are built on a linear path: Principles, Strategy, Tactics.

–Dan Kennedy, No B.S. Brand-Building By Direct Response

What do Bill Gates, Andy Grove and Steve Jobs all have in common?

Actually, quite a lot.

But one of the major talents all three men shared was/is the ability to “reason back.”

I often tell my clients, “Don’t think about what you want your marketing to do.” Thinking about your marketing efforts often leads you to think about your tactics FIRST…the little steps and tools you need to take to get there. This will block you from dreaming big. And if you think of TACTICS before STRATEGY and even your company PRINCIPLES, you will quickly feel overwhelmed and emotionally drained.

Start with your company PRINCIPLES AND MISSION.

Where do you want your company to be six months from now in terms of…

  • Sales?
  • Clients/Customers?
  • Brand Visibility?
  • Social Media Attention?
  • Media Mentions?
  • Employee Growth?
  • Physical Market Growth?
  • Identity/Language?**

**(will your company’s brand identity stay the same in six months or do you want it to shift over the next six months or whatever time frame you insert here?)

Once you’ve answered these questions, you have aligned your goals with your PRINCIPLES, which will determine your STRATEGY.

Pull out a calendar and prepare your MARKETING STRATEGY.

Circle the date six months from now or twelve months from now or whatever you prefer. I recommend working in shorter time frames to remain agile with unexpected business developments.

Take a look at the date. How are you going to get there? What general areas of marketing do you need to attack? Don’t think of the little things right now. Just think in broad terms of Owned Media (content you create and own such as blog posts, press releases, emails, newsletters, direct mail), Earned Media (press coverage, guest blogs or podcast interviews, influencer mentions), Paid Media (Google ads, print ads, commercials) and Shared Media (social media such as Facebook or Twitter posts).

Outside of marketing content, don’t forget about what you may need in broad terms of SEO, Web Design, Platform Development, Events, Affiliates, etc.

Create your TACTICS and work backwards on the calendar.

Now, after identifying what types of marketing you’ll need, you’ll need to define the TACTICS to accomplish goals in each of these marketing areas. Tactics are divided into five tasks:

  1. GATHER RESOURCES (Writers, designers, graphics, PR strategist, research, numbers)
  2. CREATE CONTENT and ASSETS (graphic design, a web landing page, all the emails in a sequence, copy for printed newsletters or mailings, video footage, picture galleries)
  4. RELEASE/DRIP CONTENT and ASSETS to PUBLIC (or to the media, influencers, affiliate partners, etc. Remember to add plenty of lead time for folks at media outlets and blogs!)
  5. MEASURE AND RESPOND (be prepared to answer questions in real time, or have someone do it for you, keep tabs every couple of days on what’s doing great and what’s bombing so you can tweak your other scheduled assets before they’re released!)

FOR EXAMPLE: Say you own a spa and you’re rolling out a new skincare line and you want to be known as the “one-stop shop” for pampering six months from now. So, in terms of strategy, you may decide in your Owned Content strategy that you need to write a promotional email sequence that builds up your clients’ excitement and offers them first dibs on the products, or in your Shared Content strategy you should release a carefully-timed set of Instagram photos that give sneak peeks of the skincare line and its results on real people. So, starting at the END DATE of your overall goals, work visually backward on the calendar to determine which day to “RELEASE” Email #6, Photo #4, Press Release #3, etc. until you’ve counted all the way down. Then do the same thing for “CREATE” and “GATHER.” This will help you pace your content and assets release, determine what you need to create and how much time you need to create it, who you will need on your team and when to bring them in, and visibly see when you get closer to those big goals.

Dream ahead, reason back.

RECOMMENDED: Summer Business Reading Must-Have, Strategy Rules by David B. Yoffie and Michael A. Cusumano.