Projections aren’t goals

Every project needs a clearly defined goal to have any chance of succeeding. Once the goal is set you may know which way to go, but projections will determine how you get there.

Start by setting ambitious goals

Goals are meant to be ambitious. Instead of reminding yourself that ‘low expectations lead to no disappointment’, go with the ‘aim for the moon and land among the stars’ saying. Also, it may be time to surround yourself with more high-achievers.

My latest goal was to publish my first book. I thought that setting a goal around sales would take away from the accomplishment of creating the book. Then the marketer in me reminded the hippie in me that it’s about your intentions. More book sales mean more people enjoying the book. It means covering printing costs and funding future projects. It even means increasing donations and awareness to important causes.

When setting a goal for your project you want to be ambitious yet realistic. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone sold over 107 million copies. That’s a great long-term goal for an author, but not a realistic one for my three month timeline. Especially for a book of illustrations. Researching similar illustration books, and focusing on their early sales, is a better route.

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Estimate projections based on data

Projections are estimates of how many book sales you expect to generate with various sales and marketing strategies. Best case scenario, you have you own historical data to improve the accuracy of your projections. I don’t. Even though I have nearly decade of marketing consulting to inform my calculations, my experience with self-published books is limited. Along with online research, it’s a good idea to chat with others and learn from their success (and mistakes). This will also help you to breakdown a channel like press into the relevant publications for your audience.

If you’ve heard of quant based marketing, you’re already familiar with working your way backwards. However, this method won’t work unless you understand that projections aren’t goals. Unlike goals, projections aren’t aspirations. You can’t fudge the numbers when the total is lower than your goal. If the numbers don’t add up, you need to keep on researching new strategies to find better ways to reach your goal.

How to use projections to achieve goals

Goals are successfully achieved when you pick strategies based on projections rather than bias. A common trap is picking your favourite strategies despite their low projections. Whether you’re prioritizing your enjoyment or skill, you can’t hope to magically stumble on a tactic that outperforms the projection. The projections are all based on proper execution. Finding the right tactics for each strategy is a given, and your expertise will only ensure there’s less of a difference between the estimate and actual outcome.

You can’t ignore high projections either. It doesn’t matter that podcast ads have a greater reach, or that Instagram ads have a higher conversion rate. The only important metric is the total number of book sales each platform drives. As long as you’re within your budget and timeline, the cost shouldn’t deter you. An expensive strategy that delivers quick results is better slogging away for months with lower returns. This way your time can be better spent on planning a future project to maintain momentum.

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Projections can only try to reduce failure

As much data as you may have, projections are still only estimates. A projection doesn’t know that your content marketing strategy will fail because your domain will be down. This reinforces how crucial it is to select the best strategies to mitigate risk. You may miss your target, but you’re still much closer than if you had started with low performing strategies.

Taking the time to make projections can also minimize your losses by making it easy to adapt. If your original content marketing strategy fails, you can repurpose your content. Projections will help you decide if switching to guest blogging is an easy out, or if it will actually be worth it.

Experience fuels future success

Measuring your success if important, even if there is none. Reflecting on how effective you were will help you avoid mistakes and improve the odds of your future success. Once the project is done, you’ll also be able to compare your initial projections with real results. Understanding the cause of the variance, is the key to becoming better at making increasingly accurate projections in the future. You may discover that you can aim even higher, and feel confident about setting bigger goals.


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An expected twist

The story behind my decanter artwork

Whenever I see decanters, I’m tempted to buy them. They are essentially useless to me, but it’s difficult to resist their beauty and elegance. I try to justify the purchase by imagining other uses for them. Perhaps one could be used to serve water, another to store cotton balls, and a third as a vase. Then I think that flowers belong in the garden, and so I walk away.

It wasn’t until recently that I learned that decanters weren’t simply vessels meant to hold alcohol. One of their functions is to aerate wine. Allowing wine to breathe after being bottled up for years, seems like a fitting metaphor for my journey.

Over the past decade I spent the majority of my time as a marketing consultant. It wouldn’t be accurate to say that my creativity had been bottled up, especially while working with startups, but it has been too long since I’ve created art for the sole purpose of self-expression.

It’s been even longer since I’ve experimented with making something in the physical world.

Art isn’t a new passion. I’ve studied art for over 13 years, and those who are close to me always wondered why I ever stopped. Instead of getting into that, here’s how I got started again.

Whenever I used to have down time, I would log in to Codecademy, read a startup book, or clear my Pocket full of tech and marketing articles. My interests became too narrow. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t great professionally. The most innovative ideas are the result of exposure to different topics and industries. I asked around for new sources of information, and ended up reading a few long form articles on random topics. This wasn’t enough. The articles opened my eyes to new ideas, but I needed to be more immersed.

I came across a chemical engineering course, and thought about diving in. Chemical engineering is vastly different from anything I’ve studied before. What are the odds that I would have studied engineering had I known about it earlier? Or, would I have known about it earlier had I was better suited to study engineering?

This lead me to wonder about the subjects I already knew about and somehow forgot.

Whenever a friend turns out to be a secretly talented artist, I encourage them to create even more and sell their art online. I tell them how they shouldn’t doubt themselves, and how I wish I could spend my days making art.

Instead of taking random online courses, I decided to rediscover one of my forgotten passions. It felt incredible to dig up my old sketchbook, and buy new art supplies. My curiosity grew, and being an artist no longer felt like a hobby or a crazy retirement dream.

An old sketch inspired me to play with shapes and lines, and the design of the modern decanter made for the perfect subject. The medium was a given. One of the last pieces I created years ago was in oil pastel. All that was left was to listen to my own advice and share the completed artwork.


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How to Accelerate Community Growth with a Podcast

How to Accelerate Community Growth with a Podcast

Listening to podcasts has quickly become everyone’s favourite new pastime.

Podcasts don’t feel like the result of careful planning by a marketing team. Instead, listeners are the silent participants in a conversation they can’t wait to share with their friends. An emotional connection forms as the host’s voice reaches listeners with unedited discussions and personal stories.

While others compete for eyeballs and are quickly forgotten, you can leverage a podcast to grow an engaged community that will generate positive returns for your business. Here’s how best-in-class marketers are incorporating podcasts into their content mix to accelerate the growth of their community.

Reach podcast fans through existing audio platforms

When deciding on a podcast hosting solution, you should find one that makes it easy to distribute your episodes to podcast listeners. Audio platforms like iTunes, SoundCloud, TuneIn, and Stitcher help podcast fans easily discover and listen to your podcast. These people might have never heard of your company, and now you can reach them every day on their commute.

Plan your distribution strategy before you launch your podcast, as you would for any other piece of content. Understanding how to increase your discoverability on each of these platforms will maximize the reach of each episode. Start by searching for related podcasts to see which ones rank well and learn from best practices.

What keywords are they using in their title and description? How many ratings and reviews do they have? How do they structure their show notes? These are some of the areas you can optimize for better reach.

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