Why You Need a Month-By-Month Blog Growth Action Plan

  • November 29, 2011 by Guest Writer
  • 49 Comments

This is a guest post by Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing.

Are you satisfied with your blog’s growth, month after month?

If you are, then great – see you later. ;)

But if you aren’t, I’ve got a second question for you: Do you have a month-by-month plan for growth?

Most people don’t, but they should. After all, as they say, failing to plan is planning to fail.

In this article you’ll see how easy it is to set up a monthly action plan and how important it can be for long-term success.

Why People Don’t Plan

If you don’t have a month-by-month plan, then don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Most blogs and businesses are managed by the seat of their owners’ pants, and the closest they get to planning is to say that “here’s what we should try next” or ask “when should we do our launch”.

There are good reasons why people don’t create a real long-term growth plan:

  1. They’re busy, and overwhelmed. There’s a giant to-do list of things that need to get done; the site needs to be redesigned, the new e-book needs to be assembled, the auto-responder emails need to be written, the big bloggers have to be approached for guest posts… and oh yeah, there are all those posts and books about other things that need to be done, that you haven’t even read yet!
  2. They don’t know what to plan. Why create a long-term plan when you aren’t confident that it will work? When you aren’t even sure if you’re going to be following the same direction and strategy in the next 3-6 months?

These reasons could easily prevent you from creating a solid plan, but there are even better reasons why you should suck it up and create one anyway:

  1. No plan means little momentum. If you keep working by the seat of your pants, you’ll probably spend most of your time putting out fires, and even if you don’t, you won’t be able to execute strategies that support each other, and build into more and better results.
  2. No big strategies or campaigns, either. If you don’t plan ahead, then you’re always going to stick to bite-sized actions that you can accomplish in the next few weeks or months. The really big home-run campaigns, like community surveys, manifestos, and books, will be few and far between, if you ever get to them at all.

You can achieve impressive results without a plan, but you’ll have to be very talented, and very lucky.

So why not take an afternoon and make a plan?

First, Create Your Plan

Executing a month-by-month growth plan isn’t always easy (more on that in a moment), but actually putting the plan together isn’t very hard.

Here’s a simple process to follow:

  1. Make a list of the next 9-12 months of the year, starting with next month. Since right now we’re at the end of November, and December is a dead month for most industries anyway, your list might read “January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September”. See what I mean – not hard at all!
  2. Mark down anything that you’ve already got planned. This can be blog-related, like a launch that you’re planning for February, or it can be personal-life related, like your wedding in September (which means that no blog work is getting done that month).
  3. Take a good, long look at the months that are still available. It’s probably a lot of months, right? Seeing them all listed out, are you realizing that if you just keep on writing and publishing with “business as usual”, your audience is likely to get a little bored?
  4. Start filling in the stuff that you’d like to do. Let your imagination loose here – any big, exciting campaign that you think will get you great results is fair game. The best part is that it doesn’t matter how much work it will take – just slot it in for a month that is far enough off to give you the lead time to get it done.
  5. Add in “buffer” months of light activity or regular content. If you’re planning a big event for, say, November, then make sure you’ve got a light month planned for October, so that you have time to ramp up for whatever you’ve got planned.
  6. Add campaigns and re-arrange your calendar to account for momentum. If you’re planning a launch, for example, then think about what you can put in the preceding month to create maximum engagement and traffic to your site, for the launch to take advantage of.

Some of these steps may require a little more thinking and reflection than your average step-by-step checklist, but the results are going to be better than the average checklist will produce.

So clear a couple of hours sometime in the next few days to sit down and do it! :)

What Makes a Good Growth Plan?

Like I mentioned earlier, planning is the easy part – actually executing the plans is where the real work comes into the picture.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating your plan, to make sure the work doesn’t get too hard:

  • Start small, and build if you have the bandwidth. It’s a lot easier to plan for less work and then kick your plans up a notch, than it is to plan for something big, and then try to salvage it when you realize that you don’t have time to execute.
  • Build lots of slack into your timelines. When you’ve got a big project in the works, make sure to give yourself enough time to get things done (there’s a kind of Doppler Effect with projecting work to be done in the future; the further out the plan stretches, the more unrealistically optimistic we tend to be about how much we will actually be able to get done).
  • Gantt out your timelines. For each campaign, list out what actions will be required in each of the preceding months, and see if all the campaigns are stacking in a way that works, or that creates a bottle-neck for you. You can go so far as to create an actual Gantt chart, or just make a short list on paper (like I do).
  • Don’t plan things that you aren’t excited about. Some campaigns may seem like a great way of getting traffic and traction, but you just aren’t excited about them. Don’t plan to do those kind of projects, because they just turn into energy sucks, and you won’t feel motivated to stick it through – that’s just asking for your plan to fall apart.
  • Don’t worry when plans don’t work out. That happens sometimes – you miscalculate what results you can expect from a campaign, you botch the execution, the timing just isn’t right, or stuff comes up. It happens. Learn your lessons, adjust your plans if needed, and move on.

Okay, now that we’ve covered how to create the plan and what to watch out for, it’s example time!

Real Example of a Blog Growth Plan

Despite some of the things that I’ve written, I’m pretty big on transparency. So for an example, I’m going to share the actual month-by-month plan that we created to grow our site, from June through December.

Here’s the complete month-by-month plan:

  • June 2011: Guest Posting – The first month of the timeline was just about guest posting – building relationships with other bloggers, and writing content that linked the interests of their audiences with what we had to offer. A lot of the guest posts didn’t even go up until July or August (this was almost a buffer month, to gear up for what was coming).
  • July 2011: Jodi’s Voice – We ran a campaign for a couple of weeks promoting Jodi’s Voice, a charity that raises awareness about stalking. We offered our $900 training program for free to anyone who made a $200 donation to the cause. This campaign didn’t take too much of our time or energy, which was intentional – we were gearing up for August.
  • August 2011: Training Program Close – In August, we closed our training program to new students, and to make sure everyone who wanted to get in had the opportunity, we did a massive launch, with high-quality video events, tons of guest posting, the works. This was a huge amount of work, and wouldn’t have been possible if we hadn’t started working on it several months prior.
  • September 2011: Wedding and Honeymoon – My wedding was on September 10, 2011, and I was away on my honeymoon from the 15th to the 22nd. So the whole month was basically a wash. We kept publishing content, in the form of guest posts that we had lined up in previous months. That’s another benefit of planning: it allows you to take a break!
  • October 2011: Semi-Local Business Survey – After I got back from the honeymoon, we ran our Semi-Local Business Survey, which is based on the B-List Breakthrough that Corbett teaches in his Traffic Toolbox. We had done most of the legwork for the survey before September, and it still turned into a lot more work than we had bargained for. Oh well, lesson learned.
  • November and December 2011: Engagement from Scratch! – November and December are all about the launch of my new book, featuring contributions from 30 of the top audience-builders that I could find, including Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark, and Corbett Barr. This project is enormous in scope, and involves a ton of work – in fact, I’ve been working on it since the beginning of June, and it never would have happened without a month-by-month plan.

Now, am I suggesting you copy my month-by-month plan?

No, of course not.

For one, what made sense for me might not make sense for you; you can’t just copy-and-paste a successful strategy.

Besides, this plan was pretty intense – we felt overloaded at times, and I have a partner to work with, and a full-time assistant.

Your plan will no doubt look different from mine. That’s fine – you need a plan that’s right for you.

So go create one!

Over to you – have you tried month-by-month planning, or have you always gone by the seat of your pants? Will you give the month-by-month approach a try?

Danny Iny (@DannyIny) is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, expert marketer, and the Freddy Krueger of Blogging. Together with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark and Mitch Joel, he wrote the book on how to build an engaged audience from scratch.


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Gregory Ciotti November 29, 2011 at 6:13 am

One of the best posts on planning in the blogosphere I think I’ve ever read.

Definitely puts into perspective what it takes to tackle long term projects while still handling the standard growth.

Your productivity is admirable Danny, good luck with the book launch (I’m really enjoying my copy!)

Danny @ Firepole Marketing November 29, 2011 at 8:03 am

Thank you so much, Greg! I’m glad you liked the post, and I’m thrilled that you’re enjoying the book!

cashflowmantra November 29, 2011 at 6:35 am

I would have to agree that this is one of the most useful things that I have read in the past several months. I am book marking this and spending some time working on planning for 2012.

Danny @ Firepole Marketing November 29, 2011 at 12:55 pm

I’m glad to hear it – thank you very much! :)

Cassie | womenswaytowealth November 29, 2011 at 6:46 am

Fantastic post, the cornerstone of my business support is helping people plan, whether it’s business planning, marketing strategy or social media planning. How can you start a journey, or be successful without a clear plan?

Planning eradicates a lot of the overwhelm people feel when they’re starting out. Once you have a plan you can ignore all the hype and focus on things that move you towards your goals.

The month by month plan is a good idea if you’re in a retail niche, so, for example you can factor in promotions tied in to Christmas, Valentine’s Day, major sporting events etc. Personally I find it a bit overwhelming so while I plan my blog growth (more strategically I suppose), I keep an ideas swipe file for potential articles and posts. It’s currently 42 pages long!

Thanks Danny for another great article. Great timing at the end of the year as us busy entrepreneurs get ready for our biggest and best year yet, 2012!

Danny @ Firepole Marketing November 29, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Cassie, I completely agree with you about planning – without a plan, there isn’t going to be enough time, energy or resources allocated to whatever needs to be done, so it just won’t get done. :)

Sarah Russell November 29, 2011 at 7:02 am

Danny – Thanks for sharing this. I’m planning to spend most of December doing some strategic planning on a number of projects I’ve got lined up for next year, so I appreciate the framework you’ve laid out. I haven’t planned month-by-month before, so this is definitely something I’m going to try.

Danny @ Firepole Marketing November 29, 2011 at 8:02 am

Let me know how it goes for you, Sarah – I’d love your feedback to tweak my system! :)

Emily November 29, 2011 at 7:56 am

Right now I basically just have a schedule of which blog posts to write on which day, but I like the idea of doing some big-time items in chunks. I’m going to have to think about it – thanks for the idea. :)

Danny @ Firepole Marketing November 29, 2011 at 8:01 am

You’re very welcome, Emily. When I started, I just had a schedule of which blog post to write on which day, too. But when I started thinking about bigger projects, I realized that the system I had just wasn’t going to cut it. :)

Conni November 29, 2011 at 9:04 am

Man, Danny, you have no idea how on time this post is for me! Been struggling to keep an overview of things I want to do with my blog and other projects – to the point of massive overwhelm and procrastination – but did I ever think of writing out a proper strategic plan? Nope. (A daily and weekly plan was as much as I could come up with!)
So thanks a bunch!!! Creating a one-year strategy spreadsheet as I type :)

Danny @ Firepole Marketing November 29, 2011 at 9:21 am

I’m thrilled to hear that, Conni. Let me know how it works out for you! :)

Chris Green November 29, 2011 at 10:14 am

This was a great kick in the ass. I have been meaning to plan my blog’s growth for ages. I even have five awesome people to interview for podcast interviews, but because I haven’t planned the time in … guess what, I haven’t got around to doing them.

Thanks Danny !

Danny @ Firepole Marketing November 29, 2011 at 10:17 am

You’re welcome, Chris. Buckle down, plan it out, and get it done! :)

Sarah O November 29, 2011 at 12:33 pm

This is so helpful – and perfectly timed for starting out the next year! I am in a state of serious overwhelm with a huge list of to-dos to build my blog and online business. It’s so overwhelming that I end up not doing any of the things on the list on a given day! I’ve bookmarked this post and plan to sit down soon and seriously plan how to focus my time in 2012. Thank you!!

Danny @ Firepole Marketing November 29, 2011 at 12:54 pm

I’m glad to hear it, Sarah! That’s the trouble with building a business – there’s so much to do that we tend to get overwhelmed and end up not doing anything. I hope this process will help! :)

Stefan November 29, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Thanks Danny for this great inspiration. I really like the idea of planning the growth a couple of month before.
Seems pretty clear and obvious (though I never would have had the idea myself).

But if you have your month-plan, how do you break things down in simple todos?
Do you have some tool for that? Or do you simple use pen & paper for your growth-plan?

Danny @ Firepole Marketing November 29, 2011 at 1:22 pm

I just use pen and paper, but there are lots of great tools out there to do that sort of thing. :)

Jennifer Boykin November 29, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Danny, this was really awesomely helpful. And spot-on timing, too. Thanks!

Danny @ Firepole Marketing November 29, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Hey Jennifer, it’s been a long time – how are you doing? :)

Emelina November 29, 2011 at 9:34 pm

I Love this! I’m big into planning right now, realizing that it is a necessity and the next step to really get me going full force with my passions, one of them being some of my blogs.

I’m going to buy a binder solely for my plans with my passion projects and personal self/down time goals. :) I’m stoked. I’m going to make some monthly goals for my online communities. :)

Danny @ Firepole Marketing November 30, 2011 at 11:48 am

I’m thrilled, Emelina!

I think the binder is a great idea – I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of this. Will you keep us updated?

Patrick Tarpey November 30, 2011 at 1:20 am

I try and plan my other activities but derr never thought of doing it for the blog. Bleedn obvious really. Funny I thought I escaped planning when I left teaching but I do more now. Big difference though I am in charge of my activities

Danny @ Firepole Marketing November 30, 2011 at 4:35 am

You can never escape planning, you can just do it for yourself instead of for other people… ;) And don’t worry about missing it – we all miss it for a long time until we realize that common sense can actually be pretty uncommon!

Tom Ewer November 30, 2011 at 10:06 am

Hey Danny,

I’m getting bored of saying “great post”!

But that was a great post ;-) I needed this as a reminder of what I will be doing come the new year. I am quitting my job and will be launching myself wholeheartedly into internet marketing and freelance writing. I will absolutely need a plan for my blog, otherwise I will just be floating without a paddle.

Cheers!

Tom

Danny @ Firepole Marketing November 30, 2011 at 10:16 am

Thank you, Tom, and I really happy to hear that this post will serve as that paddle in your new adventure. Let me know if there’s anything else that I can do to help! :)

Renee Lindo November 30, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Awesome post, thanks you! Just the step by step road map I need to get my blog in gear, and perfect timing, to kinda take December to get my thoughts together and start fresh for 2012! Really really helpful.

Danny @ Firepole Marketing December 1, 2011 at 5:09 am

You’re very welcome, Renee – I’d love to know how you actually end up using it. Shoot me an email when you’re done planning, and share what you have in mind? :)

Extreme John December 1, 2011 at 3:34 am

I totally agree that it’s the action part of the action plan that’s pretty difficult to execute. And sometimes, even the planning part is quite exhausting. I actually tried writing down all of the plans and after listing a scroll of it, I felt really discouraged to do the tasks. So what is better and more effective to me is to list down few plans and tasks and then eliminate as much less urgent and less important tasks as I can. That way, I realized I’m more productive and efficient as a business owner.

Danny @ Firepole Marketing December 1, 2011 at 5:08 am

That’s a great insight, John. Sometimes, “planning” just becomes an excuse to do a brain dump of everything that could ever be done, leading to overwhelm. That’s the purpose of the month-by-month plan, really – you can’t put down more than one major thing per month, and it forces you to focus and make choices. :)

Shefiu December 2, 2011 at 5:14 am

Great post on having an action plan for blogging. I think it’s a case of having a timetable and consistently sticking with it. By the way, how did you manage to get your Aweber opt-in form on your blog and hide it on your RSS Feedburner content? Did you use a Wordpress plugin to hide your blog’s Aweber form in Feedburner? I would love to know.

Danny @ Firepole Marketing December 2, 2011 at 6:42 am

Hi Shefiu, I’m glad you like the post. I don’t quite understand your question, though – what do you mean?

Shefiu December 2, 2011 at 9:18 am

Thanks for your quick response. My point is you have an Aweber opt-in form inside this article. The same article appears in your Feed URL (http://feeds.feedburner.com/ThinkTraffic). My question is….how did you remove the Aweber form in this article from its RSS duplicate content?
As I’m looking to perform this task myself.

Danny @ Firepole Marketing December 2, 2011 at 9:19 am

Ah, that’s a question for Corbett to answer… :)

Azmain December 4, 2011 at 7:42 am

Absolutely loved your post! As a newcomer to the social media scene I can’t express how much this has helped me. I decided to make a 4 months plan rather then a 9-12 month one, and put in more milestones within them for me to reach. I’m not sure if I’m micromanaging it given that mines a new blog. Any advice would be very appreciated!

Again, thank you so much for the post!

Az

Danny @ Firepole Marketing December 5, 2011 at 2:07 pm

That’s great, Azmain! 4 months is totally fine – the important thing is that you’re starting to think longer-term about the growth of your blog. :)

Rita Delaney December 9, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I just ran across this post today—What great timing! I completed the USF Master’s Certification in Internet Marketing at the end of September and since then I have been in total OVERWHELM trying to figure out which way to go with my business. Everyday brings a new idea and challenge. By the time I think it over, the day is gone and I’ve done nothing! Having a written plan will definately make it easier to get started! Thank you for sharing your wonderful article!

Danny @ Firepole Marketing December 11, 2011 at 9:05 am

You’re very welcome, Rita, and I’m thrilled to hear that it was helpful! I’d love it if you could check in with me further down the line, and tell me how the planning actually helped your blog to grow. :)

Liz | Two Weeks to Travel December 10, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Really like this approach. I’ve been blogging for a year and haven’t see much rise in traffic, but then again I have really just been flying by the seat of my pants as listed above. Finally, I sat down and spent this entire afternoon really thinking about the new approach I am going to take in 2012 and having a solid monthly plan is absolutely going to be part of it. Thanks for the advice!

Danny @ Firepole Marketing December 11, 2011 at 9:06 am

You’re very welcome, Liz! Please let me know how it goes as you work through your plan. :)

Allan Ngo February 10, 2012 at 7:29 am

Hey Danny,

Thanks for this link. It is indeed very insightful and is really the first post of its kind that I have read.

Will be planning for my year too. Glad to see how you planned for your wedding because I’ll be having mine this year myself.

Keep up the great work!

Danny @ Firepole Marketing February 10, 2012 at 10:54 am

Thanks, Allan, and you’re very welcome! :-)

Jennifer Boykin November 29, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Totally amazing! I am working on a new launch and am getting some fantastic help from Corbett. You guys are amazing! I have lovely words and some great ideas. You guys make them count.

Back to work, love. J

Danny @ Firepole Marketing November 29, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Awesome, Jennifer, I can’t wait to see what you’re launching! :)

Shefiu December 2, 2011 at 9:29 am

Ok then. I’ve searched everywhere online, no tutorials on it. I will appreciate a response on how to do it. Please keep me posted. Thanks.

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