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Business Strategy

Strategic Planning Process – A Peek Inside Live Your Message HQ

Photo by Unsplash
Photo by Foundry Co

Photo by Foundry Co

OK, first of all, let me bust some myths:

  1. Strategic planning IS NOT something you do on January 1st, then forget about the rest of the year.
  2. Strategic planning IS NOT some boring process reserved for corporate boardrooms.
  3. Strategic planning IS NOT the sole domain of experts and high-priced consultants.

Strategic planning IS the process of creating the business you see in your mind’s eye. It’s the process of bringing that vision to life from vision and inspiration to clients and revenue. And it’s something that you can do not just once a year, but every day – whether that’s plotting your big picture Master Plan for World Domination or prioritizing your To Do list for the day around the outcomes you want to achieve.

I’ve already written a bunch of in-depth articles about strategic planning (see links at the bottom of this post), so what I want to focus on here is my personal strategic planning process.

This is the somewhat idiosyncratic process I use to periodically rip my business apart and put it back together again. I do this at least once a year, and every time I do it I double my business.

First up:

• Arm yourself with some sharpies and a bunch of butcher paper.

• Get high on coffee or kombucha.

• Dance around to your favorite party music…

OK, let’s go!
Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200, Until You Know What You Want

You can’t get what you want if you don’t know what you want. You can’t build the business you’ve always wanted, if you don’t know what it looks like.

So, I spent the whole first day asking the hardest question of all: What do I really want my business (and life) to look like? Not just now – but 5 years from now.

Here’s what came up for me as I asked this question: doubt; fear; uncertainty; lack of confidence; the desire to fit in and be accepted; my hopes and dreams intermingled with the hopes and dreams of my parents, my partner; an electric mix of terror and excitement that had me almost paralyzed, scared to choose wrong, scared to reach too low and be dissatisfied, scared to reach too high and fail, but most of all the absolute certainty that I can and will create anything if I embrace my vision, push beyond my limiting beliefs and keep going.

So, what do you want that business of yours to look like? Do you want to be a best-selling author? Do you want to be a speaker, lighting up your audience from big stages around the world? Do you prefer to work from the comfort of your home, reaching thousands of people through online training programs, physical products, tools, apps or software? Or do you love the 1:1 interactions involved in coaching, mentoring, consulting, done-for-you services? Or perhaps you want a mix of things so you don’t get bored?

How many people do you want to serve? How many hours do you want to work each day, each week, each year? And how much money do you want to make? Do you want to scale your business and build your team or are you content with a one-person shop?

And perhaps most importantly of all, why are you doing this? Do you have the deep desire to serve? To make the world a better place? Do you want to spend more time with your children, your partner? Do you want the freedom to travel? Do you want to give back through supporting causes or charities? Do you have a message the world NEEDS to hear?

One caveat here: it’s essential to form that clear, specific picture in your minds eye of what you want, that picture that supports and expresses who you are in the world. Not what you think you should do or who you think you should be. Or what other people tell you to do.

I always tell my clients and students that it’s the right business model is the one that supports who they are and what they want. So if you’re a homebody or hates to travel, don’t choose a career that’s based on public speaking. Choose the path that you’re going to enjoy walking every day.

Bridging the Gap Between Where You Are & Where You Want to Go

Now this next set of questions is where the rubber meets the road. This is where I ripped my business apart and put it back together:

• Am I doing the things that will actually get me there or… not??

• If not, then what do I need to let go of?

• And what should I be building in its place?

The truth is that every business hits its ceilings and plateaus… that point where growth stops and the same set of activities will only bring the same results. That quantum leap you’ve been dreaming of isn’t going to come through more of the same.

I built my business to 6-figures and beyond exclusively through consulting and done-for-you services. But I hit my ceiling fast, where I couldn’t serve more clients and make more money through that model. Worst of all, as long as I stuck with that model, I could only impact a handful of clients a year.

So towards the end of last year, I got really serious about packaging up my knowledge and expertise into scaleable products and programs that could reach thousands of people at once. Within 6 months, I flipped my business model from 80% services/20% products to 80% products/20% services.

The hard part was letting go of some things that I genuinely loved to do that kept me focused on one-person at a time, limiting my impact and capping my income without getting me moving me towards my Big Vision. Then stepping up to do things that scared me like putting myself on camera and launching a Mastermind.

And the way that I discovered these time and energy leaks that were keeping my business from growing is through a simple 5-step process: inventory everything I’m currently doing, calculate the real cost of my services, eliminating one-offs and dead ends, reimagine and reinvent, then schedule it all.

Step 1. Inventory Everything Brain dump all your current offerings (freebies, products, programs, events and services) and all the products and services you have floating through your brain. This will allow you to quickly survey your business universe and get a grasp on everything you’re doing or considering doing to grow your business.

I personally drew a giant grid showing each offering at each pricepoint in my funnel: free, low-tier (under $100), mid-tier (under $500), high-tier (under $2000) and premium (over $2000) and whether that offering was passive (I could deliver with little to no additional work), leveraged (I could deliver it to hundreds of people at once), 1:1 (I could only deliver it to one person/time) or done-for-you (I could not only deliver it to one person/time but I had to produce specific deliverables).

Step 2. Calculate the Real Cost of Your Programs & Services The horrible truth is that human cloning is not yet possible and there is and probably will only ever be one you. You have limited time, limited energy and limited capacity. If you want to hit that next level, you have to guard that time and energy every single day.

This next exercise is designed to reveal how much you’re really earning and the impact you’re having through each one of your offerings. Take the list you created above and place each offering on a spreadsheet along with the current cost of that offering. Bullet point each action step and deliverable involved in that offering. Then estimate how much of your time each step takes, and also how much of your team’s time. Divide the cost by the time to figure out how much you’re really making for each hour of effort you and your team are putting in. If you’re doing this exercise for a leveraged product or group program, multiply this number by how many units you expect to sell.

Now compare what you’re making with what you’re charging to see if the numbers match up.

You may be shocked to see that you’re only making $50-$100/hour for a signature offering that is taking 80% of your time. And realize that there’s no way you’ll hit that next income level as long as you’re spending the majority of your time delivering this offering in this way at this pricepoint.

You may also be surprised to see that a product or group program you’ve been thinking about doing will generate 10x or more the income of what you’re currently doing.

The reality is that the only way to hit that quantum leap in your business is by leveraging yourself and getting smart with your time and energy.

Step 3. Eliminating One-Offs & Dead Ends The next thing I did is look at my offerings in relation to each other. Does one offering lead to another and another? Are there clear pathways people can take through my business – starting with one offering and moving on to the next? Or do I have a series of one-offs or disconnected offerings that lead to dead ends where there is no place to go next even if someone wanted to continue working with me?

What I realized when I did this exercise was that I had consulting options that didn’t lead anywhere. For example, I was offering a one-off Web Platform Assessment for $397 where I would review someone’s platforms and give them specific recommendations for taking it to the next level. While I was making $397/hour for this service, it didn’t lead anywhere so it was costing me future opportunities. Invariably, after I do an assessment, someone wants me to execute the changes for them and that’s not a service we offer. While we still have some done-for-you offerings, we’re very selective with the clients we take on, we charge a premium for our work, and we only build platforms from the ground up. We don’t fix broken platforms or do one-off services. I realized I had to kill this service offering because it was creating a dead-end in my business – there was no place to go after a Web Platform Assessment and I wasn’t interested in building out a full-service agency that offers piecemeal solutions.

It’s much easier to make more money from existing clients than it is to bring new clients into your business, so if you want to make that quantum leap, you have to focus on creating clear pathways through your business, where one offering leads to the next… and the next.

Step 4. Reimagine and Reinvent This is the fun part. Now that you know where you want to go, you’ve got an inventory of all your possible offerings, you’ve identified which offerings are unscaleable or underpriced, and eliminated one-offs and dead-ends, you can look at everything you have left and choose where you want to focus your time.

What should each offering look like to provide the most value and impact without burning you out? How does each offering fit together to form clear pathways through your business? Do certain offerings have pre-requisites or application processes to protect your time and/or to ensure your customer’s success?

How can you create a unique, high-value experience for your customers that delivers an outcome they can’t get anywhere else? What’s the best order to roll out each offering that makes sense for you and your customers?

Step 5. Schedule or Die Brendon Burchard says “I can immediately tell if a person is going to be successful by looking at their calendar.” The truth is that you can’t create that quantum leap in your business without planning your time – not just month-to-month but week-to-week and even day-to-day. I’ve actually mapped out my weekly commitments through the end of 2014 (including vacations and block time for content creation) to keep me on track for rolling out new offerings and to ensure I don’t take on so much at any given time that my life becomes unsustainable.

One of my biggest reasons for doing this strategic planning process is that I was completely shattered and exhausted after rolling out 3 product launches in just 5 months. I wanted to simplify my schedule, so I could focus on the highest-outcome priorities without running myself ragged by jumping from thing to thing to thing. I also wanted to give myself the time and space I need to create my next set of offerings, which includes books, live events, products, services and group programs.

There’s a lot of freedom and power in waking up and knowing where to focus my time and energy to deliver the business and future I want.

OK, that’s it! While all 5 of these steps together have been powerful for me, feel free to focus on the 1-3 strategic planning steps that resonate with you most. Leave me a comment and let me know what you’re most excited about in your business or what you have to let go of.

For more in-depth strategic planning processes from yours truly, check out these articles:

Your Complete 2013 Business and Marketing Strategic Plan in Just 2 Hours (Part 1): The 2-Page Strategic Plan Template

• Your Complete 2013 Business and Marketing Strategic Plan in Just 2 Hours (Part 2): The Failproof Business Decision Making Model

Your Complete 2013 Business and Marketing Strategic Plan in Just 2 Hours (Part 3): How to Create a Marketing Calendar

• Why Are YOU In Business? 7 Key Questions for Building a Sustainable Business

The Top 2 Business Questions to Ask


Love it? Hate it? Let me know...

  1. Nanette

    Hi Marisa,

    You always have really insightful blogs. This one is very timely from someone just getting off the ground and feeling extremely overwhelmed and like a hamster on a wheel. Thanks for this I will know have my own strategy session.

    Reply ·
  2. Máire

    This was really interesting. Would it also work for someone who has up till now only dabbled in trying to build a business? I’ve stayed in the realm of ‘freelancing’ in order to avoid the sense of ‘responsibility’ that comes with the idea of a business. It all feels very daunting.

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Hi Maire – If you want to start a business, then I definitely recommend strategic planning before you begin. It will hep you clarify your direction and focus your efforts.

      Reply ·
  3. Roger

    Great post Marisa! As a strategic optimization firm I love strategy and planning and as a matter of fact am investing 10 days in the Mountains of Montana doing just what you did and you gave me some great ideas. Can’t wait to use them. Now to find the butcher paper 🙂 I love strategy so much we created our own product around strategy in helping people achieve their dream. We assembled several highly specialized e-book, one from the most successfully planning teams on the planet and one of our own, along with several audio’s, specialized music to stimulate creativity, a mastermind call and a special audio on teaching people how to break through the biggest obstacle. So there you have it…some ideas for your next product 🙂 I especially loved your point on 1-off’s and Dead ends. There are several clients I had that were high maintenance dead ends that the emotional investment was too great and stole all my energy and creativity. I kept convincing myself that their high profile would add credibility to our company but from now on I don’t care how well known they are. If they are going to rob me of the creativity and energy I need to help the number of people we can without them, then it just is not worth it to put into only one person. So tttthhhhhaaaannnnnyyyyooouuuuu! Am thinking maybe we could do a strategic workshop together 🙂 and make that a recorded workshop with all the cool forms and audio, and viola we would have a new needed product. 🙂 LMK! Oh the only thing I was really hoping for….and you had me going with your first photo in the post was some really cool up close photo examples of what you did. As a visual and kin-esthetic learner that would have made this post totally rock. Instead it just rocked. 🙂 No really it was a great post. Thank you and will drop you a note after our 10 day retreat in the mountains.

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Sweet, Roger! From the comments to this blog, it sounds like there’s a tidal wave of strategic planning sweeping the world! I love it… stay inspired this week. Montana sounds like a fabulous place to plan… and ping me when you’re back! We can set up a time to talk and see if there’s synergy… 🙂 What’s your website?

      Reply ·
      1. Roger Gauthier

        Hey Marisa! First I have to apologies. As I said I’m highly visual and hands on and love visual examples. Well today to get ready for our process I wanted to print out this post and I saw all the other articles below and low and behold it was like a kid in a candy store. Lots of examples and forms to down load so this post went from rocking to TOTALLY & AWESOMELY ROCKED! 🙂

        Have three sites. My main company is and that is invitation only 🙂 To weed out the 1-offs and dead ends 🙂 The other main site is The Entrepreneurs Pit Stop is Would love to place you and your products in there as the go to gal for video and your other sweet spots. We are about to put about 1M marketing launch behind that in the next two to three weeks. Will ping you when I return…If I return from the mountains. Loving it so much here may just have to relocate and do my business in the mountains with this awesome view. Thanks for joining me on my strategic retreat…well at least your forms will 🙂

        Reply ·
        1. Marisa Murgatroyd

          I hope you made it back Roger! It sounds like you have a lot of work to do both in the mountains and out of the mountains… I look forward to hearing more!

          Reply ·
  4. Tom

    Excellent story of your process, Marisa! So glad you had the courage to do it and grateful for you sharing it!

    I’m transitioning from full-time office work for a huge government organization to an independent laptop lifestyle. Recently, that included taking two weeks off to do something similar to what you just did! I took inventory of all that I have – offerings, skills, resources, etc, to strategically plan my next steps.

    It’s awesome that you refer to Brendon! (He’s one of my mentors too!) Calendar-wise I simply use my Outlook Calendar because I’m one it every day – and always early morning and shortly before turning in. Works like a charm! (I always start an entry with a humorous note to myself – smiling from the get-go!)

    That two weeks coincided with your AWESOME Superheroes Video Summit! What a brilliant creation that was, Marisa! I managed to catch four… Andy Jenkins, Jody Jelas, Matthew Peters… and YOU! (I’m story-oriented too! My main one are the lessons of life learned during my two-year journey around the world on motorscooter Melawend – a profound education that enables me to help others on their paths!) I’m really looking forward to your Superheroes Social Media Summit this November!

    Marisa, a big THANK YOU!!! for all the empowering wisdom you share!

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Hi Tom – Great to hear from you! If you’re planning, scheduling and learning from the top expert entrepreneurs out there, you’ll turn that laptop lifestyle into a success in no time.

      I’m glad you checked out Video Superhero Summit… we’re just planning the roster for SMSS now! See you soon… 🙂

      Reply ·
  5. Brian Spencer

    Hi Marisa, sorry to be picky but I think you mean a PEEK inside live Your Message HQ.

    Best wishes,


    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Noted. And changed…

      Reply ·
  6. Ed

    I think you’ve nailed it. Brendon Burchard’s emphasis of a calendar is not misplaced. It is critical to have mileposts, and not just $, to measure your progress. Weekly and daily plans are my foundation for progress. Now, if I could only hit the $$$. 🙂

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      It all comes down to the calendar and making it happen every single day.

      Reply ·
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About the Author Marisa Murgatroyd

Marisa is the founder of Live Your Message, where she turns entrepreneurs into Online Superheroes, and the creator of Start With You where she helps people just like you to discover the business they're meant to build, not just the business they can build. At 4’11 and a quarter, she’s called the shortest woman in marketing — and that doesn’t stop her from having huge ideas. She’s the “go to” brand builder for industry luminaries and heavyweights such as Justin Livingston, Callan Rush, Danny Iny, Alexis Neely and Susan Peirce Thompson. Marisa helps entrepreneurs create a business that is authentic and aligned with who they are, to empower them to turn up the dial on their “inner superhero”, so they can be the superhero to their tribe, as well as in their own lives.

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