Many years ago, when I was in the scouts (and I've just realised exactly HOW MANY years ago it was – yikes!) I took part in an overnight hike.
Right at the start, the team I was in argued about where we were heading. It wasn't a great start, and we continued arguing about it for several hours, until a passing police car stopped to pick up four very tired, hungry and above all LOST scouts. We never did make it to the end of the hike, in fact we never really worked out where we'd ended up.
As a business growth consultant, one of the questions I always ask new clients is "where do you want your business to be in 12 months' time?"
The scary thing is how many of them struggle to answer. To me, knowing where you're taking your business is fundamental (see http://bit.ly/b97N7y if you don't have a long term vision!).
If you don't know where you're heading, then you could end up pretty much anywhere. Just as I did all those years ago.
After all, you wouldn't set off on a long drive to a new destination without a road map.
Your marketing plan is the road map for your business. Take time every week to set and update goals, think, plan and strategize, and WRITE IT DOWN.
In fact, take out your diary right now and set aside 30 minutes every week: at the same time on the same day if you can, so that it becomes part of your business routine.
Once a year take a few days out to set the direction for the next 12-36 months. I've been known to rent an apartment for a week and hole myself up there while I plan (with perhaps a bit of pampering too!).
There's a lot to be said for getting OUT of the business while you do your "big" planning, but whether you decide to head off for a week, or you just close the office door and ask not to be disturbed for a day or two, set a defined space in your diary for it.
Remember: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail
Tomorrow: Manage Your Time