• Eric Dahl

Map to Success - The Plan!

I’ve had more General Managers than years in TV now, but each one leaves some kind of mark on you good or bad depending on their management method or personal style. One of my past GMs said to me when we were preparing for a major rollout “Plan to succeed or plan to fail.” And although I later figured out that it was probably a take on Benjamin Franklin’s quote “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Either way the words stuck with me and have deepened in meaning throughout my years in work, personal life and passion projects. I have used this strategy for rolling out entire television station images, media plans, my book release and even home repairs. Living in Nashville, and being a musician myself, I talk and hangout with a lot of musicians because we are kindred spirits. When they are working on album releases, websites, tours or marketing in general I often ask them “What is the Goal?” The Goal, in my opinion, is what should set the plan in motion, determine its steps and be constantly referred back to see if what we are doing is working to achieve that end result. And it doesn’t need to be like a Rubix Cube of a statement either, although I recently had an artist on my radio show that spent a morning figuring out the speed method to complete this. Once we define the Goal, and if there are multiple parties involved we all agree, then determine the steps in the plan that will lead to achieving it. But we must also keep in mind that the Best Plan Ever isn’t worth the time to create it if we don’t take action to make it real! Here is a simple example and I’m frequently asked questions on this since I’m a published author, who knew having one book published made you an author? After you complete writing your book you must create a Proposal that in simple terms layouts what your book is, what the chapters are about, who would be interested in this book, and the marketing you envision. It is an elevator pitch that can be read in 5 minutes for a book that you wrote and invested years of your life into. Depending on the size of your publisher you may be the person booking your book signings, writing your press releases, booking your radio interviews, tv, magazine and print. Oh, and you’ll also need to build out your Author sections on Amazon and Good Reads. My book fell into this scenario since my publisher really had no marketing arm to do what I knew needed to be accomplished, because in my day job that actually pays the bill I market programs, News, contests and events every day! My goal was to sell as many books as possible and increase awareness of it, so that I could sellout all of the copies my publisher created and open the door to write more books – which I obviously enjoy doing. The Plan (or Map to Success) was rather simplistic and would probably add in much more social media if I were doing it today, thanks to its targeted reach and frequency and lower costs. I developed my Plan before the book was even in print. I wrote the press release to announce the book launch, developed a list of media, newspapers and magazines that would be interested and began rolling it out. Keep in mind if you are working on a project like this always work from your areas of strength where you are known, liked or have friends or family that are. My plan, besides hitting National guitar and Blues magazines, focused on Nashville (where I live now), Las Vegas (where I lived for 10 years), Indianola, MS (where B.B. King’s museum is) and Cape Girardeau (near where I was raised). The first step of the Plan was to make all of these areas aware that I had written a book and where it could be found and that I was available for interviews. Every media outlet and website that mentioned the book was written down to keep track of it for future review. If I didn’t have a contact, or a friend that had a contact, then I would find it in the publications or online to build my list out. After I achieved a healthy dose of TV, Radio, Newspaper, Magazine and website interviews the second step was to start securing Book Signings in these same regions. All of this was on my own dime so trips to Indianloa, Cape and Las Vegas where developed on a tight budget. Luckily here in Nashville, once they found out that I promoted my own book signings, they were thrilled to have me at the Country Music Hall of Fame and four Books a Million bookstores. My friend Ted Drozdowski helped me lock down a book signing and reading at Parnassus Books a very cool author oriented book store here in Nashville. I attempted to work with the Nashville Blues Society but at that time they didn’t have much interest in a blues book, I did have good fortune with other Blues Societies and their newsletters. A closed door isn’t the only way in. It was a lot of work setting up interviews, making time to do them, writing press releases and booking and attending Book Signings, but it was also very gratifying and you find out who is in your corner in these times. Ultimately the Goal of increased book sales and awareness was achieved and my publisher stated this was the best promoted and marketed book they had ever been a part of. The Plan is what made all this possible and without it I would achieved very little. Now also keep in mind that the Plan shouldn’t be rigid it must have the capability to alter, bend and redirect when needed, but it still must be defined and be followed to achieve more than small pockets of chaotic victories. I have shared my book learning curve with many fellow authors, songwriters, musicians and anyone promoting or marketing a creative endeavor. We must know our target audience and know the Goal we hope to achieve - then the plan can be conceived and carried out. Hard earned lessons are the ones that stick with us the longest. When I have taken on other major projects, or been handed down projects to deliver without a plan, if there is no map then we lose direction. The time used to develop the Plan is also an eye opener as to things we never considered that could sidetrack the efforts or make it better. My variation from my bosses past wisdom is “Build the Plan, Be the Plan and Do the Plan.” Great ideas, inventions and goals are an amazing thing but they are only unfilled dreams if we don’t create the Plan that provides the map to bring them into the light of reality. I’m reminded of a recent conversation with a friend and we were telling stories about times when we would ignore our GPS and go the way we thought would be best or the roads we knew, only to be stuck in traffic or in a detour. A good Plan is the GPS map to help us achieve our Goals, whatever that destination may be? Here is hoping that all of us become better Planners and share our journey with others to help them on the road they travel.

Ancient version of a GPS!