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I’m really struggling with something at the moment.

It’s Mary Poppins.

Did you know about the new film? It’s called Mary Poppins Returns.

It’s got a great cast and, I’m sure, a great storyline. But I’m never very happy about remakes or sequels that appear decades after the original. A) It seems like cashing in, and B) the new version always seems to have less of a ‘glow’ than what came before. (One exception: The Thomas Crown Affair; I much prefer Piers’s go at it.)

Most of all, I just can’t see how anyone could do it better than Julie Andrews.

My very favourite part of the film is in the nursery when somehow or other she manages to convince two whinging children that tidying up is just as much fun as making the mess in the first place. I have tried this in my house and I can report that it failed miserably. In fact, if any delightful birds were tweeting outside the window at the time, we neglected to hear them over the shouting and wailing that was happening inside the house.

One area of my life where I have managed to make this work – and I feel I can compete, in some small way, with Julie’s phenomenal finger clicking – is in my client work.

Because what I do really well is to bring order to chaos.

Quite often when I start working with a client there is no process to their marketing at all. It’s usually haphazard, inconsistent and, frankly, messy.

Here are the three methods I introduce to kick chaos to the kerb.

  • Tools

There are SO many project management tools available online. They are handy for collaborating remotely amongst team members. In my case, the team is me and my client, and whoever is working on the project with me – it could be a designer, web developer or a technical VA.

With most of my clients I use Trello to keep a track of where we are with the various activities in their marketing plan. It’s effectively like having a big whiteboard that you can share with post-it notes that you stick all over it and move between lists when you need to. I have a list for each project and each ‘card’ (or post-it) is an item within that project. Once something is completed, it goes on the ‘done’ list or, if it needs clarification from another team member, it goes on their list. This is a really good way to cut down on a million emails blasting between you all. I also like to have an ‘ideas’ list where random thoughts can be parked and reviewed at a regular planning meeting.

  • Accountability

If you are someone who needs to be ‘checked up on’ to get things done, it’s vital to have some kind of accountability partner. Otherwise, things just slide. It’s human nature.

I fulfil this role for my clients, whether it’s checking on delivery against agreed deadlines or making sure things get signed off in the timeframes we agreed. As a business owner myself, I know how easy it is to let things drift if you feel like no one is really watching.

  • System

Consistency in marketing is crucial for success.  When I’ve created a marketing plan (and most involve some form of regular content creation) the next step is to set up a system for producing this content and maintaining a high standard.  It’s easy to rush into this sort of work, produce some brilliant pieces, then lose momentum and find yourself churning out rubbish just to meet a deadline.

To make sure the content-well doesn’t dry up after a few weeks of initial keenness, I introduce a creation system, with different stages. So, for example, with my own blog posts like the one you are reading right now, I do a rough draft on Monday, then edit it to remove repeated phrases, redundant sections and improve the language on Wednesday. I send it to a friend who proof-reads it for me on Thursday (even I can’t do a final, final proof of my own content). Then, on Friday I upload it to my site and schedule it to launch on Sunday night. At that point I also set up the content for my weekly email, The Drawing Board, which includes an introduction to the blog and my marketing tip of the week, ready to go out to my mailing list on Monday. Because I know that each stage is crucial, if I fail to complete one piece of it on the right day I have to make arrangements to fit it in at some other time. Otherwise, chaos will strike and it just won’t get done.

These three methods help me to come over all Mary Poppins when it matters most. And, in her immortal words: “SNAP, the job’s a game.”

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