There’s a 96-inch long white board in my office. It is where I collect my thoughts for specific projects as I’m writing, planning or producing them. It is currently full of lists and reminders for a client’s digital marketing and social media strategic plan. I go through notes from client meetings, make lists of potential strategics or tactics, throw broad concepts and ideas up, enumerate client concerns, brand values and relevant research and then I study the board for a while.

As I was doing so last night I realized a picture of the board might be helpful for those of you out there working on strategic plans for your organization. No, we don’t all think or process information similarly, but when I see how someone else does it, I always get an idea or two. So here’s my board:

Jason Falls's White Board for Strategic Thinking and Planning

For obvious reasons, I made the image small and even blurred some of the words, but look at what you can read:

When I see the image, the first few things that pop off for me are these words:

  • Goals
  • Target
  • Business Goal
  • Primary Concerns
  • SEO
  • Insights
  • Core Values
  • Content
  • Needs

No, you can’t read all those because of the resolution of the image, but those are the items that pop off the board to me. There are other ideas and concepts there, tucked away in the greens and oranges and blues. (No, there’s no system to my color coding other than to separate ideas from one another.) But the important things I think about have little to do with blogs or Facebooks or even monitoring solutions. I’m focused on the task at hand: what are the client’s goals, who are they talking to, what do they want to say and what does success look like for them?

Whether or not analysts, social media bloggers or even my friends on Twitter think my client work is innovative or pioneering or even good at all matters not. The only person whose opinion does is the client. This is what I focus on when I’m writing strategic plans or thinking about overall strategies for the people I work with as a digital marketing consultant.

What about you? What do you focus on? How do you think and process? Do share. We’ll all be better for it.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.converstations.com MikeSansone

    Great sharing here! I'm a big fan of post-it notes as a pre-cursor to my ideas going on a whiteboard (or lately, in my case, brown butcher paper – I can roll it up and take with me).

    I like different colors of post-its (green = do it, pink = delegate it or share it, blue = dream it, yellow = document it or write it. Looking forward to seeing other practices.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Great thoughts. One day I might have the patience to color code my stuff. I just use a different color than the one beside it for now. Heh.

  • http://twitter.com/bcoppernoll Brandon Coppernoll

    I have a whiteboard that I use to “diagram” my thoughts as well. It's good to see I'm not the only one still using it.

    On another note, I think this is what a lot of clients miss when it comes to social media and even content management. It's “easy” to set up a Facebook page, but to have it successful goes through this process. Many businesses are missing out on that. It's good to see how thoughts get turned into action.

  • http://KevinKruse.com Kevin

    Jason, I too had a 96 inch white board until I moved offices and it wouldn't fit! So I just grabbed the dry erase markers and used up all of my windows instead. People used to think I was a crazy person for writing on all the windows. Great technique, thanks for sharing.

  • joeystrawn

    Color coding is a great idea, thanks Mike! I have almost one wall of my office at home painted with Ideapaint. So my whiteboard in embedded in my wall, a permanent structure that I can not get away from no matter how I try. I like the thought that it's always there.

    Jason, thanks for posting that picture. I'm much less organized in my arrangement, but I know where everything is, but it's always nice to see a nicely arranged strategy laid out. Music to my eyes.

    I always start with the client's “Goals” as well when I'm working on a strategy. Then we work together to fit in the best actions (or tactics) to achieve those. My mind processes things very visually, so I like to almost have it laid out like a road map in from of me so I can drive from point to point and eventually reach our destination.

  • http://www.nosenseoftime.org George G Smith Jr

    “Whether or not analysts, social media bloggers or even my friends on Twitter think my client work is innovative or pioneering or even good at all matters not. The only person whose opinion does is the client. This is what I focus on when I’m writing strategic plans or thinking about overall strategies for the people I work with as a digital marketing consultant.”

    LOVE THAT.

    All I can say is you can make A LOT of money simply making your client happy. At the end of the day, that's the most important thing.

  • http://sazbean.com sazbean

    1) I'm jealous of your 96″ whiteboard… never can have enough whiteboard space!
    2) I have a similar process, although I've created a framework with these concepts that I work through with the client to make sure we're on the same page. I tend to use my whiteboards more for the brainstorming phase and use digital tools for keeping track of project-related tasks & info.
    Thanks for sharing! Good stuff!

  • Kevin

    I have white board envy…

  • http://nickhuhn.com nickhuhn

    I'd vote to add “constraints” to the mix. Constraints yield creativity. e.g. “My whiteboard has too much stuff on it. If I had a smaller one, I could be more concise and direct in my planning and recommendations.” {jasonfallsheh}

  • http://www.puredriven.com Patrick Garmoe

    Just returned from a client strategy session where we tried to white board goals, objectives, strategies and tactics. It gets messy real fast. I'd love a post on just how you run a session. I feel like I'm sorting through stacks of information, because it's always so hard to keep clients on track with what's a strategy vs. a goal vs. a tactic. Or do you just hash that out afterward?

  • David Chevalier

    Our team has been whiteboarding for years. Seeing how you laid it out in this blog helps big time to see a great new way to educate our team about how we are going to take an old time thinking process and move into social media with bit more ease. Well done!

  • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

    Each year I seem to be doing more and more strategic planning than the previous one. 2010 is definitely no exception. I definitely need a bigger white board from the looks of your photo Jason. I don't have enough real estate on mine to keep as much info as I would like up there for too long before something else needs to take it's place.

    The hardest thing about all the strategic planning is finding the time to execute. I am specifically talking about our own internal company needs and not the client work. The client work takes priority so with only a finite amount of time available it takes priority.

    I know I am not the only person in this situation so I am wondering if anyone else has found a system of prioritizing internal needs versus client needs in a way that lets you take advantage of your limited time to act on plans that help drive your own business in the direction it needs to go?

  • http://www.socialcubix.com/services/facebook-connect Facebook Connect Integration

    Great stuff there Jason! That GIGANTIC whiteboard is where your thoughts are written :) Its really lovely to see that you work in such an organized way.

    Planning is always necessary, I believe at the start of a new year every time a strategy should be decided regarding your business plan. Planning is forecasting and forecasting helps minimizing risks and build a better profitable business! Therefore, to make a strong strategy you wont be needing a 96-inch long whiteboard, but still some place to writeup all your thoughts :)

    Cheers!
    Thanks!

  • http://www.estrategiasdemarketingonline.com Curso de Marketing

    It really looks good! I have to get one of those to put in my office. Srategic Planing is a key element of marketing and too many companies are not doing it. Goo reminder for every business owner and marketing manager out there Jason. ;)

  • http://kozancity.10001mb.com Kozan City

    Hey Jason, nice article..Thanks..

  • http://www.undergroundelephant.com/undergroundelephant_network.php ConnorBringas

    This is a good way to structure your future work. Its important to have everything out there to see visually..at least for me. Its hard to constantly have things on your mind and not write them down. good post keep it up

  • JackieTEwing

    Jason,
    The visual is always useful for me too. Sometimes I have to write stuff down for it to make sense. Then using the whiteboard allows me to sort through it and reorganize it. Thanks for sharing, always something to be learned from others~
    Jackie

  • http://craigdeakin.com/ Craig Deakin

    This is a great idea Jason. I've been thinking about getting myself a white board, for similar purposes. I think it's a good way of seeing things you have to do in a more visual way. I love the ” GOALS ” as I thinks it's the most important part of a marketing strategy, well initially as the planning stage begins.

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