Google doesn’t have a lot of planning meetings.  Or at least the ones they have don’t last long.

They evaluate a new plan or strategy quickly, instead of slowly and methodically.  If they feel it has merit, they test.  A lot.  They test their way to the right strategy.  So should you.

Sure, this flies in the face of what pundits have preached to small businesses for years: get a plan — a strategy — THEN execute.  “Too many small businesses flail around without a strategy. . .blah, blah, blah. . .”  You’ve heard it.

What you REALLY want is to get to “What do we need to do to grow the business/achieve our goal?” as fast and as inexpensively as possible.  Right?  Okay, fine, how do you do this?  In my experience (and Google agrees) the shortest, least expensive and fastest path to answering how you grow your business is to plan a little and test a lot.

So, what does this look like?

Give 15% of your time and energy to the plan.  What’s the goal?  Does it fit with who you are?  Who’s going to buy?  How do we get the message to them (your marketing methods or tactics)?  What’s our message?

Give 85% of your time and energy testing.   Put your message in front of 150 of the people you think are going to buy and watch what happens.  Adjust. Repeat.

Adjust your message.  Adjust how you deliver it.  Adjust who you deliver it to.

How?  Build a web page and push 150 people through it using Google Adwords (paid search).  Or send a direct mailer.  Or place a small ad.  Or. . .there are lots of ways to test quickly and inexpensively.

No amount of research or planning replaces getting a real message in front of real prospects.

The biggest mistake I see as a marketing consultant: owners quit on a campaign too early (they don’t test).  They give it one or two tries and conclude there’s no market there.

Test your way to the right strategy.  Google does.  I do.  You should too.