Planning for 24 pt. 1 with Lee Wochner

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” These wise words by former Beatle, George Harrison, apply to life… and nonprofit marketing. Without a plan, your organization might be found wandering a lonely road, directionless.

In this episode, Counterintuity’s CEO, Lee Wochner, lays out the roadmap for creating a marketing plan for your organization, a plan that addresses the unique challenges 2024 will bring.

We start our journey by creating a vision. Understanding who you are as an entity – your character, persona, voice, and perception – is crucial in crafting a communications strategy that is authentic, consistent, and resonates with your audience. Next, it’s time to develop your positioning, or the strategic process of defining and establishing how your organization presents itself. This sets your organization and marketing plan on a course, ensuring you don’t find yourself lost on the road to nowhere.

How do you do all this? Listen to this episode of C! Says!

Jaclyn Uloth: Welcome to the podcast that lightens the tension when things sort of get hard… That’s What C! Said, the Counterintuity podcast, featuring interviews with leaders and doers who have helped to make our world a better place through their actions — and especially through marketing, communications, and embracing change. Here’s our host Lee Wochner.

Lee Wochner
Hi, everybody. Welcome to That’s What C Said, the Counterintuity Podcast. It’s just me this week. Well, there’s two of us on the podcast. It’s me and it’s you. And I’m pleased to be here with you for a couple of weeks this week and a couple of meetings after this. And I thought that I would talk with you about planning, because right now is a terrific time to do planning for 2024.

Because then you’ll know the steps you should take to actually get to where you wanna be. Planning will help you do that. As George Harrison sang in one of his songs, Post Beetles, if you don’t know which way you’re going, any road will take you there. And sure enough, if you don’t know which way you’re going, you run the risk of wandering around in the desert looking for a way to go.

I sit on several nonprofit boards and always have done so. And two of them had board meetings this week and I happened to be at two of them and we’re all talking about planning. And there was lots of discussion about things we’d like to achieve and lots of opinions and lots of ideas thrown back and forth. And that’s great. That can be really invigorating. That can be fun and exciting. I mean, that’s why we have nonprofits. That’s why we have companies that want to do things. We want to sell things. We want to make money.

We wanna improve people’s lives. We wanna achieve things. But ultimately, you can’t do everything. And focus gets you far. And everybody who I work with or know, hears me say that all the time. And so how do you focus? How do you select the things that are gonna be most helpful, that create clarity for you, clarity of action, that enable you to say yes to this? and no to that and maybe to some other things. And so we call that planning. Planning helps you achieve the things that would actually get you further ahead. And so I thought that I would share some simple ways to do this because nobody needs anything complicated more to do, right? And I would share with you some ideas I’ve developed over heaven help me, 50 years in business.

I started my first business when I was 11 years old. I sold investment grade comic books through the mail. My dad staked me $40 to start that business forever ago. So I’ve been in business one way or the other for about 50 years, all sorts of businesses, publishing, automotive, nonprofit, live entertainment, consulting, and of course marketing. I’m a partner here at Counterintuity. And I can tell you with authority, it’s better to plan than to not plan.

Because planning, you can look at the plan and say, well, gee, we’re on plan. And not planning means, well, gee, I don’t know where we are. And every day is fraught with fear. Potentially, every day is fraught with indecision. So it’s better to decide where you want to go and then going there, and you need a plan for that. So over the next few weeks, I’m gonna be doing these two-person shows, just you and me, that’s the two people.

where the discussion is about how best to plan. So that instead of wandering around in the desert, as some of us want to do, including me, if I don’t have a plan, instead of that, you actually wind up where you want it to be. And I wanna help make this easy for you. So just to reiterate, nobody needs another complicated assignment. We’re all busy.

Nobody wants to do something that will take weeks or months and then sit on a shelf. Nobody wants the 98 page report that no one read. And that’s one of the reasons that here at Counterintuity, when we talk about plans, and we talk about action plans, because we want them to be easy and actionable with action steps. We want you to be able to take action, make progress, and succeed.

And then when you break things down into a plan like this, an action plan, and sometimes an action plan is two pages, then it becomes less daunting and you actually take action and you feel pretty good about it. When you’ve actually taken action, you get that little hit of dopamine in your brain that makes you feel like a winner. You just feel great when you’ve actually taken action. And so the other thing I would say right here is action beats inaction. And absent a plan.

We frequently see lots of inaction around great ideas tossed around by well-meaning people. Consensus was never reached, a plan was never drafted, people didn’t decide what they were going to do, where they were going and how to get there. And let’s talk about other things in our life if they work that way. So we have clients around the country, we have relationships around the world.

But we are in Southern California. So let’s say that I wanted to go to San Francisco. I Of course would have a plan for that and the plan would be as simple as I want to be in San Francisco next weekend Well, I could drive. That’s a fun drive It’d take Seven eight hours. I could fly and that would take far less time

I could ride my bike. I know a guy who rode his bike from Los Angeles to San Francisco. That would take quite a while, and that’s a very different sort of trip. You could take the train. You could take a bus, et cetera. And so you hear that the goal, there’s a goal set, and the goal is I want to be in San Francisco at a certain time. And then the planning is contingent on the goal. But if I just said, I want to be in San Francisco and then magically hoped for it to happen, nothing would happen.

But determining that I’m going to be in San Francisco next weekend makes me develop the methodology of doing that. And that’s at the root of planning. That’s why we want to do a plan. So during these two person shows, we’re going to cover the main three topic buttons that will help you set up these elementary, easily accomplished plans. And we’re gonna do that in a way.

Again, that I think is gonna be very simple. Easy to implement, that’s the goal here. Easy to implement. Something you could get started on immediately. And so here are the three topic buckets for planning. Vision, marketing, and finance. That’s it. Vision, marketing, and finance. Now, I hear you saying, one, that sounds too simple.

Lee Wochner (07:01.65)
And two, even though it’s simple, I’m not sure what you’re talking about. And by the way, that’s not the first time I’ve heard that feedback of, I’m not sure what you’re talking about. But in this case, I’m gonna take the time to explain, to further color in what I’m talking about. So vision, marketing, and finance. Vision is your identity, your brand, and the tributaries that flow from that. It’s who you are.

as a company, it’s what you do, it’s where you do it, why you do it, when you do it, how you do it, who you do it for or with, and lots of other who, what, where, when, why, and hows. It’s your raison d’etre, your reason for being, and how people see you, and how you behave. It’s a reflection of your identity. It’s your identity and your focus, and it’s strategic. And we’re going to talk about that today.

how to very quickly explicate your vision, your identity, and how you’re going to behave. And then marketing, that’s the second bucket, marketing is a bucket of the actions you will take to align your vision with the desires of other people. It’s tactical. So vision was strategic.

Marketing is tactical. It involves writing a marketing plan, a simple marketing plan, i.e. an action plan ideally, that says here’s how we’re going to let people know. Here are the actions we will take that put the marketing out that help us achieve the vision. And we’ll cover that next time. And then finally, finance, and this is the one that people frequently dread.

This doesn’t sound like fun at all. This sounds like eating the vegetables you don’t like. Finally, finance. This is where we’re gonna answer the question of how we’re going to budget for some of this marketing. How and what we’re going to budget and how we’re going to set expectations on what the result will be. And that’ll be covered the time after the next time. So today is vision. And again, my goal is to keep this simple for you. Next time it’s gonna be marketing. And again, We’ll keep it simple for you, just so you can jump in, get going, and then finally finance. So let’s talk about vision and how you set that. It’s interesting how some people know who they are and what they do and how they behave. They know their character. And then there are some folks who never quite get a grasp on who they are. With a company, an organization, a nonprofit, a public agency, anything like this,

you’re better off knowing who you are as an organization. Because then you know how to act. You know what you do, and you know what you don’t do. You know how you behave. And you also know the persona you’re putting out to the public. Because you have a persona, and if you aren’t quite aware of what it is and how to work with it, you’re kind of at the mercy of others’ perception of it, rather than recognizing the way you’re perceived.

and then aligning your marketing with that true identity. So there’s actually a rather simple way to nail down your identity. And this is unbelievably simple.
So what I’m gonna ask you to do here is I’m gonna ask you to get together a group of people. And ideally, it’s not too large of a group. It’s not 50 people, 100 people. It’s five to nine people. And I like odd numbers of this. Get together a group of people who really know your organization. And you’re gonna do a thing that is less common than we would like. You’re gonna actually listen to them.

The world is filled with people who talk and don’t listen. And I know you’re not one of them, but I want to encourage you to really listen to these folks when you get them together. So you’re going to get together a group of people. And so they may be the people running your nonprofit. They may be your board or keyboard members, some people you serve. They may be customers. The key here is you want people who truly believe, you believe, that they know your organization.

They really know what you guys are about. And you can do this over Zoom or Teams or some other video meeting platform. Or ideally, you can do this in a room with some refreshments. Pull together some juice and some snacks and crackers and grapes, maybe some wine. And we’re gonna spend a few hours together. And you’re gonna ask each participant separately to write down three words that describe your company. It’s really that simple. They’re gonna write three separate words and those words might be, we’re fast, or it might be we’re smart, or it might be we’re funny, or it might be we are unexpected. So you’re generally looking for adjectives here, descriptors. And then you’re gonna take all of those three words individually.

You’re gonna put them up on the wall, and what you’re gonna find is that there’s a lot of overlap that independently and without consulting each other, the participants have generally come up with a number of the same words, and we call that consensus, and that’s who you are. That overlap is the consensus, that’s your identity. If you’ve got the right people in the room,

the people who truly know you as a company, those words they have chosen describe the company. If there’s a lot of overlap. There will be a couple that don’t seem to fit, you can ignore those. So if you get words that say, for instance, you’re clever, you are committed, and you are stinky, and stinky got one person.

and the others got nine people, I think we can eliminate stinky as an example. And from that, you get a quick picture of who you are, believe it or not, and how you act. And so let’s talk about this in the real world for a moment. So Apple, Apple used to be Apple computer, now it’s just Apple. If we convened a room of people to talk about Apple, I think people would say, well, Apple is smart.

It’s really smart. The stuff works. It’s clever. It helps me. I think people might say easy because it integrates easily. And I think people might say attractive or something like that because they like how the design works. And I like all of those things about Apple. But I don’t think of Apple as warm. And meanwhile, your local animal shelter, I don’t know that we would say that they are
technologically savvy. I don’t think we would say that they are forward looking. They’re not well designed. But boy, when I see those, please adopt this pet commercials from online from shelters, it’s all I can do not to cry because I wanted to adopt all of the animals. And so what they are is they’re warm. And so your local animal shelter, trying to get dogs and cats out to new homes, they’re warm.

And most people love cats and dogs, and most people are a sucker for that. They want everybody and everything to be better. And so the shelter acts in a warm way. So how does this drive behavior? This drives behavior because the communications from the shelter should always be warm, should be heartwarming. The communications from Apple should always give you the surety that it’s going to work. It should always look good because their products look good.

And it should give you the belief that it’s helpful and you can trust it because it’s Apple. So you hear right away that the ways that we would describe these things drive their actions. So then, now that you’ve got your core identity, which everything must flow from your identity, you look at your mission. Is our mission to provide pet products? Well, if we’re going to be a company that provides pet products, they better be good for pets because we have to care about pets because everyone cares about pets who has a pet. And it has to enrich the pet and it has to enrich me as the pet parent who bought this product. If your mission is to help work on the terrible issue of homelessness, then your identity had better be about caring for people and caring for the overall situation.

And making people understand that you have solutions that will actually improve this because nobody likes this situation I mean I was downtown in downtown Los Angeles last night seeing a concert, and I’m just distressed, the situation of some very sad people on the street I’d like to be part of that solution. I do what I can And so the organization’s working on that or the governmental department’s working on it require a level of sensitivity to the situation. And I think we’ve all seen when, particularly with some government agencies, there has not been enough sensitivity. People don’t like it. And so you’re positioning, and now I finally unveiled the word here. The word is positioning. What we’re really talking about here is your positioning. Before you do any marketing, before you do any finance, before you decide how you’re going to act at all,

Lee Wochner
Before you roll out your social media, before you develop the plans of what you’re going to do to manifest more success or solve the problem that you’ve got, you must know your positioning. And so the vision of what you’re going to do must flow from the positioning that you’ve adopted. And the positioning is not something you can just write on your own. It’s a reflection of who your company is as a person.

So I said I’d make this easy. That’s pretty easy. That’s the place to start with this. In the resources on the Counterintuity website under this podcast episode, we’re going to put some other tips about how to build out this vision. And we’ll do a little core exercise thing there that you can look at and how to come up with your core values, which we’re kind of touching on here. But once you’ve got this vision of who you are and what you do, that’s a brand. And so.

On the checklist of things, what you’ll see is, now that we’ve got this, how does design match with this vision? What is the voice of your vision? Does your vision and your positioning, do they sound, let’s see, do they sound more formal? Do they sound a little slangy? Are they a little hip? That’s all part of the brand. And so in about 20 minutes here, what I just did was, I just lulled you into doing a positioning exercise to help you get your positioning and then align it with your actions. And then next time on this podcast in this series, we’ll talk about how to figure out how you’re going to market that. You’re going to put it out in the marketplace, how your positioning and your vision is going to inform what you do. And then after that, we’ll talk about how to budget this for greater success. But I’m telling you, I’ve been doing been doing this sort of thing for a long time in private enterprise and in the public sphere. And if you’re a little stuck and you’re not quite sure how to act on a day-to-day basis, it’s because your identity isn’t yet set, you don’t have your positioning, you’re not clear on what you do or could do or should do or would never do. And that is always 100% the first step to marketing and to your plan for next year. Thanks so much. Contact info is on the website, in the podcast, all over the place. If you have questions, happy to have a discussion. If you wanna have a little dialogue, I’m happy to do that too. I want everybody to have a great 2024, and you got about two months to get a bunch of this stuff going. And I wish you the best. And I think we’re gonna have an amazing, amazing year.

So let’s get started on it. Thanks so much.

Jaclyn Uloth: Thanks for listening! We’re glad you came. That’s What C! Said is produced by Lisa Pham and engineered by Joe Curet. It’s available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts. Please like and follow the show. Visit to sign up and learn more.

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