One Tool to Level Out the Peaks and Valleys in Your Marketing, Selling & Production Activities

Peaks and valleys happen in all businesses for a variety of reasons from down economic times to going crazy times. There are numerous ways to overcome this part of doing business. What I have recently discovered is the best way is the use of a marketing calendar.

Now to effectively use this strategy does require for you to know your peaks and valleys specific to revenue and productivity (think sales). In some cases, increase sales may follow productivity by anywhere from 30 days to 2 years depending upon your products or services. The goal here is to keep your people busy with productive work that generates sales while reducing errors and complaints.

First, create an excel file with the following labels for these columns in row one:

  • A – Date
  • B – Action
  • C – January
  • D – February
  • E – March
  • F – April
  • G – May
  • H – June
  • I – July
  • J – August
  • K – September
  • L – October
  • M – November
  • N – December

Next leave rows two through 6 blank for daily activities such as posting on Tweeter or Facebook, changing Linked In Profile, blogging or article marketing.

Beginning with row seven label it with the number 1 and then continue to row 37 ending with the number 31 for the days of the month.

Now start plugging in all of your current marketing activities. This might include:

  • Monthly Ezine
  • Speaking Engagements
  • Direct Mail Pieces
  • Press releases
  • Networking events

Each worksheet within the excel file then becomes a year.

The next step is even more time consuming. Start plotting in your revenue highs and lows along with your productivity based upon historical experience. What should happen is you will see where there are gaps between your marketing actions and your increase sales. Sales Training Coaching Tip: Use a different color to indicate sales lows and highs along with production lows and highs.

A marketing calendar is a stop gap measure that recognizes your potential customers and existing customers having short memories. As a small business owner, entrepreneur, independent sales professional such as a realtor, insurance agent or financial advisor, you need to create top of mind awareness or TOMA. To do this requires touching them 33 times a year according to marketing research. What I suggest is 3 touches per month between email, direct mail, phone calls and personal meetings.

By having a calendar that clearly shows your actions in a very clear and concise manner helps you to keep your arms around marketing. Of course you must also continue to track the results of your marketing that being your revenue and productivity to truly realize the value of this instrumental tool.

Language Production Activities in the TEFL/ESL Classroom – Moving Beyond Gap Fills

Somewhere between scholarly studies of how people learn and the frontline experience of teaching, the issue of how TEFL/ESL learners actually acquire and keep language is confronted in activity design. Language practice activities come in many forms, and their design should take into account learning aims, the most important being language production. What is language production practice? Any student learning any language requires time and concentration to practise language after it has been acquired through a teacher’s presentation or through the discovery approach.

Yet, considering many course book and handout activities formats, not all employ language production. A considerable amount feature gapfills that require students to modify a stem verb or guess a missing verb. This cannot be considered as language production as such TEFL/ESL practice requires fuller expressions, even sentences to be constructed around context.

There are two types of productive practice of English in terms of skills; written practice and speaking practice. Common sense in TEFL/ESL learning methodology dictates that written practice should come first. Learners need time and separation from others to digest new language, without the pressures of interaction. Logically, when some sense of grammatical rules is made individually, learners should progress to communication.

The productive element of practice is what’s crucial to English learning. Learners have to, through intuitive activity design by teachers or course book writers, hardwire the use of grammatical structures and fixed vocabulary expressions. Context is everything in this process. Grammatical structures, arguably, should be practised in context according to three principles. Students need to be able to use structures comfortably (understanding), fit within existing structures (relation), and relate to other context beyond the confines of the existing activity (extrapolation). Each of these three factors is equally significant.

The first principle of understanding is mostly concerned with levels and grading in a TEFL/ESL context. For example, students with only limited experience in English (say for example two months), are likely to be able to understand the past simple, though will most likely struggle grasping the differences with the present perfect simple. Understanding, though, is a slippery concept, and there is nothing worse than a teacher asking ‘do you understand’?

So how can students improve their understanding through language production activities? Arguably, ESL worksheets that involve repetitive, contextual sentence writing through some guidance are of greater benefit than gapfill activities where students must insert a missing verb form. This is for two reasons; first, gapfill activities focus more on grammatical form rather than meaning (as verbs are often given in such activities). Second, such practices are mostly receptive. All information is given, requiring only students to change words, rather than come up with phrases and sentences themselves.

Our next point relates to the second aspect of language production activities; they must allow students to relate them to other structures they know. Grammar cannot be seen in isolation, and language production activities must use context for students to make the link between new structures and familiar ones. Take for example, the present perfect simple at elementary level. This structure fits commonly in with superlative adjective forms (e.g. what’s the best restaurant you have been to?) and the past simple (e.g. follow-up questions to “have you ever been to…”) TEFL/ESL activities should integrate such forms and ensure students are made to use them when practising new forms.

The final point, extrapolation, relates to the continuation of understanding and use of freshly-learnt grammatical forms through language production activities. Language forms such as the present perfect simple re-occur at several levels (all between elementary and upper-intermediate in fact). Thus, it is crucial for teachers to integrate activities that promote learner revision of prominent forms. How can this be achieved through language production activities? In short, students need to make language, helped along with the context of heavy grammar recycling and re-use of fixed expressions. TEFL/ESL tasks involving pictures or dominoes with minimal context do not achieve this. On the other hand, speaking tasks that involve students rephrasing expressions with other fixed expressions (for example ‘have a friendly relationship’ rephrased to ‘get on with)’ are exceedingly useful.

In conclusion, students learning English need to ‘make’ language through contextual guides such as pre-known grammar, familiar vocabulary that students can relate to, and exemplification. This can be done through language production activities in the form of writing and speaking. Writing activities where students model grammatical structures with their own personalised information, and speaking activities where students practise the essentials of new grammar in pairs and groups are particularly helpful. The way forward in TEFL/ESL is for course books and teachers to acknowledge this and continue to aid students in their quest for improvement through productive practice.

Unproductive Vs Productive Activities

I hope all of you are putting together a solid marketing plan. I know it seems to be the same song and dance year after year, but what are you going to do differently this year?

I want you to take some time and examine your current situation and ask a tough question. That question is “Why?” Why am I in this situation? What behaviors, habits, and events have worked together to land me into my current situation – be it good or bad?

Straight answers work best here, even if it’s not what you want to hear or admit. I’ll give you a little peak into a few of these “self chats” I’ve had with myself. I put everything on paper or into files on my PC, so I can always go back and find my habits. Here’s one from a few years back:

Negative habits:

– Too many activities going at once

– Find it difficult to say ‘no’ to new ventures

– Organization of files

– Too much time spent online

– Checking and responding to non-critical emails

– Work too many hours

Those were the negatives I found in myself. I’m sure this is by no means a conclusive list. haha – But I had to come to terms with the fact that those seemingly small issues were working together to limit my income and productivity. Here were the positives I came up with:

– Take action quickly

– Not afraid of cold calls or prospecting

– Creative with marketing and sales approach

– Proficient with online marketing

– Straight forward with prospects

Now I had to find a way to enhance my positives and minimize my negatives. Of course when doing this exercise I expanded on each item so that all the facts were on the table staring me in the face. Once you’ve identified your positives and negatives, you will be better equipped to structure your marketing plan for 10.

It is of vital importance that your plan for 10 addresses your negative attributes/habits or else you’ll simply repeat 09 as the same mistakes are made over and over again. Been there done that…

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