The Dream Strategy Fallacy (and how to get practical when planning content launches)

By Brittany Taylor

The practical way to plan your next content marketing launch

Mar. 30, 2016 

Content strategy and vacations have a lot in common: There are lots of moving pieces, there are lots of ideals, and there are lots of reality checks.

Sure, you can split hairs. Is a hotel like a social media platform? OK, no, not really. But that’s beside the point. The point is that even if you are even marginally like me, you find it very easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of possibilities.

This is where the Dream Strategy Fallacy comes into play.

What is the Dream Strategy Fallacy?

The Dream Strategy Fallacy is the idea that the first broad-strokes plan we come up with is the plan we ought to execute. It doesn’t even matter what kind of plan it is—content or social media or launch promotion.

Why do we fall for the fallacy? Because it’s so dang dreamy. The ideas are so rich and full of possibility, so visionary and far-reaching that we can’t help but think, damn, this would be awesome. And maybe it would be.

But you shouldn’t stake your business on “maybe.”

There are two types of people who fall for the Dream Strategy Fallacy.

Type A is a green-lighter. She comes up with a good idea and wants to run with it right away. This is how she thinks:

“I could launch your program on a podcast while simultaneously live tweeting! I could develop a phalanx of email sales funnels with sassy branded GIFs and personalized video greetings! I could, I could, I could.”

But should she?

Well, no, and this is why: Strategy is about picking and choosing. It’s about looking at all the possibilities and then deciding what to execute based on variables like your goals and your audience.

If you do all the things, you aren’t strategizing; you’re wasting your energy.

The second type of person who falls for the Dream Strategy Fallacy is probably you.

Type B yearns for scale. She wants to be big and bold. Here’s how she thinks:

“My audience spends the most time on Facebook, Periscope, Twitter, and Instagram, and the sector most likely to buy my product also loves Pinterest. I need to be in all of those places. And also, so that people can find out who I am, I also want to do a blog hop, guest post on two dozen blogs, be interviewed on all seven of my favorite podcasts, and co-host webinars and workshops with these five entrepreneurs.”

All of these are great tactics. The Type B entrepreneur has clearly done her homework. She’s brainstormed all the ideas, narrowed them down to the best options for achieving whatever it is she wants to achieve, and she’s come up with a plan to get it all done.

That’s a lot of things. And also, you’re human.

The problem is that the Type B plan isn’t practical. It’s diverse, it’s based on proven tactics, and it checks all the boxes. But there’s one thing it doesn’t account for: the resources you have available.

Blegh, resources. Totally not sexy and totally important.

What is the Dream Strategy Fallacy? It's when we fall for our first ideas without thinking about our businesses. This guide shows you exactly how to turn your dream strategy into a practical strategy you can use to plan your online business content | via

The one thing all entrepreneurs have in common is that we’re all limited by something.

When we hogtie those limitations and throw them off the cruise ship so we can la-di-da our way to the tiki bar, that’s when we get into trouble. That, my friends, is when the Dream Strategy Fallacy starts to ruin our vacation.

Let’s see how we can fix that.

First, lay out all the possibilities

Your dream strategy is what happens when you open up your brain to every little thing you could possibly do, every way you could use every platform, every tactic you’ve ever heard about on every book, webinar, podcast, and blog you’ve ever read, ever.

In vacation lingo, this is the trans-continental buffet, where tepid mini waffles are two serving dishes away from ramen (on the right) and lamb kefta (on the left).

Welcome to the world of limitless possibilities. Your job in this step is to focus on four things:

  1. What other people are doing that excites you
  2. What other people are doing successfully
  3. What other people have tried that you think you could improve upon
  4. What other people haven’t tried that you think could be worth exploring

This phase is all about finding and tracking your inspiration. I like to do this constantly, whether I’m preparing a new strategy or not. I like to file away bits and pieces every day. Here are a few tools and methods I use to keep my files organized so that I can find and reference them when I need to:

Evernote. I save websites, emails, and odd notes to myself here and use notebooks and tags to earmark them for future projects.

Screenshots + IFTTT. I do a lot of my social media browsing on my iPhone. When I come across something that I love or want to think more about later, I take a screenshot of whatever it is. I’ve created an IFTTT recipe that pulls my screenshots into a separate folder on my iPhone, and that folder also syncs with my laptop via Microsoft’s Onedrive platform. When I’m hunting for something or seeking a piece of inspiration, I flip through these screenshots.

Bookmarks. I use Google Chrome on both desktop and mobile, and I’m able to sync my bookmarks between each platform. Over the last few years, I’ve created a network of folders for niche topics, like client on-boarding, Pinterest growth, and email marketing funnels. When I come across an article that is so helpful, I know I’ll want to read it again, I put it into one of these folders.

Analog. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen my Bullet Journal in action. I use it every day to record my to-do list, client meeting agendas, brainstorms, and notes on podcasts, blog posts, content upgrades, and just about everything else. Everything in my Bullet Journal is something I need to write down in order to process and log into my long-term memory, and it’s all handily indexed for future reference.

Where should you start if you have no idea where to start?

Pinterest. One of my favorite online trends is transparency. It’s a boon for everyone, but particularly for those of us who are curious about how our entrepreneurial idols are performing feats of business magic strategy. Pinterest makes it very easy to discover these entrepreneurs and go right to the posts where they talk about what they’ve accomplished and how they’ve accomplished it.

Once you have a few names, dig in deeper. Subscribe to their email newsletters (and save the ones that strike you as being particularly awesome in a separate folder for future reference). Bookmark their blogs (I use Feedly and you should, too). Follow them on social media. Take notes on what they’re doing and focus on what works best, both in terms of their business (think: what gets the most comments or shares or likes?) and yours (think: what draws your attention? What excites you?).

How do you make sure your ideas are diverse?

Easy: Brainstorm them that way! If you’re big into Twitter, you might have trouble coming up with Instagram ideas, for example. Still, I want you to challenge yourself to come up with workable ideas for every platform that you could potentially use in your plan.

Why? Because the more you push your brain to think in new ways, the more agile it becomes.

To make sure you include a diverse range of ideas on your dream list, I suggest using a mind mapping technique. On a blank sheet of paper, write down each platform in its own bubble. Then, let your ideas flow. Don’t stop brainstorming until each platform has at least one idea connected to it.

Got a bunch of ideas? Great. Now, I want you to write them all down in one place and organize them by platform.

Second, narrow the possibilities into your dream strategy

If you could do anything to, say, launch your new e-course, what would you do? This is the crux of your dream strategy. It is all the things…when you filter all the things through a set of strategic lenses.

Of course, that’s just another way of saying that it’s time to decide if doing X, Y, or Z is a good choice for your business.

For example, if you were planning a visit to Savannah, a trip to Juliette Gordon Low’s house might not be a great use of time if no one in your group had been badge-collecting members of the Girl Scouts. It’s the same idea with your list of possibilities.

EXERCISE:  Vet your long list of dream content strategy possibilities against these standards

The mission of this exercise is to create a strategic short list. To do that, I want you to go down your list of possibilities one by one. Judge each idea against the standards below. If an idea doesn’t meet one of the standards, cross it off the list. Be ruthless.

Standard #1. This idea helps me reach my audience where they hang out.

This standard is about effective marketing. If, for example, you were launching a program that would help deaf business owners communicate with their customers, a podcast interview might not be a great primary tactic because the majority of podcast listeners are not deaf. If, however, you were launching a program that would help business owners communicate with deaf customers, a podcast interview focusing on accessible business practices could be a great primary tactic.

Standard #2. This idea helps me impart value to my audience.

Good marketing does something for the targeted audience. That something could be providing five minutes of entertainment. It could be teaching them why they need to adapt to a new type of technology. It could be answering objections customers might have before they purchase your product. Whatever that something is, it should be something that makes your potential customers’ lives better, even if they don’t open their wallets later to buy what you’re selling.

Standard #3. This idea is in line with my business values.

Every business stands for something. Every business has values. Even if you haven’t thought about your business values, I guarantee you that they’re there, lurking beneath the surface and guiding the actions you take as an entrepreneur. If you haven’t thought about your business and its values, take a moment now, before you apply this standard to your list of ideas, and think about them. What words do you want customers to associate with your business? What reputation do you want to have? Start there.

Standard #4. This idea is in line with my business goals.

There are tiers of business goals. At the tippy top is the Big Dream, the vision for what you want to create someday in the future. This is your imagined empire. Beneath that is the five-year plan. These goals are relatively short-term, and they feed into the Big Dream. Beneath the five-year plan are your short-term goals—your year-long plan and your two-year plan. And beneath these short-term goals are the micro-goals, the month-long goals, the week-long goals, and the day-long goals. The ideas you have for this strategy should fit into this hierarchy from the bottom, up. That means that everything you do in your dream strategy should feed into your short-term goals, which feed into your longer-term goals.

Standard #5. This idea excites me.

Excitement is palpable. It’s infectious. When you’re feeling it, your audience can tell, and if it’s genuine, they’ll start to feel it, too. Ditch the ideas that don’t turn you on because if you pursue them, you won’t execute them well. You’ll procrastinate. You’ll drag your feet. You’ll use your bland language instead of your best. And all of that blah-ness will dim the rest of your strategy—you know, all those ideas that you are excited about.

Completing this step will look differently for different people. Your long list of ideas might persist, or it might be decimated. But if each item meets each and every standard above (yes, every single one!), then you’re ready to move on to the final step.

Third, condense your dream strategy into a practical strategy

You can’t do everything. It’s true of every single trip you take, and it’s true of content strategy. When you have two weeks ‘til launch, or a full-time job, or two kids, or 50 bucks—frankly, when you’re human—doing all the things you can dream up is impossible.

Don’t go all Jack Nicholson on me, guys. This is the truth. If you do not handle it, you will face burn-out.

When I first started creating content strategies, I skipped this step. I went right from the dream strategy to execution. And it was awful. I hated everything, and I had no choice but to continue because I’d old my boss that I was going to do all the things, and darn it, I was going to do every last one of them if it killed me.

I don’t do that anymore. This step is the best step. It will save your sanity.

And here’s the kicker: You’re not going to sacrifice anything. What you’re doing is building the best strategy for you. You are part of the equation. Here’s how we’re going to factor you into it.

EXERCISE: Prioritize your ideas by their value

Remember those standards you used to cull your list in the last step? We’re going to bring those back. Here they are:

Standard #1. This idea helps me reach my audience where they hang out.

Standard #2. This idea helps me impart value to my audience.

Standard #3. This idea is in line with my business values.

Standard #4. This idea is in line with my business goals.

Standard #5. This idea excites me.

Your mission in this exercise is to rank your ideas by how well they measure up to these standards, with one as the best. Go through the entire list five times (once for each standard). When you’re finished, each idea should have five numbers next to it that correspond to each standard. Total the numbers for each idea.

Now, you’re going to re-order your list of ideas. At the top of the list will be the idea with the lowest total value. As you continue down the list, the values will increase. Remember, the lower the value, the higher the priority in your overall content strategy.

When you’ve finished compiling your ranked list, take a look at the top 5 ideas. Are they what you thought they would be? Is there anything missing? Are any ideas ranked higher or lower than you think they should be?

If you can come up with a compelling argument to reorder a few of your ideas, go ahead and do that.

Finally, you’re going to draw a line. The ideas above the line are the ones that have made it into your final, practical strategy. The ideas below the line will be cut. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you where to draw the line—that’s entirely up to you.

Here are a few areas where you might want to draw the line:

– Between “yes!” ideas and “meh” ideas. These are typically the ones that you feel your audience will react well to.

– Between well-rounded ideas that scored equally well across all the standards and ideas that scored exceptionally well in one or two areas.

– Between unique ideas and been there, done that ideas. Often, these are the ideas you’ll be most excited about.

– Between ideas you know you can pull off and ideas you’re not sure how to execute.

Remember: This step is about managing your resources. Draw the line so that it includes tactics you know without a doubt that you can pull off with what you have available to you. Think about money, time, tools, knowledge, followers, fans, affiliates, friends, and brainpower.

Take away

Imagine you, sitting in a café and enjoying your vacation. You’ve planned your trip just enough for it to be successful and fun. Planning is about helping you achieve your goals while still enjoying the process. And a practical strategy is nothing more than an effective plan.

While you nibble on a croissant, your eye catches a woman dragging her friend across the street. The friend is pointing back at a monument she wanted to stop at, while the woman is pointing somewhere down the cobblestones, where lies the next stop on their itinerary.

A successful trip? Maybe, if you count success as a stamp in your passport. Fun? Definitely not.

Practical strategy wins, guys.

The dream can be enchanting, but the reality of it falls short. Give yourself time to ponder the dreams, and then winnow away at the stuff you can let go of so that what’s left is all that you really need. That’s the ticket.