LATHER. RINSE. REPEAT.
Jumping Off The Marketing Roller Coaster. This common mistake could be holding your business back
When you started your business - was that last year, 10 years ago? - you had grand visions of its purpose, place and what it would look like when success came knocking at your door. Small and medium sized businesses define success in various ways. Some want to grow large, make as much money as possible and scale the heights of public ownership and stock options. Others want to impact their communities in positive ways. For some, touching lives and improving them on an individual basis is the ultimate satisfaction. Regardless of how you define success, one key ingredient is a constant flow of new customers.
Many businesses sabotage their own success and instead of generating a steady stream of new customers they hop aboard the marketing roller coaster, they vacillate between busy times and times with little business. That constant flow of new customers, in reality, becomes a momentary flood followed by a drought, like a fertile forest where customers pop up mushroom-like after a significant rainstorm one moment, only to become a lifeless sun-baked rock scape the next. When business is good there is a lot of hard work to meet the demand and maintain the expected quality and service standards. As the business slows down, and it will slow down, decisions are made to put more money back into marketing - Groupon deals, Google Ads, an ad in the local paper, whatever has worked in the past. (The avenue for marketing the business is irrelevant.) The advertising campaign works its magic and begins the cycle again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
The problem with riding the marketing roller coaster is that over time it only maintains business. It doesn’t build it. It’s easy to sabotage our success during busy times when there are deadlines and paperwork and customer issues that need to be tackled, along with a host of other busywork items. But when we are lulled into thinking only about the current obstacles and the business in front of us we lose a bit of purpose and focus. What if those marketing efforts were a constant? Every day, every week, every month, new customers on your doorstep because you are constantly marketing with a watchful eye towards those grand visions that inspired you at the beginning of the journey.
The first question to ask is this: what has to be done to maintain the busy times and make them the norm? Would you have to hire a new employee? Invest in your corporate infrastructure - people, equipment, procedures, systems? Is there someone working in the business now who would have to become a key employee?
For most of us these thoughts do two things: they broaden and solidify our vision for the future of the businesses we are trying to build, and, like dark, sinister clouds on the horizon, they usher in an inordinate amount of fear. Fear enters our lives (personal and business) walking arm in arm with change. Contemplating ways to maintain the busy times and to grow a business is about contemplating change. Through our fears we sometimes question everything about our reasoning and our business viability, including whether or not we should grow it. We even question our own ability to lead it into the future. It’s a normal experience.
These fears are easy to overcome, harness, and turn into a more directed path. Map out everything that would be necessary if the busy times were the norm. Think about every area of your work and how it would be impacted. Don’t leave anything out, no matter how small it might seem.
Once you have mapped things out and you are comfortable that your list is complete live with it for a few days. Keep it in mind as you go about your day to day activities and refine it as things come to mind. Living with it like this allows you to get comfortable with the idea of making change happen.
Research the items on your list. How much, if anything, will each cost? Not all costs are in dollars. Remember, some of these changes may require giving up a degree of control and relying on others. (The place where fear begins for some of us!)
Is there an order for accomplishing the items? For instance, will you have to upgrade computers or software before you add a new employee? Or, do you need to train a current employee to handle larger responsibilities before you hire another? The scenarios change from business to business. And no one knows your business better than you do.
Try to anticipate the likely pitfalls and drawbacks along the way. Where are the areas that might cause issues? What can cause delays?
Growth and change can be stressful, but once you have a map things will seem more settled, easier to understand and less intimidating. You can then decide if the changes are something you really want to do. Eh? Just because there may be a bigger, grander future for your company that doesn’t mean you have to choose it or that it is right for you. You may decide that you like business where it is. If you map out the possible changes at least you will be certain of what you want and then you can act accordingly.
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