Having a clear plan and point of focus for your business and marketing goals is, of course, important. But it’s also important to be flexible enough to <em>change</em> those plans. It's key that you allow leeway for a business change, should the opportunity present itself.
Let me tell you a quick story.
At 7 years old, I knew that I wanted to be a photographer. This was much to the chagrin of my parents, who were hoping their only son would take a more conventional and respectable (for the day) profession such as a doctor, lawyer, or accountant.
But it was photography that got me excited. I did everything I thought that I needed to do at the time, to help me get to that goal. One morning I remember seeing an offer on the back of the box of breakfast cereal: collect 10 tokens and send £7.99 to receive a Kodak Instamatic 110 camera. I ate that cereal every day for what seemed like months on end and saved my pocket money to get that camera.
But having the camera was just the start of my passion. I read every book on photography in our town’s library. I bought photographic magazines and journals as if my life depended on it, and ingested every snippet of information I could. I read and re-read everything I could find about photography, to the point that I could recite the text verbatim (and often did. What can I tell you? It was before puberty).
The Danger Of Business Tunnel Vision
Throughout my formal education, many of the decisions I made were based on whether they would help me realize my goal to be a photographer. For example at school I took Physics and Chemistry, rather than Biology or Geography, as I was told they were going to be more useful when I planned to study Photography at university.
A few years later, through a series of both fortuitous and convoluted events that happened to me after leaving high school, I succeeded in my goal of becoming a photographer (and more), founding and running a media production company for five years. The studio did fashion and advertising shoots for advertising agencies, calendars, billboards, and annual reports. I was even fortunate enough to direct a TV commercial for Nestlé (the opportunities for business change – or perhaps that should be 'business expansion' – were more accommodating back in the 90s).
The problem with having such tunnel vision is you’re often too narrowly-focused to see what else may be out there, since it may not align itself with your current mindset. For me, that meant passing-up new opportunities simply because they didn’t “fit” with the existing plan I had in my head, and which I was blindly working towards at the exclusion of everything else. For example, at school I decided I didn’t need to study computers. Why? Well, I was going to be a photographer, right? So what possible use would computers have to a photographer??? Yeah, more fool me…
Betting The (Business) Farm On An Edsel
I would have liked to have put that down to the impetuousness of youth, but I’ve continued to bet on more than a few Edsels since those days. For example I couldn’t see the point of Facebook for a long time (even though I did get into Twitter pretty early), as I had falsely assumed that Facebook couldn't help businesses with their marketing unless they were customer-facing (B2C) businesses. I finally succumbed in April 2009 – and have had my nose well and truly rubbed in it on a regular basis ever since.
When Apple first announced the iPad I didn’t see the point of the thing. There didn’t seem to be anything it could do that couldn’t already be done with an iPhone or iPod Touch. 300 million sales later, I’m clearly in the minority.
The moral of the story? Things change. Marketing changes. Your business changes. Get used to it.
Yes it’s important to have clear goals in your business for sales, marketing, communications, and all the rest. But it’s also crucial to accept that just around the corner there could be something that could dramatically alter the trajectory of your business. Positively, as well as negatively.
Business Change Evolution Should Track Customer Evolution
The world is full of crumbling companies, as well as entire industries, that bet on things always staying the same. The record industry never imagined that a computer company would up-end their business and change it forever, yet that’s exactly what Apple did in less than a decade. Kodak based their business on the assumption that people would always buy or rent films as physical media. Blockbuster based their business on the assumption that people would always buy or rent films as physical media, even while they saw the tide turning in front of their eyes.
During a waning economy, either at a micro level (your business) or a macro one (the entire industry), business change is often the only thing you’ve got left. The only thing that’s going to change the situation is changing the situation, but most people find that too difficult. They’re too set in their ways in maintaining the status quo.
If you’re not happy with the way things are going, what fundamental, radical, extra-ordinary changes are you prepared to make to your business to remedy the situation? Such changes are not just advisable; they’re increasingly mandatory in order to maintain relevance and differentiation in the minds of your customers.
Change is inevitable – unless it's from a vending machine.