January is traditionally a time of reflection and planning. We reflect on what we’ve accomplished during the past year, and we plan for the year to come. Sometimes, we’re content to continue down the path from the previous year. At other times, we focus on “constructive-destruction,” the art of tearing everything down only to rebuild based on the same goals and objectives. Yet a third opportunity does exist. The opportunity to re-think your strategy, the opportunity to re-position your message, and the opportunity to re-assert yourself as a leader—whatever your company’s size or industry.
Regardless of which of the categories might fit your business planning—or the myriad of others which exist—here are five simple resolutions for business owners and marketers.
• Innovate, don’t imitate. Every business has competition. Competition is healthy. Yet sometimes we spend more time watching what our competition is doing than focusing on our own business. To be successful, define what differentiates you from your competition. Exploit that difference. Become innovative. Seek to fulfill not just the unmet need, but the unarticulated. Make innovation, not imitation, the core of your planning process.
“A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.” —Segal’s Law
• Set reasonable (marketing) goals. Many businesses fail because they don’t set reasonable expectations or clear goals. We must understand that marketing is a support function. Marketing doesn’t sell. Salespeople sell. Marketing elicits an emotional response for an unmet (or unarticulated) want or need. Marketing can drive traffic to your business. Marketing can make the phone ring. However, sales are made by people who deliver on the promise of the marketing message.
“In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until we ultimately become enslaved by it.”—Robert Heinlein, science fiction author
• Build bridges. Often, plans are opposed because they’re handed down from management without input from those charged with their execution. Even worse, employees and business partners become paranoid or feel threatened if they only know a part of a plan. This leads to poor performance and, ultimately, poor results. Fortunately, we can overcome this by involving those who must execute the plan in the planning process. This includes sales staff, manufacturing partners, distributors, and anyone else with a key role in the success of your business.
“Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike.”—Alexander Hamilton, lawyer and politician
• Have a plan, work the plan, and adjust the plan. You’ve set your goals. You’ve developed and implemented your plan. However, no plan is perfect. Goals change. Situations develop. These changes must be incorporated into your plan. But most businesses will select one of two choices: stay with the plan or abandon the plan. Remember that it’s acceptable to adjust the plan. However, be sure your adjustments are the result of a proactive development versus reactive response. Resist the urge to revert to what’s safe and familiar. Plans may prove to be imperfect, but the process of planning is indispensable.
“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood… Make big plans… aim high in hope and work.”—Damiel H. Burnham, architect and city planner
• Finally, above all else, keep it simple. These three words can solve any situation. Yet, we tend to doubt them the moment they leave our mouth. We immediately begin to over-think and over-analyze. The result is a convoluted maze without true direction. As human beings, we must resist the urge to complicate. Keep this in mind: Aristotle to Einstein to Thoreau to Wilde—and even Lao-tzu—agreed that simplicity is the key to communication, discovery, education, happiness, and innovation.
“Simplicity is the peak of civilization.”—Jessie Sampter, poet and writer
These five simple resolutions can serve as the thread that guides us through the maze of our everyday life. Without them, our time will be consumed by mere tasks and surrendered to fate. However, if you embrace them and live them, you can achieve your goals and your dreams. I wish you much success in the year to come. IBI