I’m supposed to be a somewhat daring, risk-taking entrepreneur. Yet, yesterday I realized how much most of my day-to-day routine is based on repetition and habit. So much of life, it seems, is built on repeated behavior, comfortable in its predictability.
Of course, habits are both the strength and weaknesses of successful businesses. Once we’ve won clients over, we have an “unfair competitive advantage” because it is hard for competitors to dislodge our clients’ behaviours and patterns and cause them to break away from us. Conversely, it takes plenty of energy and something really special to break through the clutter of diverse options to reach into and change the “security of routine” in winning over new business. (And if you think habit doesn’t apply in public sector work, where “low price wins the work”, you are missing the fact that procurement officials are seeking predictability and consistency in matching their criteria and incumbents, knowing these requirements and the personalities of the decision-makers, can often make everything seem naturally fair and win the job, even when every effort is make to ensure genuine fairness in the competitive process.)
Then how do you succeed in this environment?
Your challenge is to achieve the right amount of consistency and predictability with enough knowledge of your potential clients’ soft spots where they would, indeed, like to see some change. You then validate the rightfulness of this change by appealing to their habits and mind patterns when they are truly ready for change.
Sometimes, the best way to figure this stuff out is to listen to others who know the minds and mind-sets of your potential clients. If, for example, you have something to sell to teens and young people, then clearly your best advisers might be your teenage children or some you know. If you want to encourage architects to spec your products, maybe spending some time looking at the architects’ routines and values would give you a clue about your best way to reach them.
Then you cross-check these interests and behaviours against your own habits, patterns and routines and see if you can find a match. In some cases, you might need to change and develop some new habits. This is hard to do — but it is easier to change your own habits than to expect others to change theirs to match your marketing expectations.