Most of us, most of the time, live with routines and habits. This is okay, because if we changed everything every day, we would most likely be basket cases. The need for stability has a plus implication for marketing, as well. Once we acquire a new client, if we provide reasonable service and conduct ourselves properly, the client will be very hard to dislodge. This can be said for key employees and contractors, as well.
However, there is a danger in the routine in that (a) we miss serious competitive implications until it is too late and (b) we miss opportunities through blind, repeat behaviours.
There are a few ways to break through this problem, some of which I’ve applied recently.
Small crisis: Big deal in insights
Virtually everyone experiences small crises. Yesterday, for example, on a beautiful sunny day, my bicycle tire popped on the 15-km. ride home. I was on a well-travelled route, and two people approached me to offer assistance. One had a patch kit and was able to restore my tire. I offered compensation, and the individuals declined. (I discovered then the biking culture is a real thing.) Unfortunately, the patch didn’t hold and the spare inner tube provided by the second person would require tools and more assistance I didn’t have. But I was near the local university, with good transit, and I knew the transit system had a “rack and ride” system for cyclists. So I used it– after getting some assistance from the bus driver who had to show me how to use the bike rack. I made it home on time.
Lessons learned. For me, I’ll learn more basic bike maintenance and get the inexpensive tools and backup equipment to deal with repeat problems. For my marketing, I’ll appreciate the community and values of sharing and support — and reflect them in my business attitudes.
Vacations and travel: Go somewhere new. Attend relevant industry conferences.
We can escape our safe havens without going off the deep end. Industry association conferences provide opportunities for networking, deepening relationships with people closer to home (your peers from your city) and grabbing insights from non-competitive peers and vendors. You may obtain powerful business-building and expansion ideas. And sometimes serendipity creates new opportunities. In my case, a strategic alliance partner who happened to live near the city of the recent conference arranged a face-to-face meeting.
Encourage creative conflict and pushback from employees and colleagues.
Yesterday, at our (routine) staff meeting, I presented my findings with the new joint venture partner, and my planned suggestions on how to proceed. However, a key employee (who initiated the relationship) pushed back with an alternative suggestion. I resisted, because I thought I had made the right deal. However, he prevailed. Then another contractor approached after the meeting with observations about workload management and transition. More push-back (softly) — but today I began seeing a way forward that would integrate the ideas into a more effective business structure and model.
Donald Trump reportedly has a business model where he encourages this tension to obtain results. (Views about Trump, both his suitability for the US presidency and his skills as a businessperson, are highly polarized, but I’ll judge him by his results — coming from nowhere to becoming the presumed Republican nominee.)
Call on a third-party expert consultant for some brief advice (and pay for it)
Quite often, you can obtain incredible insights by asking a consultant for advice. Good consultants will have a good sense of your business (at least the aspects for which they are experts) and they will be able to size up the situation and see obvious areas requiring improvement almost immediately. You don’t need to engage in an expensive, ongoing consultancy, though I think it right that you offer the consultant to pay for his/her time for the initial advice. You may well discover the initial advice reflects 80 per cent of the consultant’s real value. You want to watch that you aren’t paying ongoing consultancy fees out of complacency rather than real value.
The goal here is to find ways to stretch without breaking your processes; the suggestion isn’t to throw all your routines out but to avoid complacency and encourage some creativity. A little tension and diversity in experience can go a long ways.
You can reach Mark Buckshon by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect through the contact form/page.