My first question to entrepreneurs is what makes their company different and I cannot tell you the number of times I hear: “We are an easy-to-use software with all the tools you need.” “We are a one-stop shop.”
Nobody cares! That’s just the honest truth. It just means that compared to competitors you’ve put things together. Why is that important to your customers?
The human brain is built to minimize effort. We rely heavily on what we know, on how we are used to do things and on what we expect them to be. Unfortunately, this means that other people (customers, employees, partners, etc.) aren’t making much of an effort to understand you, your product or your company. As leaders, it is your job to ensure that the company’s purpose is really being heard, so you can have the impact you deserve.
That’s what strategy does: It determines what the company’s identity will be, why it will matter, and to whom. Stop thinking about it as a dusty plan sitting on a shelf. Strategy is the beating heart of your company.
Most entrepreneurs go through their day in a zombie-like trance, lacking purpose and ultimately causing the contagion of apathy on everyone around them. As a result, many businesses fail due to the consequences of their unintentional actions. Entrepreneurs can learn a great deal from taking preemptive measures to avoid the spread of this infectious self-sabotage.
Here are my tips on surviving a contagious zombie outbreak.
Assume everyone is contaminated
It is totally acceptable to be paranoid! In today’s connected world, our daily media consumption is such that it has turned us into zombies, blind to most of the information and messages we see or hear. That’s the one thing that nobody understands about marketing. The simple fact of having an ad, a website, a Facebook page or a Twitter handle is not, in any way, effective. Having never taken the time to understand who your customers are, meaning the 20% of the 80/20 rule (20% of your customers make up 80% of your profit) and what their needs are, it’s like throwing slime to a wall and hoping it sticks.
Unfortunately that’s the mentality of the majority of the companies using (and selling) digital marketing. Just saying why you are different isn’t enough. What counts is that you are different in a way that matters to your customers. Hence the first step is to define why your company matters and equally important, to whom. That’s precisely what strategy does.
So let your strategy lead, and let marketing be what it is, the execution arm.
Assume everything is contagious
Your everyday routine, actions and decisions you make for your business will contaminate your results. The positive ones will motivate you, the negative ones will slowly but surely kill your business, from the inside. Average entrepreneurs are in a reactive mindset, lumbering from challenges to problems, stiff-legged, always taking the same slow and arduous steps, with little to no coordination. Even with their results staring them right in the face, they usually don’t see themselves, their decisions, and their lack of strategy as the problem.
Great leaders do the opposite. First, they take responsibility for the outcome. When mistakes are made, they walk into the room looking for solutions instead of blaming someone, or the economy, or the full moon. Second, great leaders are confident, but humble. They understand they don’t have all the answers. They intentionally develop the art of asking great questions. Asking the important questions is the starting point to developing their strategy, which in turn provides them with the focus and clarity they need to excel.
So while preparing to survive a contagious zombie outbreak may sound like a futile exercise, just remember that the lack of strategy is a powerful ailment that can harm you and your business, as much as any zombie apocalypse.
Ask yourself this: Does My Company Make a Difference Today? A difference for my customers, a difference for my family, a difference for me?
Author: Carine Dieudé, Partner, Director of Strategy, specializes in growth and exit strategies, systems and operations, for small and medium size businesses.
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