While there are many valuable lessons that come with competing in a team sport (baseball, soccer, basketball, etc.) my brother, the swim coach, always encourages individual sports. He likes the fact that in swimming, everybody competes and nobody sits on the bench. Athletes not only compete against the swimmer in the adjacent lane, but also compete against the clock. You may not win the race, but you can and should improve your time.
Small business is like that – we have our competitors and we have our own individual execution. Often, a good healthy dose of competition is a good thing – it can boost the adrenaline and cause us to dig deeper for the thrill of winning. But that is a battle. In order to win the war, individual execution better serves long term success. Too often, becoming preoccupied with a competitor can cloud the waters of decision-making.
When it comes to small business, the attitude of always looking to improve will pay the greater dividend.
The race – whether in swimming or small business – is multifaceted. The swimmer needs to execute her start, pace, the mechanics of the stroke and turns. A perfect start, a well performed stroke can be diminished by sloppy turns. Let’s put this is the frame of small business marketing – you may have the best services in your niche – but if your message is muddled and your frequency is spotty you’re not going to see the results you’d like to.
It’s important to repeat the effort, but crucial to diagnose what happened in the last campaign. Did you put together a great offer for your email, but doom it with a less than compelling subject line?
Are you relying on outbound marketing only, without developing the content and the tools to encourage inbound marketing?
Have you fallen into a pattern of repeating the same behaviors, without looking into how to employ new technology or platforms to accelerate your outreach?
Do you quit after a certain point? An example of this that I observed recently was a company that invested in a press release but then would not spend the money to have it distributed. And yes, while there were gains in terms of fresh content on the website, the greater benefit of a wider audience and links was abandoned.
You need to be premeditated in your behavior to always be improving. You need to embrace the fact that you will be working harder in the short term in order to work smarter in the long term. You will need to find the time to learn and not allow yourself to abandon your efforts when confronted with the error that always comes with “trial and error.”
One of the most important things I bring my clients is an objective assessment of what those areas of improvement are – and the accompanying skills sets. And, like a good swim coach, who can point out where your race is being slowed, identifying parts of the process that need to be tweaked and worked on, eliminates the mirage of activity for activity’s sake and keeps the journey on track.