Some consultants say taking the first step in launching a business is the toughest. After working with small businesses for almost twenty years, we have to admit that we don’t agree. Yes, having the courage to transform a passion – through the investment of time and resources – into a formal venture is not something everyone is willing to do. But what happens when the adrenaline fades, the congratulations dim, and the day-to-day starts? It’s the building of perseverance around messaging and marketing strategy that is the true challenge.
Some time after the business launch – whether it be about month six, or during the first holiday season, or after the first year – a road bump comes along. It is inevitable. Perhaps a product isn’t selling, or clients aren’t booking repeat business. Maybe the original target market isn’t large enough, or a competitor has picked up on what you are doing and responded in force. With a small team and few resources to spread around, we have seen many business owners get stuck or even overwhelmed. Fear can creep in, as can doubt in the original mission of the company. This is when we consciously work with our clients to incorporate one of the most innovative psychological philosophies of this century into their marketing strategy: we put the Growth Mindset to work.
The Growth Mindset Philosophy
The Growth Mindset is a term that captures the work of Carol Dweck, a social psychologist who has studied motivation and success over the last several decades. She found that individuals who believe that personal success is based on innate, pre-determined ability are less likely to persevere through adversity (she labeled this mindset as a “fixed mindset”). The individuals, however, that believe success comes from hard work, continual learning, and pure stubbornness not only persevere, but outpace any statistical expectations for their achievement. The Growth Mindset captures the philosophy that continual learning and determination are the greatest factors in success.
How we put it to work in Marketing
There are several concrete things a small business owner can do if their marketing strategy is faltering. It takes a willingness to take a deep breath and being open to feedback that is not going to be positive. Here are some steps we’ve taken:
- First, a business owner has to be willing to acknowledge that not everyone will know about your business. That seems obvious, but trust us, it’s not. When someone has devoted their life 24-7 to a cause, tunnel vision develops before they realize it. Grow out of it by: do your own “competitive” research on your company. Are you found online easily? Do you have partnerships that build your network through relationships? Are you a member of a chamber of commerce, or a service organization that will reinforce your mission? What are your website and social media statistics telling you about how well your products and services are known?
- Second, be willing to be open to how your messaging might not be communicating your mission correctly. Having a marketing strategy that succinctly communicates your mission, products and service offerings is critical. As a business gets older, it can become muddled. Or perhaps it wasn’t clear in the first place. Grow out of it by: talk, talk, talk. Talk to your peers, talk to your neighbors, talk to your broader network. Then listen. What points do you have to repeat? What points landed like a lead balloon? And always look for ways to practice your messaging and find your brand voice. Try different versions in social media posts, and track the interactions. And it sounds corny, but have a 30 second elevator speech polished and ready to go. If you can’t summarize what you do in 30 seconds, your message is much too complex.
- Third, be humble about your offerings. You might not be offering the right products & services in the right location at the right price. This one can be the hardest work, emotionally. It is entirely possible that your original business plan is flawed. That doesn’t mean that you need to abandon the entire endeavor. But humility is a super power that will allow you to retool what you have. Grow out of it by: always seek feedback from clients. It doesn’t have to be a formal survey, but people can be reluctant to give bad news that they fear will upset you. You will have to seek it out. Also, use free tools at your disposal to look for industry trends. Keep an eye on keywords from search engines, and use Google’s Trends tool.
- Lastly, be willing to evolve. Your branding, product offerings and pricing strategy will need to change over time to respond to customers’ needs and technology changes. That logo that you developed a few years back? It might be stale, or worse, not supportive of new devices and technology. It’s now common for corporations to adjust a brand every few years. Grow out of it by: Watch trends in the broader business community for inspiration. Your aversion to video? Well, video’s pretty important now. You might want to find a way to incorporate it into your marketing calendar. Have you investigated new pricing structures like automatic product subscriptions? What about product bundles that improve customer loyalty? Keeping an eye on trends will help provide inspiration.
Be willing to take that step towards perseverance. It takes mental discipline and experimentation, but you can find ways to systematize it. Place blocks on your schedule to set aside an hour a week to look at your marketing results. Get out of your office and walk the environment where your customers are. You can let your mind be open to what others are doing. And find some strategic partners that will brainstorm with you, allowing you to grow in your business and your mission.
“I’ve learned that possibly the greatest detractor from high performance is fear: fear that you are not prepared, fear that you are in over your head, fear that you are not worthy, and ultimately, fear of failure. If you can eliminate that fear—not through arrogance or just wishing difficulties away, but through hard work and preparation—you will put yourself in an incredibly powerful position to take on the challenges you face.”