The ability to shift focus is critical. How is it that some organizations can do it and others cannot? Quite possibly, there has never been a time marked by such intense disruption and a consequential level of uncertainty about how, when or, if at all, the challenges can be addressed. These circumstances also provide a myriad of unexpected opportunities.
It’s easy to sit back with a sense of relief and a singular focus on the parts of your business that are doing well, perhaps even growing, not realizing the disservice you are bringing to your and your clients’ businesses. Getting too comfortable prevents you from growing and achieving all that you are capable of. You must embrace these new opportunities and be ready to shift to stay ahead of the competitive curve.
A business that is averse to evolution will inevitably falter. Being future-ready requires an unwavering commitment to listening hard to your clients in off-the-clock conversations. Visiting with them, on your own time, and on your own dime, eases their worries and makes them feel supported. It is in these unstructured conversations that you learn how your clients truly feel. You may discover that they want to step up to new marketplace challenges and don’t see you as a true partner in that journey. The ball is now in your court to rectify this. It is also in these honest and more open conversations that enduring and trusting relationships can be built and nurtured. Think of it this way – a client is a friend with a problem.
It’s a lesson echoed by branding expert Allen Adamson. On the podcast Best Business Minds with Marc Kramer, Adamson, a best-selling author and cofounder of marketing powerhouse Metaforce, says, “If you’re not learning every day, you are falling behind.”
Engage Your Clients…Constantly
First, look to your clients. Talk to them with regularity about where they are going and how you can help them get there. Anticipate their wants and needs. Listen to their pain points and address them. You cannot know what is coming down the pike unless you are constantly staying close to the people whose relationships are critical for you.
Embrace your clients. Partner with them in this new journey. When you do, your clients will care about you and you will become indispensable. Firms that prioritize their clients’ needs above all else create engagement and loyalty that translates into long-term retention.
Stay Focused AND Be Visionary
Yes, you have to walk and chew gum at the same time. Adamson hits the nail on the head when he says, “To stay competitive, you must shift; to stay credible, you must focus.”
Stay focused on the present by maximizing what you do and providing consistently great products and services that solve problems and fulfill needs. Invest in your business now to keep and attract talent. Most important, recognize when it’s time to change direction.
Be visionary about the future and what your business needs to do to stay relevant. You must stay focused on the present, but don’t get so limited in your perspective that you don’t see the change happening around you. A narrow definition of your business will only narrow your reach and your options. Change is hard but starting before you are in dire straits is critical.
It’s also important to understand that when you shift and take calculated risks, you might lose a little in the short term. You need to be willing to make the investment it takes to be visionary. In the end, knowing when to shift can help generate long-term value and increased brand equity for your firm and your clients.
New ideas create unexpected opportunities. According to Adamson, the ability to pivot and continually evolve to meet the times and the exigency of the marketplace requires “a smart, calculated approach to knowing when to change course and how to pull it off.”
Go Big or You Will Go Home
Adamson cautions against marketing myopia in which businesses become so focused on their own needs and short-term growth that they miss their customers’ behavior and needs. He cites Columbia Records’ insistence on defining itself as a “record company” instead of a provider of recorded sound. Imagine what a record company would even look like in today’s world of streaming and downloadable music! Other established companies like Sears, Howard Johnson’s and Kodak have also fallen prey to myopic thinking. Kodak lost much of its share when digital cameras boomed and Kodak hadn’t planned for it.
If these companies had listened hard to their customers and anticipated their needs, they would have known that focusing singularly on a product or service, at a point in time, was not enough to carry their businesses into the future. What a missed opportunity to shift!
Your business is not simply what you produce, it is what problem you solve. It is your ability to take worries away from your client and make them feel like they have a partner and an advocate on their journey. Take the Dove Self-Esteem Project, a campaign to help young people build body confidence and boost self-esteem. It hits all the right marks, without even mentioning Dove soap.
This applies across industries. For example, as a lawyer, you are not just handling matters – you are a business advisor, risk manager, interpreter of data, process enabler, customer success manager, chief problem solver, a bit of a psychologist, and more. When you embrace this bigger picture and engage with your clients at that level, you create a role for yourself that causes clients to really care about you.
Staying relevant in these disruptive times requires a commitment to constant reevaluation and assessment. It’s important to follow these steps to make sure your business isn’t falling behind when it could be leading the pack:
In a world that is constantly changing and becoming more competitive every day, harness those unexpected opportunities to shift ahead and realize the full expression of your brand potential.