A new year often signals a fresh start. A chance to reflect on the year that’s gone and consider the possibilities ahead, both personally and professionally. We resolve to do better and achieve our ambition – and we are fierce in our determination, fuelled by the prospect of a new year with the slate wiped clean.
Truth alert: we don’t like New Year’s resolutions much. They tend to blaze on to the scene, spectacular and dazzling, only to fade as fast the New Year’s Eve fireworks preceding them. Despite the best of intentions, how many are still standing after the initial enthusiasm has waned and the real work begins? All too often, the sprint has become a marathon even before the end of January. The calendar fills up, life and business go on and old habits welcome us back like a long-lost friend.
Flashy New Year’s resolutions can take a seat. They fail because they are too broad, too lofty, too impractical and too many. They’re a quick-fix for a complex problem, or it turns out they’re not truly aligned to your vision or goals. Mostly, they’re a classic case of over-promising and under-delivery.
At our last Business Leaders Marketing Roundtable a topic that lit up the room was our discussion about the biggest frustrations people were experiencing with their marketing.
Two common themes emerged:
- Abundance of great ideas, but poor follow through. New initiatives continually being started but either not seen through to the end, or they were carried out but then not measured or reported on.
- Marketing seemed to be underperforming but examination of the project or “to do” list revealed 100 unprioritised tasks. No strategy in place, sometimes no dedicated person or team in place (business owner is doing it all) and again usually no reporting or measurement to feed back into future activities.
These challenges, and the poor outcomes that result, are not down to lack of effort or ability or solid intentions. They stem from a lack of focus. Most of us have limited time and resources so we have to be particular about where we invest our efforts.
If you’re serious about achieving your goals and about making a real difference in your business – and your marketing – then focus is what will get you there.
Focus is defined as paying particular attention to or concentrating interest or activity on something. Focus may then be further defined as the act paying special attention to something “rather than dealing with other topics” or “despite all distractions”.
To stay focused is a discipline, asking of you the will and stamina to stay on course and navigate the inevitable distractions and obstacles ahead. It’s often true, for example, that the moment you set yourself a goal all the obstacles in reaching it will immediately become apparent! This is where focus comes in.
Why? Because the rewards are worth it. Getting things done and doing them well. Learning important lessons and gaining valuable insights that make your business stronger. The satisfaction of being in charge of how you spend your time and energy rather than ruled by external forces.
Change is hard, shifting well-entrenched habits even more so. What will you focus on and how will you do it?
Why is your goal/project/marketing activity etc important? What’s driving it? What will it mean to you when achieved? When things are important enough, and especially when they are deeply important on an emotional, visceral level, not only will you do it but being clear on the “why” will help you stick with it. Ask yourself: why am I doing this? Why is it important?
Keep it simple
Imagine all of your opportunities are like sweets in a pick ‘n’ mix. Walls, shelves and buckets filled to the brim with tempting treats to choose from. Try them all and at best you’ll dilute the flavours, at worst make yourself sick. So now imagine that you’re only allowed to pick ONE. You have no idea if you’ll make the right choice, or if another sweet might be more delicious. You’ll only know about the one you decide to pick, and after that you can either choose to try a different one or help yourself to more of the same. It’s difficult to focus when the choice is overwhelming. Start by picking just one.
With your marketing, for example, you could choose to:
- Put a simple marketing plan down on paper
- Identify what to outsource if marketing keeps falling off the list
- Research your customers to understand them better
- Develop your website
- Work on your customer journey
- Implement a CRM system
- Implement monthly or regular reporting
If you’re just starting out with marketing, start small before going big but keep the clarity of thinking no matter how sophisticated your marketing is: pick ONE thing to focus on that might make a difference. Then move on to the next.
Get comfortable with saying “No”
Staying focused takes discipline and understanding that by saying “yes” to what’s important” means identifying and saying a firm “no” to what’s not. This isn’t easy, especially when we’re conditioned to say “yes” but you have to find a way of dialling down the noise on all of the things simultaneously competing for your attention. Apple is a great example: it’s one of the world’s most successful brands, and whose success has been put down in part to relentless focus. According to Steve Jobs “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”
Focus brings its own rewards, but to stay on track it’s a great idea to celebrate all the wins and milestones along the way that point to progress. No matter how big or small they are. This is especially useful if lack of follow-through has been an issue in the past. Break bigger projects down into smaller, more manageable chunks that you can track progress against and tick off the list. If something like getting your email marketing up and running is a focus area then progress might look like 1) building a list of contacts; 2) deciding on a platform to send your email from, 3) deciding the first campaign or message you’re going to send. Then maybe you get your first email campaign out (WIN!), look at how it performed (opens, clicks, unsubscribes etc), and then use what you’ve learned to put into your next email campaign. Whatever you’ve decided to focus on, measuring progress will help keep you motivated and on track.
So… what will you focus on this year?
We’re all guilty of chasing after shiny new things at times, and there’s nothing like the start of a New Year to dangle the shiniest of possibilities in front of us. But when there are too many options and you’re not sure where to start this lack of focus leads to frustration, poor follow-through and becoming overwhelmed. If you must have a New Year’s Resolution, make it a resolution to focus.
Take a deep breath and ask yourself: if you can only choose ONE thing to focus on, ONE thing to fully commit to, what will it be?
Please let us know by sharing in the comments below or get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.
Happy New Year!Tags: business success, focus, intention, marketing, marketing success, strategy