Focus and concentrate.

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Have you ever wondered why it’s so difficult to get a business up and running and to keep it moving forward?

The key reason for a business floundering or stagnating is lack of focus and concentration. Years ago I listened to a talk by Brian Tracey, one of North America’s foremost business and motivational speakers.  His mantra in this talk was ‘focus and concentrate’.  It has stuck with me over the years and as I see more and more businesses struggling, I see that this is their key challenge.

To be absolutely frank, it’s my key challenge as well. It’s so easy to get distracted and defocused with so many demands on your attention.   In a large business you usually have the resources to enable the adoption of a course of action and maintain the follow through.  In a small or medium sized business this is often a huge challenge.  Limited resources and unlimited demands for attention and finance make sticking with a single course of action long term very difficult.

However, without the necessary focus and concentration, you are pretty much doomed to an ongoing struggle for survival.  Here’s why:  you begin a course of action and it appears to have no effect and you become discouraged and distracted.  If you only knew, the effort you have put into this strategy is having an effect – however it may not have reached ‘critical mass’ just yet.  By abandoning it, you immediately lose all the momentum that has been silently and invisibly building and you have effectively flushed all the resources you’ve allocated to this down the toilet.

It’s a fact that most people give up when they are 95% of the way to achieving their goal. Nowhere is this more evident than in marketing.  Now, I’m not suggesting that you should keep throwing resources at a strategy that is clearly not going to produce an R.O.I.  What I am suggesting is that before embarking on a strategy, you carefully count the cost and make an irrevocable decision to see things through.

Typical example:  I have a client who is launching a new business that involves the sale of a wellness product that uses some simple – yet ‘new – ‘ technology that the market is as yet mostly unaware of.  At the beginning of the planning, they were adamant that they wanted to run print ads in the local area to drive immediate local sales.

My advice was that they needed to run a reasonable size ad (approximately 5 inches x 7 inches featuring an advertorial approach and a direct response mechanism.  I cautioned that, because most of the target audience was as yet unfamiliar with the product and the technology, that we would need to run these ads on a pretty long term basis in order to both educate and create the desire. We would need to begin with at least 3 ads run every 2 weeks over  a 6 week period.  This is always a difficult and costly process because as the primary educator in the market, you have the expense of educating upfront before you can hope to make sales.  After all, people will not buy something that they are neither familiar with or do not know anything about.

So, we ran the first ad with a fairly minimal (and predictable) response.  We also neglect to run it on a favorable weekend (a payday weekend) and choose to run it at the height of the vacation season.  The client is highly disappointed with the response – even though this had been fully discussed beforehand – and decides that they no longer wish to run print ads, but are now going to concentrate on face to face sales and online sales.

What’s the mistake here? First and foremost, people have the seen the ad.  People who are interested but don’t know enough or feel comfortable enough or motivated enough – as yet – to take action.  Three phone call enquiries, twenty-six hits on the site and five downloads of an e-book are in fact 34 responses – even though there are no sales as yet from that ad.

By not running another 2 ads at least, as previously decided upon, those that responded, as well as those that didn’t but will in the future, are left high and dry.  Pretty soon, they’ve forgotten about my client, but are primed and ready to respond to the next advance they see which will now, more than likely, be a competitor who takes advantage of the money my client spent in beginning the education process.

Yes, advertising is expensive.  Yes, it must produce results.  BUT it cannot be done in one shot – it’s not a silver bullet.  It has to be looked at as a campaign and treated accordingly.  It’s more expensive to begin a course of action and to then drop it prematurely than it is to continue implementing a sound, solid, pre-decided plan. It’s kind of like investing.  Financial planners have told me that the people who lose the most money are the ones who jump in the market, then as soon as there is a blip, they jump out fearing loss.  Which is exactly what they get.  Whereas those who hold on for the long term invariably do reap a reward.

My advice is to plan properly and then stick to the plan. Obviously this can’t be written in stone and you have to take into account unusual circumstances that may occur during the course of the plan implementation.  But, from my experience, unusual circumstances are just that: unusual.  It’s far more common that a perfectly good plan is abandoned because of a lack of focus and concentration caused by distractions and / or emotional reactions.

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