The Curse of Optimism

curse of optimismOne of the most daft questions I’ve heard in relation to marketing (and I’ve heard it many times) is,

“What if it works TOO well?”

The question usually kicks in after a particularly excellent conversation, discussion, or proposal.  It often happens when someone has identified their problems in the business, realised what they need to do in relation to marketing, and received a quote or discussed a potential way forward.  Everything is exciting, new, and positive.  The outlook is good.  And then that enemy of great marketing, Doubt, kicks in.  And he asks the question, “What if this great plan works too well?”

What if we get more clients than we can handle?  I’m already overloaded now, and what is that going to mean when we’re swamped with new business?  How will my team cope?  Will we be able to deliver the product (or service), and do it well?  Will our new clients be happy, and will our existing clients stick around?

What you need to do at this point, what is absolutely critical if you’re going to get anywhere in your business, is stop and look at what’s behind the questions.

Because the questions in and of themselves are not stupid ones.  It’s wise to think ahead, to plan, to consider, to evaluate every option.  But this is what you typically do before you begin looking at solutions.  And at that time, when things are hard or the economy has slammed you or you’re wondering if you’ll get any new business this year, it’s almost as though you grasp at any straws.  And you quickly dismiss these questions because you think, “Well, if any of those things happen, it will be an amazing problem to have, and I’ll deal with it when the time comes.”

That’s the right kind of thinking to have.  That’s the way you should be thinking when the questions come again.

But the problem is, when they surface again, you’re now looking at a very real solution to your issue.  You have a proposal, or a quote, or even an invoice in your hand, and suddenly your mind panics.  You wonder what you’re doing, and the worst-case scenarios begin to play out in your mind until you’re much worse off after implementing your new marketing initiative than you were before it.

Here are my tips as they relate to this:

You may be worse off. But you’ll probably be better off.  Marketing is about doing something, continuing to do it, and then making changes.  It’s not about thinking of doing things, getting all excited, and then leaving them in the landing dock.  You have to take off, even if you’re not quite sure how the journey will go.

All marketing takes time.  Unless you are doing a one-off discount offer that will bring in thousands of customers at one time (and even then, the market is so glutted with discounts and offers that this may not happen, either), marketing, when it’s done well, is more of a slow burn than a rapid fire.  The rapid-fire results can be exhausting and overwhelming, and there are a few stories of businesses who have not accounted for these potential results.  But there are more stories of those who try new things, and keep trying them, and make subtle changes, and over time build the client or customer base that they really want.

You can always let the worst clients go.  If you suddenly get a few new clients of the type you want – the ones that you enjoy working with, and are very profitable for you, and for whom you produce brilliant results – then you’re in a perfect position to contact a few of those clients who sap your time, energy, and money, and let them know that you don’t have the capacity to help them anymore.  Or you can increase your prices so that they will be profitable, and your clients can choose what they want to do.  Or you can contact a colleague or another business owner in your industry who has capacity to take on more business, and come to an arrangement with them.  There are hundreds of options available to you if you suddenly get loads of new business – and if you give a few minutes’ thought to it, you can do it in a way that only benefits you, your clients, and your business.  As a business owner you are (rightfully) concerned to make sure your clients are happy, but you take it too far when you make people happy at the sacrifice of your own time, energy, or profitability.  Think like a business owner.

Do your planning when the success comes.  When you’re worried or concerned about results, you’re stressed and tense.  It’s hard to make good decisions and it’s easy to second-guess the ones you make.  But when you begin to get a few new clients here and there, or even many new ones every day, your outlook will improve remarkably.  It’s like the sun coming out and shining cheerfully after a dark, cold time.  You feel better.  You move more quickly.  Decisions are easier.  Everything is positive and optimistic.  Believe that you will make excellent decisions when the new business comes, because you absolutely will.  You know your business, you know your products, and you know your clients.

Try something new.  Often the reasons these questions come up in your mind is because you’re launching out with a new marketing initiative you’ve never tried before – an email marketing system, an online CRM system, a new website, a refreshed brand or logo, a smartphone app, social media.  Whatever it is, you may be hesitating because you don’t understand the new marketing ways, and so you want to hark back to the old ways because those are the ones you understand.  Don’t get caught in that trap.  If you need to understand better, or get some testimonials, or do some research, by all means do it.  But don’t use that as an excuse to hold off – “I need to do some more research,” you say, meaning, “I don’t really trust this new way and so I’m just going to do what I’ve always done.”  We all know the end of that sentence, when you do what you’ve always done, what do you get?

Online marketing is an area that, for many accountants, feels this way.  We encourage you to sign up for our free stuff and watch videos and recorded webinars on topics like “How Online Marketing Drives Profitability”, and “Online Marketing for Accounting and Financial Services Firms”.  The research is there, the results are there.  Do your research to understand it by all means – but don’t just back off in case the results are too good.  That way insanity lies!