When it’s time to abandon a strategy and listen to the world

abandon a strategy

One of the challenges I enjoy most is the one-hour coaching calls people schedule with me. I get to meet so many interesting people! Today, I will discuss a common problem I see with entrepreneurial businesses — knowing when it’s time to abandon a strategy … at least for a little while.

Let me tell you a story about my own lesson, when it made sense to abandon my own strategy.

When I left the corporate world, I spent a lot of time building a business strategy. I would provide marketing consulting services on a regional basis. It was great. I soon had a nice client list, and my business was humming along.

100 percent human contentI started a blog on a whim. I immersed myself in the social media world, and I became part of the content creator revolution.

But then my blog took off. In the early days, I was a distinctive voice since I had more than 25 years of global marketing experience. There weren’t too many people with that experience writing blogs at that point, so I had a nice niche. I had found a seam.

The popularity of my blog led to opportunities to write a book. Writing a book nudged me onto a national stage and offers to speak to large audiences. Speaking led to bigger consulting contracts.

Suddenly, my well-defined business strategy of nurturing business leads in East Tennessee was out of sync with reality. New income streams eclipsed my client work.

I made a weird decision: I needed a period of time to abandon a strategy — essentially have NO strategy. I had to listen to the world for a few months and watch to see where it was taking me, where I fit.

In this period of unexpected, rapid business growth, the world was taking me in new directions. If I doggedly pursued my regional strategy, I would miss new opportunities. So I had to sit back and watch for awhile.

Would I make the most money on book sales?



Corporate workshops?

Training and teaching?

Something else I couldn’t imagine?

Eventually, I had to shed my early customers (I handed them over to a trusted friend in Nashville) and embrace the new income paths ahead of me. But if I had stuck to my business strategy, I would not be where I am today. One of the smartest business ideas I had was to stop in my tracks and adjust.

But not enough people are doing this …

The entrepreneurial dilemma

Many entrepreneurs and even experienced business owners get stuck in a trap. They are so in love with an idea, they can’t see what the big world is saying about it.

Simple example:

I was helping a CMO who was having a hard time defining the unique value of his marketing agency. I asked him about his main source of revenue. His answer: software development for medical applications. Now, that doesn’t sound like a marketing agency to me. He couldn’t see that the world had slowly pulled his marketing business to a new place. It was time to abandon his traditional strategy for a more profitable one.

He changed the name of the company to reflect the healthcare theme, focused on marketing software, and all is well.

Another example — An entrepreneur had followed his vision for many years. It was a worthy business idea, but there were just not enough customers out there to make it go. But that was his vision. Shouldn’t he ALWAYS relentlessly follow his vision? He couldn’t hear what the world was clearly saying to him. It was time to go another way.

I helped him channel his passion into a related field with a much bigger customer base, and today, he is finally profitable.

What this means for you

Whether you’re a small business or a large one, do you really know your customer? Could your customer and their needs be different after the pandemic? Are you still aligned with the demand in the world?

My life changed when I abandoned my strategy for a little while and paid attention to what the world wanted from me. It helped me find my place in the marketing ecosystem and it changed my life. Sometimes a third party perspective helps a business get clear on new paths ahead.

Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He is the author of some of the world’s bestselling marketing books and is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak at your company event or conference soon.

Follow Mark on TwitterLinkedInYouTube, and Instagram.

Original Illustration courtesy MidJourney

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