Don’t Let Your Goals Screw Up Your Opportunities
From an early age, we’re all taught that it’s important to have goals. The more detailed the goals, the better they are. And the more closely and single-mindedly we pursue them, the better we are. Sound familiar?
That may seem nice on the surface, but it’s my sincere belief that this is a flawed approach to life – and I’m absolutely certain it’s a flawed approach to marketing.
My issue with goals is that they’re based on a snapshot of the world as it exists today and at best a SWAG (that’s short for scientific wild-ass guess) at what we think the world will look like tomorrow. The problem is that, as anyone who’s been alive more than 15 minutes knows, things seldom turn out exactly the way we expect. That means the goal you set for the future probably won’t be appropriate for the future once it arrives in the present.
What’s worse, if you’re single-mindedly pursuing your goals, that doesn’t leave you any “mindedly” to address opportunities as they pop up. And that’s usually how opportunities appear – they just pop up, like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man popping into the head of Ray Stantz.
When you get to that fork in the road, are you going to choose your old goal or your new opportunity? Opportunities are riskier than goals, to be sure. But with great risk come great rewards, or some crap like that. There are probably a hundred pithy sayings I could dig up to convince you that opportunities are worthier than goals. Only you can decide what’s right for you.
I know what you’re thinking right about now. Okay, Johnny, this sounds like a load of philosophical BS. What does it have to do with marketing?
If you read my blog last week, you saw my list of eight things that marketing is and isn’t. Numbers one and two were marketing is not a process and marketing is reactive. Blindly following a process is the marketing equivalent of single-mindedly pursuing a goal.
For example, one former employer of mine required marketing to be planned and budgeted (pretty much down to the penny) in one-year increments, with virtually no wiggle room. Six months into it, something would invariably happen that nobody expected.
So rigid were we in following our plans that it would be a struggle to deal with any new situation. To add to the frustration, it was a separate and equally difficult challenge trying to find the money to deal with the new situation. Our perpetual goal was to stick to the plan, and the plan always ended up sucking.
When I say that marketing is reactive, what is it that marketing is reacting to? Opportunities, of course. Granted, these opportunities may come disguised as challenges, obstacles or downright disasters, but trust me – any sudden, unexpected change in the marketplace is definitely an opportunity for the one who figures out how to best respond to it.
Am I saying you shouldn’t have goals? No, not really. What I am saying is that your goals should be broad. Your goals should lead you in a general direction, not to a specific GPS coordinate. And most important of all, you should constantly tweak and massage your goals as new data comes pouring in. That way, when opportunity does come a’knocking, you’ll be ready to respond quickly and decisively, and more to the point, you’ll be ready to trounce your befuddled competitors.
That is all.