We all operate in a market. Our access to that market has been hard-earned, and we cannot change to a different market without considerable difficulty, and a period of time with no income. We can, however, lose it, if we cease to operate in it for a while.
Unless we are very fortunate, what our market wants of us, and what we are naturally inclined and self-motivated to do, are two different things.
Typically, the market wants a package, a complete function, and this will include many components, a few of which are exciting and satisfying, and many of which are tedious or onerous.
One of the main roles of an organisation is to provide pressure (either peer or financial) to ensure that we do what our market wants us to do (both the interesting and the tedious bits), and that we do it to a deadline and budget. It stops us getting distracted by what we find interesting or spiritually rewarding (this is referred to as “losing focus”).
The course of least resistance in times of economic slowdown is to allow our focus to slip. Very many others will take this view. However, this is also the time when the cost of loss of focus is highest. (We can allow ourselves the indulgence of a bit of loss of focus in times of plenty, without too much impact.)
For those of us who work on our own, there is no external pressure making us do things. As a result, there is a constant need to discipline ourselves to listen to what our market is telling us (no matter how alien to our present thinking this is), and force ourselves into ignoring those inner voices that tell us that this would be interesting, that would be fun, the other would be personally rewarding.
Often, the market is better able to judge how we can make the greatest contribution to society and the economy than we are ourselves. We will be successful (initially economically, but ultimately personally as well), if we offer ourselves to our market with “Here I am, these are my skills, what would you have me do?”
Out of the answers to this question will come clarity about whether we need to form a limited company, whether we need a brand, whether we need to do some advertising, and if so, where and how.
It is sometimes easy to confuse a marketing network with a network of friends – they are quite different, and to a considerable extent mutually exclusive. It is difficult to enjoy someone as a person who has economic jurisdiction over you. The most useful people in a marketing network are people who need you because you think in ways that are alien to them, and they have realised that a complementary view is needed. These are not likely to be the same people you would choose to prop up a bar with.
So, the starting points are:
- “Who are my marketing network?”
- “How can I access them, making it clear what I am seeking, without sounding as though I am begging?”
- “How can I get them to tell me what they are really looking for?”
- “Am I ready to take their thinking seriously, even if it forces me into quite a different direction than I was thinking of?”
In the present times of great change, many in your network who you thought of as secure will themselves be in the same situation, and of much less value as contacts than they were a few months ago. From a zero-activity base, it is likely that hundreds of marketing network contacts and contacts-of-contacts will need to be polled, to find a match with an individual’s skillset and availability.
It is always difficult to know when a particular approach has been given a fair trial, and should be abandoned or modified. However, there is no merit in mere effort (Englishmen are very prone to making a virtue of this!) With hindsight, it will usually be seen that what was most effective was something unconventional, that took little effort, and brought rapid results.
In times of plenty, there is little need to differentiate between the excellent and the mediocre. However, these are now challenging times.
It is those who stand out from the pack, who continue to function when the going gets hard, who climb the ladder of success, by:
- Maintaining standards when others are compromising theirs
- Building a reputation on rescuing others from the brink
- ….and buying up the capital assets and markets of those who are struggling (at bargain prices)!
Since no man is an island, we can only achieve this through listening to others, understanding their agendas, and putting them before our own. We can work inside the conventional economy, or outside it. However, economic muscle –is– an enormously powerful tool for getting things done.
We are not on this planet for long. We owe it to ourselves to use our time to greatest effect. The need for focus now is greater than ever.
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