Change is often proceeded by a lightbulb moment that offers a brilliant idea. “YES!” we exclaim. “THIS is the best idea E-V-E-R!” And the next thing we know, we’re implementing.
A few months later, we’re sometimes wondering what the hell we were thinking.
Creativity is the heart of any business. Soloprenuers, entrepreneurs, and executives at all levels are creative fountains that continually flow new ideas. Some will be fantastic – absolutely! But some might also be duds or at least less than wonderful.
How to discern the great ideas BEFORE we commit? Breathe.
A couple of years ago, I was doing some research on online marketing for a client and soon found myself deeply curious about the growing world of online media. Which channels had real marketing potential? How could they leverage relationships and ultimately sales? How does new media best support traditional marketing efforts?
My self-guided research eventually led me to take an online course, another course, then another, each helping me to connect some important dots with regard to online marketing and social media that had previously been floating around me in a swirl.
So, with dots connecting, my creativity jumped into high gear. “THIS is amazing!” I thought to myself. “These tools help to leverage better relationships that lead to more and better sales!”
As I met with current and prospective clients, however, and shared ideas for online media and it’s potential to help them, I realized they weren’t that interested. They didn’t see online as primary to their current marketing needs and were reluctant to digitally engage with their audience on a deeper level. In some cases, they even expressed concern that “all that online, social media stuff” was a “trend” and stated that they would leave it to their kids to figure out.
It was during these meetings that I heard Change knocking at my door.
So here I am, breathing deeply as I begin to explore new potentials for my business. Fortunately, I have experience guiding other businesses through this process so I know the best place to begin – looking under my own hood.
A “SWOT” exercise does just that – pops up the hood for a look at all that drives your business. It’s a simple yet powerful exercise that reviews internal elements – Strengths and Weaknesses – as well as external influences – Opportunities and Threats.
Because I work alone, I made some tea one afternoon and sat down for a serious brainstorming session with myself, scribbling and sketching notes in each category then going back through these to create a clearer version of my thoughts. As you can see from my photos, a SWOT doesn’t need to be formal and I guarantee it will always be enlightening!
My SWOT was super helpful, giving me an opportunity to consider what I am good at as well as what is frustrating me about the structure of my current practice. I also acknowledged some of the options for growth that had been trying to get my attention for months.
In a nutshell, my SWOT confirmed what I love about my business – working independently and sharing my strategic marketing expertise. I also identified the limitations I feel – that the hours in a given day dictate the type and number of clients with whom I can work. I acknowledged my longing to reach more people, to leverage both new and traditional marketing techniques and to begin to lessen the location dependence of my business (afterall, in a couple of years I’ll be an “empty-nester.”)
I’m very excited to explore developing an online extension of my practice where I can help more people identify their deepest goals and best customers, then creating a strategic map to get them there. I’m envisioning programs – webinars, teleconferences and the like – that will be inspiring, accessible and, most importantly, successful for the participants. Before I launch into a new venture, however, I’m taking the next step in my brand rehab – “looking around the neighborhood” aka the Competitive Landscape Assessment (which will be my next blog post).
Interested in doing your own SWOT exercise?
I’ve created a tool, the Change Maker SWOT Worksheet, that will get you started and set you on the right course. Whether you’re considering a job change, creating a new product, or evolving your business, it’s critical to take stock of what “is” and the SWOT exercise is the place to start.
fountain image by drouu