We have been talking quite a lot about the importance of consistent marketing and the value of having a joined-up planning approach. Much of this focus has been on marketing planning to develop sustained, coherent communication and engagement with a well-defined target audience. Having a clear marketing strategy that you monitor and adapt is a vital element of a successful business. This is all very well but a couple of conversations recently have set me thinking about an often-ignored aspect of a joined-up approach: your own offering. One of the beauties of running your own business is the opportunity to make decisions and put plans into action quickly. Big business suffers from a great deal of inertia; change is painful and slow. A small business can adapt to new opportunities much more quickly and easily. However, this flexibility has a downside. If you regularly change your offering with new ideas, products and services, it can be difficult for your customers to keep up. Before I go on, I would like to clarify one point. I am talking here primarily about B2B (Business to Business) businesses with a significant service element in what you deliver. In these businesses, you may get an opportunity for some work with a new customer which, while you believe you might be able to deliver a decent service, their need isn’t core to what you are about. In my experience, this type of job too often has a sting in the tail! Even though you might see a non-core opportunity as a chance for a quick win, maybe the best course of action is to decline and ‘stick to your knitting’
The old ones are the best
10 minutes with my friend Google showed me hat the phrase ‘stick to your knitting’ has origins as a business message well over 100 years ago. It has certainly stood the test of time and is as valid today as ever. In fact, with the always-on, instant access to the ideas of today’s digital business world, perhaps it is even more valid in the 21st century?
Stick to your knitting – Focus on your strengths
Having a clear understanding of what you offer in your business makes it easier to define the target market you are interested in. Furthermore, this leads to a clear ‘fit’ between your proposition and your clients making your messages stronger and easy for prospects to relate to. If you try to be everything to everybody, this can come over to potential customers as woolly and imprecise – not a great encouragement to buy! By focusing on your strengths and looking for clients who can really benefit from your core skills is a great recipe for sustained success. Taking on non-core work reduces the time you have to do what you are best at. Even worse, there is a greater risk that outcomes will not be as positive as anticipated so you might end up with a dissatisfied client. Not good!
Don’t be afraid to say: No, thank you!
A few years ago, we found ourselves in exactly the situation I am suggesting you try to avoid! We were taking on non-core work which, to be honest, we sometimes struggled to deliver on!. I would like to think that we went the extra mile to make sure our clients were satisfied but it was hard work and frustrating. It definitely didn’t help the bottom line! This was back in 2014. Now, 4 years later, there is no question that sticking to our knitting was the right move. You can read more about our experience in this article.
Sticking to your knitting does not mean stagnation
Just because you focus on your strengths doesn’t mean the end of new opportunities. They will still arise. Often the starting point is a well-established relationship with an existing client. You know and respect one another and you work well together. From this base, your client asks you to look at something a bit different. They know they are asking you to step out of your comfort zone and they are willing to work with you to make a success of the new opportunity. It is a joint learning curve without the pressures of over-promising and the risk of under-delivering. Even better, if the new work goes well, your experience can mean you end up with a new string to your bow. Your core has expanded and you now have additional services that you can confidently offer to your market, and maybe even a wider audience. Saying no to a new opportunity can be challenging but sticking to your knitting can bring real rewards.