What I’ve noticed, in the 25 years I’ve spent growing my business while helping creative professionals grow theirs, is that evolution is the hallmark of a successful business.
When you start out, there’s so much you don’t know. Your focus is on you and your job is to learn as much you can and quickly. Experience after experience with clients of all shapes and sizes teach you which to pursue, which to avoid. The sooner you narrow your focus, the sooner you can settle down into growth mode. But the changes don’t stop.
In growth mode, things start to get clearer. You’ve learned a bit, your foundation is set and your job now is to narrow your focus and move it outward. This stage of development can be short or long; it’s up to you. That’s a hallmark of this stage: you are more in control, guiding your business toward maturity.
Following this path, by the time your business matures, your marketing no longer feels like “marketing” but has become an intrinsic part of how you do business. Your brand has built equity within an industry to which you have contributed and in which you may be perceived as a leader. You have developed strong relationships with clients, colleagues, vendors, even with competitors. Doing the business part of your business is, by now, a pleasure. If it's not, you've done something wrong.
The most common mistake I see anyone make -- no matter where in the evolutionary process they are -- is not something they do but something they fail to do, and that is planning.
We've all heard the cliche, but the thing is, it's true! According to research done by Dr. Robert Cialdini, PhD, author of Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion, "Recent research has shown that making even a simple plan increases the likelihood that a person will follow through."
For 2013, I highly recommend making a plan for your future. Where do you want your business to go? Who do you want to work with? What work do you want to do? What meaning do you want it to have? You have more control over all of this than you may believe. (And if you need a tool to help, check out the newly released, The Creative Professional's 2013 Marketing Plan + eCalendar.)
Wherever you are on this evolutionary path, remember that it’s not over until it’s over. If you approach every aspect of your work every single day as one grand experiment, seeking to learn, adapting as you go, your business will too.
If not, you may go the way of the woolly mammoth.