Features | February 14, 2023
Why Promo Makes You Feel Everything Everywhere All at Once and How to Fix It
By Bobby Lehew
2023 careened around the corner like a Formula One race car on fire.
Everyone we talk to in this industry is insanely (insanely) busy. Which is incredible and … slightly dangerous.
Being “insanely busy” is a battle cry in this business.
But, for Roger Martin, when business people tell him they are “busy,” he says it’s a signal: a signal that they have a weak, playing-to-win strategy. Or, as he put it more succinctly, being too busy means your strategy sucks.
And Roger knows.
Last June, Roger posted a simple video to YouTube titled “A Plan is Not a Strategy,” and it went viral: in just seven months, over 1.7 million people watched this seemingly benign topic from a Harvard Business Review clip. (No surprise that in 2017, Roger was named the #1 management thinker in the world).
But the sudden virality of his message is somewhat baffling.
After all, Roger has been writing on this topic for years, at least since 2013. And it’s not as if you (and I) suddenly woke up to the idea that strategy and planning can work.
Which begs the question: Why now? Why are you (and me) and millions of other business people suddenly riveted by Roger’s message?
A theory: We rocketed out of the pandemic with new ambition. Fueled by fresh zeal, renewed expectations drive us. While the market, simultaneously, unleashed a force of radical spending and overconsumption (hello, inflation) of which we now find ourselves on the receiving end, and very, very b-u-s-y.
But … Busy Toward What? Focused Toward Where?
That’s the difference between entrepreneurs who are scaling their business with intention (on purpose) versus those who are “doing all they can just to keep up” (busy): Intentional entrepreneurs can answer that question precisely.
They know exactly what they are busy toward, decisively what they are focused on. They can tell you their priorities quarter by quarter, month by month, sometimes even week by week, and day by day.
We talk to a lot of entrepreneurs.
We don’t know about the rest of the 1.7 million business viewers of Roger’s message, but given our perch in the promo business (our viewpoint: a $1.4 billion segment of the market, and a unique lens having interviewed hundreds of leaders with the foremost leading brands), we’ve identified four essential traits that differentiate those who scale their business with intention, versus those who grow by osmosis (busyness).
Leaders who scale with intention (and more efficiently) have:
A clearly defined strategy.
A concrete, defined, forward-action plan.
Focus on the right things that -exponentially- move the business forward.
A process that brings their goals across the finish line.
Being busy often obscures that while we are frantically filling orders, are we gaining traction toward our goals? This frantic day-in-day-out, month-by-month reality of a deadline-driven busyness keeps us from seeing the forest for the
“Most People Are Sitting on Their Own Diamond Mines.”
Gino Wickman, author of Traction and founder of the EOS (entrepreneurial operating system), put it that way, you are likely sitting on your own diamond mine – and you know it.
You know you have clients who love you, a solid base from which to grow. You’re smart. You know how to build a strong brand and a responsive salesforce. But you might be spinning out in the same grooves, either carving marginal year-over-year growth OR, perhaps, you’re growing — but it’s incredibly frustrating work. You feel lost in the weeds all the time. You know it can be smoother, more intentional, less chaotic. And given your hard work, your passion, your knowledge, your team, and your clients, you know you should be bringing forth diamonds more easily.
Welcome to the Promo Multiverse
You’ve seen A24’s “Everything Everywhere All At Once”, right? If not: The protagonist, Evelyn Wang, must save the world from destruction and does so by (uni)verse-jumping, connecting, with her multiple selves, from one universe to another, in which every choice of hers creates an alternate reality.
Does that sound a little bit like your day-to-day? Jumping from one universe of problems in promo to another?
And that’s why we empathize with you. This industry and your business have changed radically from its (in hindsight) simplistic pre-pandemic days:
Our industry has gotten messier, it’s an absolute clusterf*ck of variables. More options. More brands. More processes. The promo biz is now a multiverse of infinite variety and alternate realities.
Combine the average (easily distracted) squirrel brain who is attracted to this infinite variety (someone like me and maybe you) + an increasingly complex and more demanding client + a wildly fluctuating supply chain = barely-manageable-chaos-verging-on-eruption-almost-always.
The result? A high-octane level of busyness you’ve never witnessed before.
So, if you’re paranoid, it’s true. Often, the promo multiverse conspires against you. The infinite variety and complexity keep you in a whirlwind.
But that’s what this series is all about, helping you lift your head above the fray and noise to discover what’s missing in your business so that you can spend the same energy –but positive energy– moving the game forward, according to plan.
Today, we’ve identified four essentials missing from your plan. Join us for our next installment in this series, where we’ll unpack the first one: strategy. We’ll bring you interviews, stories, and lessons from the trenches, from those who have learned to rise above and jump light years ahead.
More to come verse-jumpers, stay tuned.
Go Beyond at the 2023 Leadership Summit
Looking for more great insights on print, promo, branding and everything in between? Join us at the Brand Chain Leadership Summit, March 6-8 in Scottsdale, Arizona, for open-ended conversations, actionable learning, and time spent recharging.
Register today to expand your network and learn new ways to grow your business.
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