Here it comes. The next big thing.
No matter what space you’re in, there’s always something new vying for your time. And this whole process has become accelerated with the Internet introducing a new social network or marketing channel practically every six months.
The problem is, constantly chasing after the next trick, shortcut, or ‘lightning in a bottle’ opportunity is exhausting and can easily lead you astray. In fact, if you’re not careful, it can put you out of business altogether. So what’s the alternative?
Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.
– Sun Tzu
Most business owners and entrepreneurs are constantly looking for a way to get ahead that involves “surface level” strategies and shortcuts. Examples include various SEO tricks, jumping on every new social network, and running giveaways to build your email list.
The problem is, these sort of strategies are typically a way to game the system or the market based on its current structure – but that can change. And it often does in an instant.
Using strategies such as this can be valuable for your business in the short term, but they’re worth nothing once the system or market changes.
That’s where principles come in. Principles can help guide the direction of your business, particularly the marketing, in the right direction and keep it from being led astray.
Why you need to create a set of principles to govern the strategies
Principles are the underlying foundation of your business. They’re the basis for how we live our life.
Going back to the examples I mentioned earlier, a principle with regards to online marketing would be:
- Provide maximum value to our target market through content that displays us as an authority
- Build an audience of raving fans
- And: Prioritize building our list, it is our #1 asset
With principles such as these in place, your efforts are constantly guided by sound decisions as opposed to being inconsistent and short-term minded. You’re not thinking about how you can game the system but rather how you can maximize each principle in the long run.
Another clear example of the difference between surface-level strategies and underlying principles would be with social media.
If you’re on Instagram, that’s a strategy – whereas the underlying principle is to maintain clear lines of communication with your target market and to provide value in the form of content that builds reciprocity and gets them to see you as an authority. If Instagram allows you to do that – great.
If another social network comes along, you don’t just jump on it right away without thinking just to build a big following and not miss out on the wave. You ask questions like:
- Is my target market hanging out here?
- How are they using the platform?
Modern-day self-published authors often fall victim to this trap. There are a ton of ways to game the system that is Amazon, but they’re changing things at such a rapid pace that by the time you get the hang of something it’s changed. Without principles in place, you feel like you’re sitting in quicksand, constantly trying to stay afloat.
However, if you’ve focused on principles like, “connect with my audience”, “maximize exposure”, “build my email list”, then you’re less likely to become distracted by these more gimmicky marketing strategies and more likely to build a stable business. Maybe you still take advantage of some of these short-term strategies, but the foundation of principles you’ve built helps guide you every step of the way.
By focusing on the underlying principles, as opposed to surface-level strategies, in our business we won’t get uprooted when things shift because we’re holding to evergreen principles that never change. In a way, this allows us to act more consciously as opposed to reactively.
Use this simple idea to help guide your business or brand in an age where strategies are a dime a dozen and principles are hard to come by.