How to Avoid the Three Tangents that are Disguised as Opportunities

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Beware! Tangents May Be Disguised as Opportunities

Business owners and chief executives are a hardy lot. They get up each day excited to create value that serves their buyers. I’ve been working with them for years and the most successful ones never say ‘never.’ They don’t dismiss new options because that’s not the way they do things. They don’t put off for tomorrow what they could do today. They don’t wait to have time, they make time.

These eager owners and execs do sometimes run into trouble. In their eagerness to be open to new opportunities they too often end up abandoning them because what seemed optimal turned out not to be. I’ve heard this described as “going after tangents disguised as opportunities.” My own wise advisor cautions me sometimes to stop and assess before pushing forward.

Of the most common tangents disguised as opportunities that my clients have pursued, which have taken them away from their focus on truly valuable work, three rise to the top. Take a look at these three tangents and ask yourself if you’re diverting your energy and resources to them as well.

Extreme networking. Every owner or executive should be getting out in their business community to meet others. A business does not grow by the leader sitting at their desk all day. Many companies can point to numerous clients who came to them through networking.

Networking becomes a tangent disguised as an opportunity in two ways: 1) when the owner or exec doesn’t stop to ask if each event, or organization does, in fact, have the potential to bring new clients or advocates on board; and 2) if networking consumes so much time that it precludes the owner or exec from meeting one-to-one with potential prospects or advocates.

Social media marketing. Using social media platforms and other online capabilities to market is a now a normal and necessary part of any company’s marketing efforts. However, using “social” to the exclusion of personalized cultivating and nurturing efforts is a tangent disguised as an opportunity for the vast majority of companies with revenue between $1 million and $20 million or with less than 500 buyers.

The reliance on social media is costly, and no matter what the experts and the data tell you, clicks and views do not turn into a torrent of revenue. These companies’ buyers like doing business with companies that pay close and personal attention to them. I see time and again that companies who invest in customized and personalized cultivate and nurture activities generate large increases in revenue from the buyers who know them well.

The business celebrity of the day. We have TED Talks and streaming videos of well-known keynote speakers at our fingertips, day in and day out. When someone catches the public’s attention and their online content goes viral, owners and execs are tempted to mimic them. “If they can do that” we think, “so can I.” Or “I had that very same idea, I’m going to do it here.”

What’s missing in this tangent disguised as an opportunity is recognition that that person’s success is due to their internal creativity and their context. Audiences and buyers are attracted to them because they are unique, because their execution is fresh and new. When an owner or exec tries to copy the celebrity, they’re just that—a copy. Instead of trying to become a copy, owners and execs need to create their own environment where creativity and innovation bubble up. That’s where the true opportunity lies.

I am all about creativity. I wrote my book Tinker to show every owner that when they pay attention to their hunches, create experiments to test those hunches, and use the data to tinker to maximize results, they will create their very own valuable opportunities. They will no longer be tempted by tangents disguised as opportunities.

If you’re an owner or executive of a small or medium enterprise and you find yourself chasing tangents more than is healthy for your company, schedule a Listening Call with me. You’ll have a chance to share what’s going on in your world as I listen and we’ll decide together what, if any, next steps would be helpful to create more success. Reply to this email or call me at 703-801-0345.

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