Last week I challenged you to consider that your business could be much close to its next breakthrough point than you think. Depending on where you are in your journey, your next breakthrough point could be:
- Getting booked out for the next three months.
- Sending the first draft of your book your editor.
- Raising your prices and finding your first client who knows you’re a steal, can’t wait to pay – and actually follows through!
The problem is that when you’re in the middle of working on your business or your ideas, it can be hard to see how close you are to getting traction. And that's not because you're bad at this – it's just that in the moment there's so much fighting for your next 5 minutes of attention, it's tough to step back and see the big picture of what’s holding you back, what you can drop and what the best next move is.
It's a challenge that I like to think of it this way:
Click to tweet it! “Discovering the next move for your business is like being a detective in a mystery novel. The clues are everywhere, but can you see them?”
(You get to be any detective you like, but I called the Box Car Children. Yes, all of them!)
Last year I was working with my client Anna, the amazing woman behind the blog And Then We Saved. We were focusing on ways to put her community more front and center in her brand. If you haven't discovered her blog yet, the brand is all about saving money with no apologies and lots of attitude. She started a blog about cutting down on expenses and created a way to help her readers get started by challenging them to take a spending fast. Readers love taking the free challenge and her work has attracted media attention from Psychology Today, The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, CNN and Glamour magazine.
Anna's site is a perfect example of how, when you hit a decision point, the character of your business writes the rules of the game.
The character of your business is one of the most important tools you have, and it holds the answers to questions like “What’s next?”, “How can I make this feel natural?” and “How should I promote this?”. The best part is that it's always there for you to draw on, no matter how large or small your business is. To take it back to pop culture, if we were in Harry Potter, the character of your business is your marauder’s map.
As Anna and I worked on plans for growth and the community, I kept coming back to the most essential parts of the brand’s unique character:
- If it was a person, what would it throw down and fight for?
- What causes does it champion?
- Who does it want to protect?
- Where will it never go?
(This is where a digital strategy grows from and what positioning your business is all about.)
Anna’s site has a scrappy, DIY attitude and is relentlessly community centered – right down to the name And Then We Saved. Knowing that led her to simple questions, “I wonder how much the readers have saved so far? I wonder how much they save each month?”
As we talked about ways to put the community’s savings front and center through her website, options emerged. We could build a fancy technical solution that would tally up the savings. We could build a membership site where users could log in and update their savings. There were dozens of possibilities.
We brainstormed all kinds of technical solutions, but in practice they would have been expensive (which is out of sync with the brand) and added complicated steps for the readers. Those two strikes were about as close to a guarantee that an idea wouldn't work as I could see.
To try to break through, I asked myself why we wanted a high tech solution. Could there we a way to stop looking at a low tech solution as a weakness, and turn it into a strength?
So I asked, what if she gathered the amount readers saved through comments on a page of her website, and then announced it as a community accomplishment though the year? It wouldn't be as accurate, but it would give a baseline for her community's hard work and was about as DIY friendly as you can get.
We immediately pounced on the idea, and within the a few hours of work Anna had a mini-banner under her blog's banner and launched the feature with monthly announcements. She had also uncovered a huge accomplishment.
As of September 1st, 2015 her readers have saved over $836,355 USD. That's a huge accomplishment that would have been invisible without strategic thinking on her side.
Now, before you say that this was obvious in hindsight, let's go deeper!
It can be hard to put your finger on why one strategy works and another won't – and this feature has been a hit for a few different reasons that all go back to the core character of the brand:
- By celebrating follow through and action on the brand’s values, it gives them more integrity and meaning.
- It’s satisfying to celebrate a win! It emphasizes the power of the community and of taking action.
- The feature draws focus back to the core values of the brand, reminding readers of the big picture of why they're persisting even when it's hard.
- It makes an abstract process (your ongoing choice to save) and the changes it creates more tangible and dramatic.
- It creates anticipation and a focus point that motivates readers to stick with the system.
Just like Anna’s business, yours is full of clues that point in the direction of your next big win.
Putting words to your brand’s character, learning to see the clues and setting up systems that leverage them takes time. But the clues that answer all your big question are right there, just waiting for you to uncover them.