Have you ever experienced a “dip” in your business? In my work as a small business marketing consultant I see businesses in every stage of growth (and decline). Most come to me when they need to improve sales and get more clients in the door. Often they are going through what author Seth Godin calls “The Dip.”
In his book of the same title Godin describes the decision of perseverance vs. strategic quitting. From my own experience it is one of the most difficult decisions that you and I as business leaders ever make.
It presents itself as an obstacle (or series of obstacles). You as the leader must decide if you can and should persevere or if the strategic victory is to retreat. With all of the new businesses starting as we work out of the recession on the last 4 years it is an especially relevant question.
According to Godin, when you face an obstacle you’ve got to figure out which of three patterns it fits:
- Is it a Cul-du-sac? This is a dead end and it’s time to cut your losses and strategically quit. I’ll tell you from my own experience this is the hardest of all decisions to make. We are taught from an early age to never quit…to keep trying. But sometimes you need to know when to retreat and fight another day.
- Is it a Cliff? Are you about to go over the falls? Cliff’s are deceptive. You think you can reverse course anytime, then you hit the edge and fall off.
- Is it a Dip? The dip is something that every business owner and sales professional faces. It’s the lull in sales, that drop in profitability or sometimes the challenge of finding the right people (and changing the people) for your team.
Knowing When To Quit is A Key Skill To Develop
We’re not kids anymore. As leaders we’re called on to know when to quit. One of the best lessons I learned early in my career was the idea of sunk costs. Yes it hurts to walk away from significant time and financial investments. You risk not only the resources you put in, you risk your ego (for some of us that’s more valuable than money, and much harder to expose).
Understanding when to strategically quit is one of the most valuable skills you can build as an entrepreneur. You never have all of the information to determine with certainty which situation you’re in when you hit an obstacle—a cul-du-sac, cliff or dip.
Develop your intuition over time to allow you to discern which path you’re on. And the truth is…you will misjudge sometimes. It’s OK. Learn and move forward.
The Cul-du-sac and the Cliff lead to failure, but the Dip is your friend.
Friend and mentor, Robert Skrob likes to say “Success does not lie in the absence of obstacles, it is in overcoming the obstacles you face.”
Most people hit an obstacle and quit. You’ve got to decide if the obstacle is a Cliff, a Cul-du-sac or a Dip. If it’s a dip, stop and smile to yourself. You now have the advantage. Most of your competitors will quit. In fact, pray for a steep dip, with a tough climb coming out. When you make it out, you may be all alone.
Anything worth doing, anything valuable has a steep dip. If it were easy everyone would do it.
Creating a Marketing “DIP” for Your Competition
The first dip every company hits is a marketing dip. You’ve got to push through it to attract enough clients to bring life to the company and fuel growth. Most new businesses don’t have enough capital to persevere through this dip and they fail within a year or two.
The businesses that make typically do so without any systematic way to get more clients. They scratch and claw and get through, but they never build an engine to get clients on a consistent basis. Those that do, have a huge advantage. Those that do, dominate a market. Those that do, build an ever steeper dip in their wake for the competitors that follow them.
For most of us, what we do isn’t all that different from any of our competitors. Our best, most effective way to differentiate is through marketing. Not just the brochure you hand out, but the feel of the whole process of working with you. Winning with marketing is far easier and less costly than innovating your product or service.
Step 1: Look at the obstacles you face and decide where you are: In a Cul-du-sac, Cliff or Dip. The decision is the tough part. Use your brain and your gut. Think it through, but don’t over analyze. Make a decision.
Step 2: Make a plan of action. If you’re in a Cul-du-sac or Cliff figure out how to strategically quit. Retreat and find another path. If you’re in a Dip lean into it. This is where you use your brain to beat the dip by being resourceful and preparing yourself for the tough road ahead. Dips are always easier if you know you’re in one and you have a plan to get through.
Step 3: Don’t go through the Dip alone. Pushing through one or more tough obstacles on the way to your goals can be draining. It’s natural to question your assessment of the situation. Get a mentor, a coach or a friend to give you outside perspective and keep you focused on the goal…especially when you get knocked down.
If you’re in a Dip in your business and are unsure of what to do next… I’ve created the Get More Clients System to help provide the support you need to 1) identify where you are; 2) make a plan to get the clients you need to reach your goal; 3) be accountable and stick to your plan. To learn more about the system send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a “Get Acquainted” telephone session.