Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Don't Panic!

or The value of thinking things through before someone gets hurt....

Has anyone else noticed that some people seem to be having a knee-jerk reaction to this so-called downturn in the economy? I want to talk about the value of thinking things through before you make moves that could jeopardize your business. I have started doing consulting, coaching and brainstorming with people, to help them come up with new ideas and plans for their business. This is in direct contrast to thinking about things on one's own, and not planning at all. No sounding board. No opinions from anyone else.

An example is switching your branding. An overnight change of your branding is tantamount to wiping your marketing slate clean.

I went to a website I had been to before, and their design and overall "feel" to their website was so starkly different I thought they may have lost ownership of their domain name, or I misspelled it and landed on a "parked domain" page. If I was less familiar with the company, I would have gone back to whatever search engine I had come from. I scrutinized the links, clicked around, and found out that it was indeed the same business. There was no connection to the old website -- no visual clue-in that it was the same company. The logo, gone. All the images, changed. The About Us page didn't have the name of the people in the organization. It's almost like they sold the company (they didn't sell the company!). The only clue left was testimonials that mentioned people by name.

In a global economy, some of our intrinsic differentiating factors are where we are, the people in our business, and the personal connections we build with others outside of our organization. I panicked as a marketing maven, because in my mind they had just cut off all their current prospects by changing their design and market positioning so drastically. As a web designer & programmer, I can also say there is a problem created on the technical end: When people are looking for your website in a search engine, what they typed into the search engine in the past could stop working. Had this person taken a little more time, and perhaps consulted with someone (read: ME) before the change, there could be an analysis of keyword history for the website.  A plan could be created to shift the business branding & site design without so drastically alienating loyal followers. A graphic designer could have suggested visual cues intended for established clients or prospects to establish that this is indeed the same company. As it stands now, a complete change of the design and the content means that the website may very well be starting from scratch even with regard to prior visitors as well as search engine rankings. Ouch.

There are so many things to do to shift the focus of your business without metamorphosing into an entirely new entity. My business' shifts of late have been happening slowly over time. My first "adjunct" website was which would make NO sense as part of my main website -- it's intended to be an entirely separate entity and in many ways a business venture unto itself. is based on my tag line, and first showed on business cards as a website address that pointed directly to my website packages.  Now it is a separate website, and is hopefully a less confusing portal for information about my website packages & services -- the packages didn't change, just how clearly they were presented. is my corporate website, and only still holds some straggling service/product information such as maintenance packages. Another domain was for pointing to the section of my website about brainstorming sessions, and is now a separate website ( to showcase my consulting, coaching & brainstorming services. It's not an overnight shift -- much of this was years in the making.

Perhaps I shouldn't panic. Maybe other people have, like me, had a lull in business allowing them to put plans into action that they had on the back-burner for months or years. I hope so. But if you're panicking and really feel like you need to change something -- take some time to think it through, talk it over with people whose judgement you trust and who are willing to really tell you what they think. If you need impartial help to figure out your best possible future, come up with a plan of action, and to help talk you off the ledge of knee-jerk marketing, that's where my business coaching & consulting services shine.

Here's something I'll probably have to explain for the rest of my life:

The difference between coaching & consulting:

Coaches sit in an interesting grey area between consultants and facilitators. They help you figure out where you want to go, and then helping you get there by way of fostering your own growth. Coaches may be able to give advice when you are stuck, but their main purpose is to open up choices for you, and help you accomplish your goals. You define the goal, the coach helps you get there by helping you draw a map.  When needed, the coach might tell you where the nearest 3 gas stations and rest areas are while they're at it.

Consultants have answers. They don't usually teach you how to get there yourself (there are moments a consultant can become a trainer  -- and a trainer is more like a coach), usually they are brought into a situation to be or provide the solution to a problem. You OR the consultant defines a goal, the Consultant takes you there -- by handing you a mapped route with specific rest points or picking you up and carrying you piggyback if need be.

Someone who is both consultant and coach can switch between the roles if needed.  At times they may give expert advice, or even roll up their sleeves and do something for you. At other times, it would be better if you learned about doing it yourself, or it's a situation where you must be fully invested in the results, otherwise there are no results at all.

Ok, here's an example of the difference:

You might need a technical consultant to help you install a computer network. You wouldn't want a coach unless you are somewhat technically proficient, and wanted to learn how to do it yourself. However, you need a coach if you're going to grow your business: you shouldn't hire a consultant to come in and build your business for you or you won't be able to maintain the changes. It takes a personal commitment and new habits from the top of your organization down. You can't outsource that.  Consultants help change something. Coaches help you change.

My brainstorming sessions are a blend of consulting & coaching sessions. I usually spend a portion of the time helping you figure out where you want to go (coaching), and helping you figure out the next steps to get there. Then if needed I'll give advice on marketing (consulting), since you might not have a lot of ideas on things to do to reach your target market (but defining it is coaching) &/or venues for inexpensive marketing to your target market (consulting). With some people, I help them define their needs in daily operations (coaching), or even mapping out cycles in their business workflow (a blend).

I strongly encourage people to either take advantage of my brainstorming sessions OR to try my complimentary exploratory coaching session. Either one can change your outlook on your business permanently, but with a sense of excitement instead of panic.

Never make changes when you're in a place of panic. If the changes are a reaction to the economic climate, and not what you really want to be doing with your business, the changes will be temporary at best and they will confuse your prospects. To make lasting changes that will have you happy to work every day, you need to spend more time planning, less time acting.

Call today so I can help you out. 845-820-0262.

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