The most important concept in strategy is commitment.
Not a commitment to do the same thing forever.
Not a stubborn resistance to change.
But a commitment to truly give a direction your all.
Sometimes we do need to change our direction and our strategy. But that should be based on observations and evidence, not on a vague feeling of urgency or fear.
Why? Because marketing efforts compound like interest. The first few days, weeks, even months, can be slow. But, to use a Hemingwayism, things that compound happen “two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”
We need to stick with our efforts long enough to determine whether they are likely to work in the long-run. We can’t pivot every time we get nervous about the future.
As Rosser Reeves said, companies that change direction too often are:
“Engaged in the business of cutting down their own trees. Some of these trees are hacked down as mere saplings. Some are chopped down just as they begin to grow straight and strong and tall. And sometimes we witness one of the most senseless things in advertising business; a new management bringing crashing to earth one of the giants of the forest, apparently for no other reason than a desire to rearrange the advertising landscape.”
So how do you know when it’s really time to change?
When your marketing position no longer makes sense.
When you’re no longer offering real value to people who need it most.
When a disruptive technology threatens the very existence of your industry.
Or when you realize you can offer better value and quality by doing less.
These are the moments to think deeply and consider the long-term implications of these events. For your business to thrive five years from now, what should you do to pave the way?
But don’t change your direction just because your competition cut their prices. Or because sales dipped in a bad economic season. Or because you just want things to move faster.
It’s easy to get worried and think that if we put a firmer hand on the wheel and jerk it in one direction we’ll see results even quicker. But that direction might head toward a ditch.
Remember what David Ogilvy said: If you lack commitment to your efforts, “It's like buying a ticket three-quarters of the way to Europe; you have spent some money, but you do not arrive.”
Get certain about what you truly want. Create a market position you can constantly reinforce. And stay committed to it for the long-term.
You’ve paid the fare. Make sure you arrive.