Connections, Coffee & Confidence
5 Ways to Forecast Change For Your Business
So this one time we stumbled into a beautiful little village in the mountains in Spain. And then we struggled to find our way back out. You can assume we eventually did because here I am writing and podcasting in English with nary a Spanish accent but what the heck does this have to do with business? I pull it together in this episode, all about where to look to forecast change and how to know if the temporary changes you made to your business to survive Covid are going to be enough.
- Snoop the Competition (8:45)
- Trend Watch (10:49)
- Don't Be The Smartest Person in the Room (11:45)
- Get a Mentor: Not a guru! (12:40)
- Ask Your Customers (14:02)
Also mentioned in this episode:
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I work you through a live example so you can see exactly what I mean and how the method works in real life, not just theoretically. Go to https://www.janicefogarty.com/create-your-social-media-content-strategy to learn more.
- Don't Waste Your Breath guide on creating your own strategic messaging, based on your business goals. Get this download and learn how to speak clearly and with purpose about your business. (https://janicefogarty.podia.com/dont-waste-your-breath-get-your-best-message-across)
- Thinking about taking advantage of all the podcasts as opportunities to get your message out? You need my one page download on How to be an Amazing Podcast Guest checklist (https://www.janicefogarty.com/how-to-be-an-amazing-podcast-guest)
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Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Connections, Coffee & Confidence with me, Janice. Growing up, we didn’t do amazing and fancy holidays. Except for that one time there was a big thing at my Dad’s work and he ended up with a ton of credit card points. Those points paid for us to rent a hotel room, one room, for the five of us. But it was next to the pool, which was bat central but whatever, and we thought it was the best thing ever. And it was the first time we got to see Mr. Bean because we were in New Brunswick, Canada’s only bi-lingual province, and the only tv channel we got was French CBC. Mr. Bean, if you’re not familiar, has no talking so it was perfect. Proof you don’t need the perfect holiday to make family memories. But that’s not my point.
I tell you this because now I’m going to tell you a story about this time I went to Spain and I don’t want you to think I don’t still, to this day a good 20 years later, recognize the extreme privilege of international travel. I’m going back to when I lived in Ireland, which is a story for another day, where it’s quite common to pop on a Ryanair flight and jump over to Spain for your holiday.
But this one was a special trip because my now husband and I were going to Spain to meet one of my brothers and his then girlfriend. They had saved up all of their money to do a big backpacking in Europe thing and they were heading to Spain. My husband’s family have a villa so we were going to stay there, spend some time together, exciting because I hadn’t seen him for a year or two at that time and I missed him.
One day we decided to go exploring, up into the mountains. It was gorgeous, as Spain tends to be. And we found ourselves driving through this little tiny village. No idea what it was called. We didn’t know then, either. No idea how we got there, we were literally just driving to see the sights. It was old, it was high up with views to take your breath away - especially me as I’m afraid of heights. Olive and almond trees everywhere. Just beautiful.
But like all things, it needed to end and we had to go home. Except, there were no road signs. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? As we drove around, we noticed that the stunning vista we were loving was really similar to the one we had just seen a few minutes earlier. And pretty soon we realized we actually were seeing the same scenery, on repeat.
We asked ourselves: How many roads can there be to get out of this little village? We really stumbled into this hidden gem of a community, shouldn’t be too hard to stumble our way back out, right? Turns out there were loads of little side roads off the main road, none of the directional signs made any sense to us, and the main road seemed to just do a loop around the village.
So what in the world does this have to do with your business? I’ll pull it together for you after the intro.
Now, before I close the Spanish mountain top driving loop for you, I want to have a quick word about the masterclass I just released. If you’re interested in learning more about how to use social media to grow your business, as a tool to effectively reach your business goals; if you need a better strategy than only to batch create when the stars align and your hair is amazing but you’re scrambling for things to say; if you’ve been trying to use social media for your business but just aren’t seeing the results you want; I have something for you. I’ve created a half hour masterclass where I teach you my method for creating strategic messaging and using it in my clients’ social media to move them towards their business goals. I include my four foundations for each post and even walk you through a real Facebook post, breaking it down so you see each element in action. The strategy works for all platforms and businesses, and you finish it not only knowing my exact method but also with 30 strategic post topics, designed by you to push your business forward. There’s more information on my website at janicefogarty.com and I’ll link to it in the shownotes.
Ok, Spain. We were very reluctant to try any of these side roads to who knows where. None of them were looking any more prominent than the others because logically wouldn’t you expect a road to a larger town or a highway to be bigger or somehow special? Fortunately, we weren’t the only ones seeing the same thing on repeat. A very old gentleman noticed we had driven past him a few times already. On the next pass, he was in his truck and ready for us. He tooted his horn and waved for us to follow him. So we did. And he drove us down the same road and a few minutes later pulled over to the right side of the road while indicating left. Then he hopped out and started waving and pointing for us to go left. Which turned out to be the road back to where we needed to be to get to the highway to get home. Bless his heart.
And sometimes we reach this place in our business where we’re driving around and around, thinking everything is just fine. Until we realize it’s not. Until we realize our problem, our challenge. And in business, when we’re following the same path all of the time, it often means we’re missing what else is happening. Sometimes following the same path also means it’s harder for us to get off that beaten track, even if we have someone waving us off in another direction.
Lots of us changed direction when Covid hit, to some degree or another. Some of us went crazy bananas and took this as a chance to do something so different to our norm. Some of us just kind of tweaked what we were doing already or slowed way down while we tried to retain some sort of security.
But the world is still changing and things probably are never going back to the way they were. So the changes or tweaks you made as a temporary measure, they may now look like not enough. They were fine for the interim but time is moving on and you gotta ask: will they stand the test of time?
This is the moment when we really need to start paying attention, gathering information and clues to what might be happening, what new changes might be coming down the road and how we can deal with them. How they might impact or even improve our business. We don’t want to be like the board of Blockbuster and have the CEO tell us we should move to a subscription model, only to dismiss the idea. The joys of being small is that we can continue to make changes as we see fit. The trick is being paying attention and remaining open to the information presented.
But where do we pay attention? Who will be our guru now? And how we can we trust any one guru?
I have five suggestions for us to use to gather reliable information to digest. Five ideas to of places to gather our clues starting with some basic snooping.
First port of call is to look at competitors. Very few of us are doing something unique so odds are there is someone else you can look at. You might even know your competition and this is where you put your relationship skills to use, and ask to meet to discuss. Not only is it so helpful to network with someone who just gets what you do but it’s also helpful to see if someone else’s experiences and practises match your own. With any luck, they are trying something different and you can gauge from each other which is the way forward or even adapt the method even further. But you can also do the step-removed snooping and check out their online presence. Maybe they offer a different package, use different language, whatever and you can have a think about whether they are just targeting a different client and that’s totally cool, but are they targeting a different client because they know something you don’t? Are they targeting mid-size companies because smaller businesses don’t have the funds to pay for your service, for example? A word of caution - don’t get caught up in the they’re doing something different, it must be better oh my God I suck trap. Don’t do it. Maybe something safer to do is to look at similar businesses in the same industry or sector. So if you’re a family lawyer, a professional, you look at other professionals. Be it a real estate law practise or an accountancy firm. If they are somewhat comparable, have a look at how they are operating. Are they moving to operate online? Scaling back their services? Niching more? Why do you think that might be? And is it applicable to your business? If you're a hairdresser, check and see what the personal trainers or nail techs are doing. You want to look for a comparable type of business that has been successful, growing steadily, and is known for being progressive. What are they doing and can you do it too?
Another method that doesn’t require you to leave your chair is to check online research and data resources. There are companies out there whose entire business model is to watch trends, to gather the data and analyse it; many will create sector- or industry-specific forecasts based on the data which you can use to base your decisions from. Now, full reports are usually for purchase but sometimes they are free or the excerpt will give you enough of a clue as to whether you want to purchase or even give you an overview, a feel for how things are predicted to go. Try your professional association if you belong to one or check companies like Bloomberg for these reports. Google it and see what comes up; you never know which PhD or Masters candidate just published their comprehensive review on exactly what you’re looking to learn. Honestly, I’ve been surprised a few times exactly that way.
Speaking of professional organizations and networking, what about networking with your professional organization? Or with community business leaders? You want to find a room, physical or otherwise, where you are not the smartest person. Where people have different experiences, different paths and glean what you can from them. Try Quora or Reddit; blogs, podcasts or the social feeds of industry influencers or thought leaders. Places where the chitchat’s happening. You’re listening for and asking about things they’ve been doing differently, processes they've been changing, things that haven’t been working or seem not to be working like they used to.
And if the idea of talking to lots of people is a bit overwhelming, try a mentor. Many business associations offer a mentoring program and often your local government-led business centres do as well. You can even just approach someone you’ve admired and ask. And it should be a safe ask for you, too, because it’s a flattering thing for most people to be considered mentor material. What you’re looking for is the opportunity to pick the brains of someone who has been there done that and maybe even seen some of the current trends that she knows are just that - a trend. She - or he - might be able to tell you which things remain constant in business, what used to work that is coming back into favour or even see that you are, in fact, knocking it out of the park and be who you need to remind you to celebrate your accomplishments. I had asked earlier who will be your guru and I just want to take a moment and suggest your mentor not be a guru. You need someone who can balance you out, push you forward, and answer your questions. They are not the be all and end all when it comes to information because one person’s experiences are just that - one person’s experiences. So a mentor - not a guru.
And you know what source might be the easiest to tap for information? Your current client base. The people you have already worked with in the past or are working with right now. Have a think about what people have been coming to you with or what they’ve been talking about as you’ve engaged with them. Have a few people been mentioning the same things or asking the same questions? Or just ask them what’s changing in their lives and how you can help make it easier. Have you noticed that one of your services just isn’t really getting much uptake over the last few months or year? Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate based on current trends or just ask a trusted customer, someone you really thought would benefit from that service or product, why they didn’t purchase. Obviously, frame it as a help to you and not scolding for not buying your clearly amazing thing. But ask. Because the information is probably good. And if it involves something you can control or work with, then you know what to do.
But here’s the thing. You’re the boss of your business. You were smart enough to get where you are. You’re smart enough to know to keep scanning the environment for opportunities and threats. So you’re smart enough to take the information you’ve gathered from your sources and evaluate it. To take the time, step back and mull it over. To watch for the signs of change and if you don't understand the signs you see, to look for someone who is willing to help. Not everyone is as lucky as we were to have someone notice you’re lost and wave you in the right direction out of the good of their heart, sometimes you have to ask. Which reminds me of another trip to Spain with my husband where we ended up in a different travel-related challenge that ended up with us climbing and jumping off of an 8 or 9 foot fence to a dusty alley while a busload of passengers yelled to ask where we were going. But that’s another story, for a different time.
If you enjoyed this episode I’d love you to bits and pieces if you could leave a review on itunes, and if you don’t do Apple, you can leave a review on Podchaser; I’ll leave the links in the shownotes.
And until next week my friend, thanks for listening.
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