If you watch a lot of football (like I do), it’s not uncommon to watch your favorite team gain an edge over their opponent and get a small lead. Then, with a few minutes left on the clock, for reasons I will never understand, they abandon the strategy which helped them get the lead (which usually involved assertive play and calculated risk taking on both offense and defense) and start playing “not to lose,” hoping to run out the clock before the other team can gain the lead.
What inevitably happens is that the other team is able to take advantage of this less aggressive style of play.
They stop your offense, because you’re trying to keep the ball on the ground and you fail to make a needed first down. And once they get the ball back, they march right down the field into scoring range because your defense isn’t working as hard to force a turnover and they aren’t taking the calculated risks needed to put extra men where they think the next play is going to be.
So how does this relate to your business?
You worked hard to get your business established; you took calculated risks and tried things you hadn’t tried before in order to gain an edge. Now that you’ve gained some ground, you’re so afraid to lose your position that you start playing “not to lose” instead of playing to win.
- You’ve got a few hundred (or thousand) fans on Facebook or Twitter but you’re so afraid of one or two of them “unliking” your page that you’re afraid to post things that will provoke and connect with people emotionally. You’re afraid to speak passionately on social media. Your posts are about as exciting as a bowl of oatmeal (which, incidentally, is how they're making your brand look, as well). You’re afraid that if you post more than once a day someone will get annoyed and stop reading your posts.
So you’re not playing to win on social media, you’re playing “not to lose.”
- Instead of adding value and changing your lineup – taking a few calculated risks in order to compete in the new economy, you’re holding on to the way you’ve always done things. You are more focused on not losing one or two customers than you are on gaining new ones by making changes you need to make within your business.
- Instead of making your business – and your customer experience – truly unique, you’re playing it safe by keeping things as generic as possible. And so once the customer walks out, there's nothing memorable to make them want to come back and nothing that makes them want to tell their friends about you.
- Instead of engaging with your customers through communications, you’re so worried that someone might unsubscribe from your emailing list if you actually email them that you never do it at all; or at most, you send one or two one-and-done offers and a holiday greeting each year.
Or even worse, maybe you don’t have a playbook at all, and everything that you are doing is being done as a one-and-done, because there is no short or long term strategy in play.
There’s still time on the clock: are you going to play not to lose? Or play to win?
Elizabeth Kraus, author of 365 Days of Marketing and the 2012 Small Business Marketing Calendar: Little White Marketing Lies.
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