We’re almost at the end of January, and I haven’t yet broken a New Year’s resolution. I’ve eaten the occasional biscuit and leftover Quality Street, and definitely enjoyed some good red wine. But I have nothing to feel guilty about.
That’s because this year I did not set myself any hard goals. This year, like the year before, I decided not to follow a diet. Of course, this doesn’t mean becoming a couch potato. I still have every intention of living a balanced and healthy lifestyle, where I eat foods that make my body feel good. I’m just not setting unrealistic goals.
I’m sure you’ve read and heard from more than one place that fad diets don’t work. So why do so many people fall into the trap? The answer is guilt. Most January dieters jump on the bandwagon due to the ever-present fear of being held accountable. They fall prey to an industry that generates guilt at the thought of not conforming and failure to stick to their grand promises.
The world of business is no different.
This is often a time where B2B display ads suggest to stressed-out marketing managers and directors that the New Year is the time to make dramatic, wholesale changes. To revolutionise their social media. To take control of their data and their CRM once and for all.
They lure businesses into thinking they have the next best solution that will solve all their marketing problems. On their end, marketing managers and directors feeling the constant pressure of hardcore business objectives - KPIs to meet, campaign ROI figures to report on and budgets to secure – start to trust these unconvincing solutions.
Just as wishful dieters purchase £60 ‘raw juice’ cleanses in the hope of shedding the pounds gained over Christmas, businesses make investments in hot new tools and products to solve isolated business problems. That ‘new SEO optimisation tool’, ‘some awesome VR sets for event marketing’: businesses jump onto eye-catching trends without really thinking about whether they actually fit with their brand purpose.
But the reality is no real improvements can happen unless businesses shifts their priorities from finding quick fixes to creating meaningful, sustainable change. And meaningful, sustainable change is inspired when brands are true to their purpose. They are turned into action when businesses implement activities that make a real difference to how their customers experience their brand.
This consideration can take managers from resolving “I will meet my KPIs for the quarter” to “I will focus on creating the most value I can for my customers”. Managers must go beyond asking standard questions like “how can I meet my KPIs this quarter?” towards working with people from across the organisation to answer the critical question: “How can we create more value for our customers in the long-term?”.
But even when you have a clear purpose, sustainable healthy habits don’t ‘just happen’ – they require a strategy. If you want to exercise more, but have 3 kids and a full-time job, you need to accurately plan how going to the gym will fit in your week. You need to plan around the small tasks that have stopped you in the past, optimise your free time and share out tasks with your partner. Find effective tools you can embed in your everyday life and help you make long-lasting change stick.
Similarly, tools like customer journey planning, branding exercises and internal cross-departmental workshops can help you identify where the biggest gaps are in your communications to customers at a relatively small cost. These tools, when used consistently and in a way that involves people from multiple departments, can help managers see where they could be doing more to take their brand purpose to customers and generate the equity and loyalty that ultimately leads to sustainable growth.
This year, like the year before, I refuse to go on a diet. But I will still look to improve myself and be mindful of the health choices I make. I will strive to make changes and build habits in line with my personal values. And you should do the same for your business. Focus your efforts on where you can make a difference to your customers’ experience of your brand and prioritise the actions that will lead to the long-term health of your bottom line.