Let’s just admit it—you’ve been tempted to stray.Yes, you committed yourself to a brand + business strategy . You even wrote it down to keep you on the straight and narrow.But after you’ve been at it for a few months, it starts to feel routine.Which is when temptation beckons…Like the prospect that asks you to deliver a fascinating, but slightly off-your-expertise project. At a discount. In China.On the surface, you can make all sorts of arguments on why this is a good idea.“I’ve always wanted to understand more about _______ and this is my opportunity to get paid something while learning it.”“This will be a good test to see if I can/should do more work in China.”“The client is so high-profile that I’m sure to win more similar assignments once they see me in action.”“I’ve been dying to see China and this is the price of my ‘free’ ticket.”Any one of these might actually be true and worth the investment and strategy shift.But if you’re running every opportunity through this sort of prism—and then always saying yes—you don’t have a strategy.You’re relying on wishes and dreams—on hope. And we all know that hope is not a strategy.So before you say yes to an off-strategy opportunity, try envisioning the outcomes your original plan was designed to deliver.
And ask yourself three key questions: Does this get me closer to my specific goals?
Let’s say you’re just starting to build a speaking business. You’ve got to get yourself in front of the right audiences, paid or unpaid. You’ll want to say yes more often than no while critically evaluating the time (including travel) you invest in each gig.But if you’ve already built a small pipeline, then you’re ready to be more selective and sticking to your strategy becomes essential. Like the consultant who only speaks—charging full market speaking fees—to audiences of HR executives because he knows he’ll sell at least one $50K+ project every time he’s in front of that audience.He’s exquisitely attuned to the levers in his business model. He knows he can’t afford the time to speak—even at market rates—in front of bad-fit audiences since it doesn’t allow him to leverage the rest of his consulting team properly.Related: What’s Your Angel In The Marble? What’s the true investment cost for me to do this?
Try to work out the metrics. If you attend a conference to experiment meeting a new class of potential clients, the out of pocket cost to attend is typically the smallest piece of the pie. It’s your time to travel (if you get on a plane, count it as at least a day each way), to work the conference and then to follow up.Is there another way to use your time more effectively that’s ON strategy? What if you spent those three days setting appointments with prospects or writing an article for your industry journal? What other opportunities must I forgo?
I call it the shiny ball syndrome. It’s easy to grasp for the sparkly, exciting new opportunities right in front of you, while avoiding the less sexy but consistently proven ways to build your brand and your business.But here’s the thing: saying “yes” to off-strategy almost always means saying “no” to on-strategy.So before you leap, think through what you might miss. Will your content delivery suffer (remember your strategy to build your authority)? Will you have to say no to a sweet-spot client with a tantalizing on-strategy problem (that you can also value price)?You can shift tactics, but your guiding strategy doesn’t get changed like your socks.The rewards— growing your business and your reputation
—come when you stick with it.