Natural next steps

Garden gnomeDid you know that the study of garden gnomes is the best metaphor for identifying new growth opportunities for your business?

Whatever your business, you will invariably have competitors who you keep a watchful eye on. Occasionally, they will do something new that you admire, often because of its intrinsic simplicity and freshness. You may even regard their actions as quite innovative, but however you consider it, with hindsight it will probably seem a blindingly obvious thing to have done. You could have done that if you’d thought of it first. But you didn’t – and they did.

I call these blindingly obvious activities natural next steps, because when you are made aware of them, it always seems like it’s the natural thing to do. If you’d thought of it then you’d be doing it. But you didn’t – and if you start doing it now, you are simply copying your competitor’s move which isn’t a good thing for your customers to see. And it gives your own self-esteem a bit of a kicking too!

Fundamentally, this should be the main focus of your business – to identify the natural next steps for you to take, which by default will become the natural next steps that your customers will want to take too. You need to be doing, showing, sharing, selling and experiencing new things that offer obvious benefits and entice your customers to move into a deeper relationship with you. If it’s an obviously good move for them – then it’s a good move for you too.

In hindsight these natural next steps always seem so obvious, but the knack is being able to identify them with foresight. Their beauty is in the fact that the moment you observe one, it’s obvious what it is, and in this respect they are a lot like garden gnomes.

Now, I love garden gnomes. The scenarios their owners put them into are often quite hilarious, but there’s no way I’d ever have one of the little bastards in my garden. I run a lot for exercise, and while I’m running I like looking in people’s gardens hoping to see a gnome. They aren’t common – and to find one I have to peep over lots of fences looking in lots of gardens. When there is one there, it’s quite easy to spot, just like a natural next step. But it takes time and effort to find them.

Now it might seem counter-intuitive, but if natural next steps are so obvious to recognise when you see one, then surely it should be quite easy to identify them as and when needed. But this isn’t the case. Actually, they are very difficult to identify in the first place, and many businesses happen on to them by chance.

When was the last time you identified a growth opportunity for your business that you are proud of? Recently? A while ago? Never?  And when was the last time you saw a garden gnome? You know that growth opportunities and garden gnomes are both out there somewhere. You just need to know how to look for them.

If you want to proactively go and hunt down some natural next steps for your business, then there is only one place to go – the territory of the three giants. And this will be the subject of my next post…

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