It is easy to express advice, but some decisions are not so simple. For example, when, if ever, should you stretch far enough out of your comfort zone to try something new and daring?
If you don’t, how can you differentiate yourself and assume a leadership role in what may be a crowded, overly-competitive market. If you do, how can you justify the risk? There are few things sadder in business than the organizations (perhaps out of desperation) who roll the dice, and discover the wrong numbers doom them to defeat.
Add to this, there can be more than one right answer — depending on your business objective, product/service or market.
The best answer, I think, is to take what can be called an iterative adaptive approach. These are big words, which describe how some of the most successful and innovative businesses (like Google) operate.
First, a definition (from Wikipedia, which represents one of the great Internet game-changers as it of course destroyed the conventional encyclopedia business.)
Iteration is the act of repeating a process with the aim of approaching a desired goal, target or result. Each repetition of the process is also called an “iteration”, and the results of one iteration are used as the starting point for the next iteration.
Simply put, you develop a concept, test it, and then vary/modify it until you get it right. You can take bold steps, even, on experiments, provided they don’t push your overall business to a risk-extreme circumstance.
Iteration, of course works best when you have rapid feedback opportunities, more common in the online world than in the AEC community. The ship sails very slowly, it seems, in designing and winning approval for multi-million dollar projects. You need to invest major resources in team co-ordination, compliance, relationship-building and business management to win the big jobs — and decisions made by you or others along the way may either be totally out of your control, or decided by truly out-of-left-field circumstances.
However, you can certainly review your successes and failures, determine where you can take some risk, and plot an experiment or new campaign. Or you might find you can benefit by changing your sales compensation model, rewarding “doers” for marketing initiatives (such as writing papers or presenting at conferences) or adapting a new approach to traditional marketing models.
(Life is easier of course for residential contractors working on volume — then you can test, systematize and vary your marketing approaches in real-time.)