Saturday, August 28, 2010

Extend beyond your comfort zone

Every morning, I wake up and do the same things in the same order, pretty much without fail. I do this for a few reasons. First, my IQ is basically not present when I first wake up, so without a set plan I would very likely end up trying to walk to work with shoes that wouldn't match and with my PJ shirt on. You might think I'm exaggerating, but yesterday I woke up at 6:30 and couldn't figure out if I was late for work. We open at 8. I also do the same things in the same order because it's comfortable. I know that I will get everything done that I need to get done. I know how long each step takes me. I can do it with my eyes closed. Sometimes I *do* do it all with my eyes closed. Makes the drive to work exciting sometimes.

Comfort, I fear, has become both dangerous and an endangered species. If you become comfortable, it's easy to get in ruts. It's easy to think that the comfortable way is the only way. Our fear of changing things, of becoming uncomfortable, gets a hold of us. On the other hand, who among us feels comfortable these days? How many people do just 1 job and focus on that alone? How many people feel that their profession is going to survive this mad ride that the economy has us on (still)? Comfort is something we crave and avoid these days. No wonder we are all going crazy.

That's Marketing, Too

I've been writing a lot in this blog about the newly defined integrated marketing. The first step in adjusting your company's philosophy to one of accepting this revolution is stepping out of the comfort zone. I understand that this is complex. Talking about change in a blog is easy. Doing change is hard. Leaving your comfort zone means you are doing and trying new things. It means you are leaving yourself open to failure as well as success. It means things you used to be able to count on are now gambles.

When we talk about employees being asked to work in new ways, we are talking about real people. We are talking about your head of marketing who just adopted a child from China. We are talking about Suzie, who is very worried about her father. If you're in a company where you are being told that all of this new integrated marketing "stuff" is coming your way, everyone is going to have to leave their comfort zone to some extent, because all of this is new, or is being seen in new ways.

A little story

Let me tell you a little story about how leaving your comfort zone, while scary as all get out, can be worth the transition.

A few years ago, a lady went to Google to find out some more information about a television show she liked. In doing so, she found a bunch of results on a website, so she naturally went to check it out. What it turned out to be was a message board run and populated by fans of the show. The lady started posting to the board. She started talking to people.

After a few months, the lady became pretty involved in the board because she found a few kindred souls that she ended up talking to every day. But the lady always used a pseudonym, and she was so paranoid about putting her information out there on the web that she created a "real life" pseudonym, an email account tied to that pseudonym, and she made private every post that she had made to her blog. Even as it became clear that some of these people were becoming real-life friends, even after talking to some of them on the phone, giving information out over the internet did not become any easier. It was uncomfortable.

If you guessed that this story is about me, you are correct. There is still a lot about this online world that I find uncomfortable. Businesses go through similar palpitations. "What if I reveal too much?" "What if my competitors use information against me?" "What if a customer bad-mouths our company or our product?" Maybe you are having these doubts right now.

What have I received as the result of leaving my comfort zone online? Invaluable friendships. Growing networks. Vast amounts of knowledge that only increase every day. Potential for growth. Potential for new connections. Has it been worth it to leave my comfort zone? So far -- yes.

Marketing as it exists today is full of ways to leave your comfort zone. Take a look at new publications. Take a look at how to tie your advertising campaign to a direct mail campaign. Examine how sales and marketing could work better together at your company. It's true that there are risks. But what could you gain? A stronger brand. Happier customers. A better ROI. A winning story. A happy company. An evolved and happier you. Is that worth the risk?

Maybe it's time to get a little comfortable with being uncomfortable. What do you think?

Image by Andrea De Stefani.

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