Normally I’m bursting with ideas that I want to chat about on Flying Solo, but my mind has been on other things for the last couple of months, and this time around I was completely stuck.
So, in an attempt to settle on a topic, I did what I so often encourage my clients to do, and went back to basics, asking myself, ‘What are my marketing objectives with this article?’
The answer I came up with was a fairly stock-standard one, something along the lines of ‘Get X number of people to visit my website, learn more about my products and services, and get in touch with me about the potential of doing business together’.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with that – in fact, it’s a very common-sense approach to deciding how to market your business, and one that I normally applaud. But on this occasion it didn’t do anything whatsoever to get me excited about sitting at my desk and putting my fingers to the keyboard.
My mental roadblock persisted for a few days, culminating in me sending a series of increasingly apologetic emails to poor Lisa, who’s been patiently waiting for this article to turn up in her inbox.
Finally, I did what I should have done in the first place and decided to ponder the conundrum of what I wanted to write about during my meditation.
As my mind got quiet and I stopped trying to fix the problem, I realised that I’d been asking the wrong question.
Instead of focusing on my objectives, what would happen if I asked myself: ‘What’s my intention with this piece of marketing?’
Aren’t objectives and intentions the same thing?
It took a while before the nuances started to sink in for me – not least because when we use them as nouns, the words ‘objective’ and ‘intention’ are almost interchangeable.
It slowly dawned on me though, that in many ways they’re not the same things at all. In fact, when we use these words as adjectives, the differences quickly become obvious.
For example, when we ask someone to ‘Make an objective analysis’, we’re requesting that they put personal feelings aside and consider only rational facts, to the exclusion of subjective emotions and opinions.
On the other hand, to describe something as ‘an intentional action’, is most definitely to imbue it with feeling. The phrase immediately conveys that purpose, commitment and forethought are involved.
As I sat with these nuances for a bit longer, I realised that there were other subtle differences too, which are similar to the distinctions I make between a goal and a vision, as Robert and I talked about in a recent Flying Solo podcast.
Objectives are self-centred, stiff and constrained
For example, it occurred to me that when I set myself business objectives, they’re all about me: I structure them around my business needs, my schedule and my preferred way of working.
But even though they’re self-centred, objectives also tend to be very impersonal. Since they’re all about facts, figures, deadlines and statistics, focusing on them often makes me intensely analytical and calculating as I try to pin down the answers to questions like, ‘How many?’, ‘By when?’, ‘At what price?’ and, ‘What can I do or say to make people take action on this so that I achieve my goal?’
It’s heady stuff that I can easily get carried away by, and until I started comparing them with my intentions, I hadn’t even noticed that for me, a focus on objectives tends to bring with it feelings of tightness, rigidity and a slight sense of stress.
Your intention is soft, yielding and expansive
On the other hand, when I shifted my gaze onto my intention, I immediately became aware that for me, work is ALWAYS personal.
If one of the things I love about my business is that it enables me to have very meaningful connections with my clients, why on earth would I want to focus on metrics that take the personal touch out of the equation?
A little more contemplation made me realise that my intentions have a softness and generosity to them. Far from being self-centred, they’re an indication that I’m prioritising the higher good of my customers and prospective customers, with no fixed expectation or demands on how they’ll take or use what I have to offer.
Where focusing on my objectives makes me feel that my neck and shoulders have turned to determination-driven concrete, my intentions seem to float lightly in and around me, bringing with them an openness to opportunities, creativity and lateral thinking.
Are you trying to catch or release?
The most evocative imagery that emerged when I was meditating on all this was that when I’m purely focused on my objectives, I feel like a hunter who’s on a mission to track and capture his prey.
In contrast, when I put my energy into my intentions, I feel as though a beautiful bird has wandered into my office, and it’s my responsibility to set it free so its song can be heard by whoever most needs to hear it today.
Where should you put YOUR marketing focus?
All of this might come across as a bit woo-woo or airy-fairy, but I encourage you to at least sit with it and contemplate whether shifting your energy from your objectives to your intentions brings you some clarity about how you want to go about marketing your business.
Importantly, I think it’s also worth considering whether an intentional shift in your focus would have an impact on your audience and how they feel about what you have to say.
As I mentioned above, this whole exercise started with me trying to come up with a topic for this article that would bring some new leads into my business.
There were any number of ways that I could have met that objective, but if none of them felt particularly inspiring to me, I’m pretty confident that they wouldn’t have inspired you either.
When I tuned into my intention though, I realised that what I really wanted to do with this article was something altogether different: to give those of us who’ve been feeling stuck about where to go next with our marketing a new lens to view the situation through that inspired us and got us excited again.
I feel like I’ve only just touched the surface with this concept, and I’m intrigued about digging deeper into what it means for my business as time goes on. For starters, I suspect that intentions and objectives may turn out to be a bit like Yin and Yang, with a healthy balance of both required for optimal wellbeing… But all of that is for another article!
In the meantime, I’ll be interested to hear from you in the comments whether these ideas resonate with you too, and how you see them playing out in your marketing.