If your thought was to save fuel, you have made a costly mistake. The fuel you will burn to regain your speed is a lot more fuel than you would have burned to maintain your speed.
This isn’t just a common mistake. It is an “extremely very” common mistake.
But you were wondering how far you could coast, so I will answer your question, as asked.
Your ability to coast will be determined by
- Gravity (Are you coasting uphill, or down? Anyone can coast downhill in a booming economy.)
Advertising is the fuel that energizes your business.
- Speed of growth is determined by how heavily you have been advertising.
- Mass is determined by how long you have been advertising that heavily.
- Friction is the inefficiency of your people to consistently delight your customers.
- Gravity is the resistance of your competitors. How strong or weak are they?
It has been my observation that a roaringly successful business with a lot of momentum can coast for about 6 months before people begin to suspect that something has changed. During those 6 months, the business owner will say, “I cut my advertising and nothing changed! I should have done this a long time ago.”
At the end of a year, they begin blaming the media. “The thing we were using no longer works. We’ve got to find the new thing.”
At the end of two years, the wheels begin to come off. But it has been so long since they changed their advertising that no one suspects it to be the problem.
At the end of four years, the company is in real trouble.
I have seen this movie so many times that I can describe every scene and quote every line of dialogue.
Whether it is after a one-month vacation, a three-month sabbatical, or a six-month abandonment, when that company starts advertising again, they invariably become frustrated that it doesn’t seem to be making a difference. (Remember what I said? “The fuel you will burn to regain your speed is a lot more fuel than you would have burned to maintain your speed.” Payback is hell. It’s going to cost that company at least six months of painful fuel inefficiency to regain the momentum they lost during those six months they were lazily picking their nose instead of advertising.
“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”
– Christopher McDougall, “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe”
A second business owner believes they can build their business to a certain size and then, “just hold what they’ve got,” as though that volume of business is something they can count on from now on. But “holding what you’ve got” is never really an option because the physics of mass, friction, and gravity apply to maintaining your current speed just as surely as they apply to regaining lost momentum.
“Hold-what-we’ve-got” business owners quietly believe, “We have all these customers now, so we don’t need to reach them with advertising anymore.”
BREAKING NEWS: People stay reached like grass stays mowed. A good restaurant is an exception to this rule. In truth, I think you could open a marvelous restaurant on the steppes of Mongolia and people would find it and tell their friends about it.
But you’re not in the restaurant business.
Your business inhales and exhales, expands and contracts, just like every other living organism. This fantasy of, “holding what you’ve got” springs from the misbegotten belief that your business can hold its breath.
Maybe you can do it. I don’t know. Give it a try and we’ll find out.
Are you old enough to have seen a NASA rocket lift off the launchpad at Cape Canaveral? Remember the profound amount of fuel they had to burn to push that rocket slowly upward? Mass and Gravity are a bitch, whether you are trying to launch a rocket or a business. Fuel inefficiency during lift-off is just a fact of life.
If you let that rocket begin to fall back to earth, you’ve got to start all over again.
I’m sorry that I had to be the one to tell you.
Roy H. Williams
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