It is the age of wisdom, it is the age of foolishness, it is the epoch of belief, it is the epoch of incredulity, it is the season of Light, it is the season of Darkness, it is the spring of hope, it is the winter of despair, we have everything before us, we have nothing before us, we are all going direct to Heaven, we are all going direct the other way —

This is the opening of Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. I have borrowed this opening and updated it to present tense because it fits the time we are in right now.

A business operating in today’s environment can go either way, boom or bust, faster than ever before. You must be flexible, open to new ideas, and be willing to act quickly. Mix things up by testing new vs. old offers and new vs old products, but also understand that status quo will get you in trouble more than ever before. How you operate, market to your customers, deliver information and deliver services are all changing. You too will have to adapt or find yourself losing ground.

Just this week, The Wall St. Journal announced it was going to restructure how it delivers its information to subscribers with a move toward mobile digital platforms. This is a huge decision for an iconic brand and speaks volumes about rapid change (when one of the major media companies in the world is changing directions). The message should not be lost to any of us.

Time Magazine, another historic powerhouse of news and information, announced it too was restructuring.  Although not as direct or specific as the WSJ, I read their message very similar.

Amazon just bought Whole Foods. The same day its stock value went up enough to cover the purchase price Amazon paid for Whole Foods. Why, because everyone knows it was a smart move for Amazon to take an over night position of having brick and mortar locations all over the country with a brand that is young and strong. Home delivery of groceries, already tested by many, will now happen at a faster pace because of this one bold move by Amazon.

Having raised these radical trends, the purpose of this article is not to talk about new technology or new food. It is about ringing the bell to put yourself on guard to be very watchful of your business and aware of what could affect it and you.

Nick, Greg, Lindsay and I have already had to alter our business over the past year and a half to reach different markets with different messages and use different forms of media than we have in the past. We have shared these changes with you so you could monitor their success and failures. We have tried to pass along the marketing and business development ideas that are working and those that aren’t any more.

For example, do you market to your prospects and customers with direct mail anymore since everything seems to be going digital? Right now, we have chosen not to cut out mail, as many people have, because there aren’t near as many pieces of mail as there used to be competing against you in the mail box. Good mail can attract attention, and in some cases better than it used to. But there may be a time when that too changes.

We started working on producing this magazine over a year ago. Was that a good idea or not? We covered our printed magazine bet by also producing a digital format of the magazine sent to an even larger prospect base of 40,000 and we diversified our risk with Publishing Partners.  Which method of delivery for the magazine will prove the best?  We don’t know yet, but we will let you know when we see a definitive trend. My bet is that there will be a place for both print and digital versions and even a place for reusing the content in other media formats.

Success Magazine, for instance has started changing its article format. Instead of having all long articles, you will likely see one long and then several very short articles with as many as three people on a page giving their opinion of a topic. This page restructure is done as a recognition to the fact that not as many people like to read long articles as they used to and are being taught by their electronic devices to take information in small bites and move to the next point.

Sharing risks and rewards with others like we did with this magazine is a marketing tool many of you can and should use. Holding joint events with non-competing businesses and creating joint mailing opportunities have been tools used by all major publishing houses over the years, allowing competing products and services to be promoted in the same mailing. You can do this as well in your business, decreasing your cost and risk at the same time. It also allows you to use more mailings or online marketing because you have made dollars on your partners advertisements.

Now is also a good time to go back to your industry trade shows, or even other more progressive industries, to get new ideas.

You may be noticing that events you hold for your clients have changed recently. It used to be that all you had to do was invite people to come out to hear you talk about your product or service. Now you better have some type of “experience” along with your message or people won’t leave their houses.

In our case, we have learned to use some of the great films Nick has created to hold premieres of documentaries in different cities and at our events.  These premieres also allow us to meet new prospects and existing clients in a fun setting. We hope to see you at one in your area sometime.

Do we also use email campaigns, Facebook and other digital media to tell our story? Of course! It’s a good thing there is a generation between me and my partners because they see in digital what I might not have, or so they tell me. J

Researching and deploying new marketing and business development ideas is the way to stay ahead! Yet, always remember to test the new ideas with your current strategies to see if your prospects are as adaptable as people in other markets are. Remember too that early pioneers are also the ones that got arrows in their backs, so move with caution and keep testing your market to see if it is ready for change!