Every organization has to go through a season of crossing the chasm if it wants to be sustainable and excellent.
If you didn't just click on that hyperlink, by crossing the chasm, I mean, " season in which you're required to take your product or service — i.e. anything from your paintings to an app — from the group of people who've embraced your art, product, or service early on, to the people who haven't heard about your art, product, or service, don't care, and probably won't care unless you impress or influence them enough to get them interested and committed. Hence, the image of "crossing a chasm" and establishing connections between the people who cared early on and the people you want to care now and in the future.
So, picture yourself at the edge of that chasm. Are you getting ready to step out onto the small suspension bridge or tight rope that's calling you out into the great unknown? Or are you hesitating?
The typical instinct for most leaders is hesitate, stop, and resist crossing; essentially, to increase the amount of promotion or advertising — whether that's on an individual self-promotion level or a corporate promotional-campaign level. This is because such actions are safe and seem to ensure the most effective and immediate means to getting one's name thrown across the canyon to the "I don't care" people who will hopefully catch that name upon the wind and... care.
The problem with this instinct, however, is that it causes leaders to move way become way too ambitious without the strategy, thoughtfulness, and deliberateness to reinforce it. And in the process, it causes leaders and entire organizations to lose the vitality, thoughtfulness, and passion that got the attention of anybody in the first place.
Because, if all you're doing is producing messages that are thrown out en masse, that demand look at me, look at me, you're not thinking meaningfully about crossing over to people who you need to cross over to and ask: here's what you mean to us we want to take the time to learn about you and how we might partner with you to change lives — including yours and ours. Or, more simply put, it means the organization will stay at the edge of the canyon, trying to shout across it to all the people on the other side amidst all the other people shouting and staying put.
And, as you can guess, it's pretty hard to hear someone's voice across a chasm of that size with that amount of people. So what's the better approach? You guessed it: it's thoughtfully stepping out onto that small suspension bridge or tight rope and taking the big risk to bring the product or service over to the people yourself.
Of course, there's danger involved. Of course, it means you have to risk a nasty fall or two. Of course, it means you have to stay focused on what's ahead and not look down and trembling in fear. Of course, it means you have to actually make a deliberate effort to walk over to the people you want to connect with and influence and ask them what matters to you? How might I be able to find the places where your passion meets our passion? Of course, it means you'll have to invest significant time, energy, and money to build a bridge so that people can walk back and forth from either side of the canyon.
Of course, that's exactly why people opt for more promotion and less thought. The former is easier, and the latter takes more risk and is far more taxing. Yet, it's the former that produces the most rewarding and sustainable long term results: you reach the other end of the chasm, and make loyal friends when you get there.
So ultimately, it's not about promotion. It's about people; real people with real passion, real hopes, real fears, and reals dreams. And you — yes you! — as the individual artist or collective organization have got to figure out how to cross that massive canyon and stick around long enough to meaningfully connect with people, learn about them, and show them something compelling.