Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Mindful Environmental Scan: Examining your external environment and internal response to change

The situational scan is the second step in the mindful marketing process. It refers to an examination of the environment, internal and external to the business. The purpose is to stay in touch with the changes in your business environment – changing technologies, consumer culture, competitors, economy, and regulatory forces. Even though I describe this as the second step, this is a natural outcome of being mindful. Part of being mindful is being aware of what is happening inside and outside of us. The purpose of this posting is to provide some resources for doing an environmental scan if you do not have a big budget to access syndicated research and to provide an exercise using the inside-out approach to get in touch with your internal and external environment as a starting point.

As we get busier and more comfortable with systems that work for us we are less inclined to study the changes around us. We know that the only permanent thing is change. You can either resist and evade it or embrace it as your teacher. Changes compel us to find new ways of thinking and as such are responsible for innovations and improvements. In this context, I would also like you to think about competition. It is so important to be aware of what other people in your business are offering. Competition can be seen as a very healthy force that is constantly challenging you to improve and grow. If you are open, and curious, and want to grow, learning about and from your environment is a natural outcome of who you are. So, look around you, notice, Google, read, talk to people, try new experiences, explore new subjects, research, and continue to grow – because if you are not growing forward, you are going backward.

Some websites, videos, and resources related to environmental scan and understanding trends

Patricia Aburdene, in her book, Megatrends 2010, describes conscious capitalism as the new trend. hosts an extensive amount of research information and is an excellent resource to search for different areas that can affect your business. also hosts interesting research and articles related to marketing and many resources are available for free.

Gallup is a reputable source for data and data-driven reports on economic, political, social, and behavioral issues.

Dr Patrick Dixon was ranked as one of the top 20 most influential thinkers alive today, in the Thinkers 50 global executive survey published in 2005. Number One was Michael Porter, followed by Bill Gates. His website has tons of videos on different topics.

The Trend Bank on Faith Popcorn’s (yes that is her real name) is an interesting resource to understand upcoming trends within the social/cultural realm. Warning: The site is a little confusing to navigate

At iAM Business Consulting's website, you can find new research articles and watch videos exploring tools and strategies that can enable you to run your business in mindful and profitable ways. For example, Patrick Dixon’s video describes how he stays up to date as a futurist and the TED video reveals how social media can be used successfully to promote businesses with a purpose.

Environmental Scan Exercise: The Inside-out Approach

This exercise briefly describes steps to get you started with the environmental scan process and notice how you feel at each stage. Typically, environmental scan includes social, technological, competitive, economic, and regulatory changes, but for purposes of this exercise we will focus on competition and technology.

Internal Scan

Environmental Scan

Step 1

Before you begin your environmental scan, close your eyes or keep your gaze soft and take three long and deep breaths. Observe how you feel about this exercise – notice your thoughts, judgments, feelings, and sensations in your body. Do not judge, justify, or try to change your thoughts – Simply observe. Once you feel complete, open your eyes, and make a note of your experience.

Step 1

After the internal scan, start the environmental scan. Search on Google or your choice of search engine for people in your area doing a similar business. For example, I am a marketing consultant, so I typed “marketing consultants Amherst MA”

Note in the first three pages or so, who are the top companies in your area of business and make a note of the directories and online magazines in which they have a presence. Most of these online resources are free, so make a list of the free online resources advertising your competition and make sure that you also advertise in them. For example, my search of marketing consultants in Amherst MA resulted in directories like Google Maps,, Yellow pages, etc

Step 2

After making a list of online directories and magazines that you can participate in, again close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to observe how you feel now. Did the exercise make you feel impatient, frustrated, excited? Simply observe and when ready open your eyes and note any feelings or thoughts you experienced with your eyes closed.

Step 2

Next, you will look at two to three competitors’ websites to learn from them. Visit the websites of your competitors and make a list of what you liked and what you did not like about their website and what they do. Here are some things to pay attention to:

1) The website layout and presentation

2) Their mission statement

3) Their products and services and how are those different from your offerings

4) What are they doing to engage their customers

5) What are they doing to build community around their brand

6) How are they using social media – are they on Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, etc?

7) Note the language they use to connect with their audience. In particular see how they are marketing their services and workshops.

8) Their pricing structure

Step 3

Again, take a few minutes to breathe and bring awareness to how you feel about your competition. How did reading about your competitors make you feel – anxious, fearful, excited, threatened? After witnessing your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, open your eyes and note down your experience.

Step 3

What did you learn from your competition and new technologies being employed? What are the popular new products and services in your area of work? What are the popular new technologies being used?

How are you going to implement what you learnt into your business?

How do you feel now about the changes happening around you? We may choose not to make changes in what works for us, but it is important to be aware of trends in the future. Secondly, we all know that our inner world comprising our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions shape our external world. Your inner feelings towards your competition and changing technologies are a clue to how you perceive and respond to other aspects of your world. If you felt resistance towards the new technologies, think about other changes that you resist. I realized my inner resistance during my intervals exercise class – observing my resistance to exert myself physically has allowed me to transcend my limitations and become much stronger, not only physically but also mentally. What do you resist in your life? Next time take action despite the resistance. Observe with no judgment and let the magic happen!