The Seven-Year Itch

The Seven-Year Itch

They say that relationships start to wane at around the seven-year mark.

There’s actual empirical data that shows that, over the last century or so, the median duration of a marriage was around seven years. There was even a short-lived political platform that suggested that marriages should last only seven years by default and that couples should have to renew their vows every seven years to continue.

So maybe it makes sense that I notice that business owners tend to get that seven-year itch, too.

(Because what is a business if not a relationship? Maybe the most rewarding or fraught or high-stakes relationship you have, in fact.)

Unlike marriages, most businesses don’t make it past the honeymoon phase. According to the Small Business Administration in the U.S., only half of all small businesses will make it to five years, and only a third will see 10 years. So I think with business, the “seven-year itch” doesn’t so much refer to a frame of time, but a sensation.

It’s a feeling you start to have as the business owner, the CEO. That itch in the back of your brain…

You start to think I’ve said it all… I’ve tried it all… I’m still working awfully hard, but I’m not seeing the exponential growth and success I saw at the beginning… 

And so on.

I know, because it’s happening to me.  (Maybe it also sounds familiar to you — whether you’re at four years, seven, nine, or beyond…)

I actually do happen to be at the seven-year mark in my business (hooray for being part of the 50 percent that made it beyond five years!), and it’s got me thinking about and questioning a lot of things. That oft-repeated adage, “What got you here won’t get you there,” comes to mind.

Things have changed in online marketing since I started my business — probably for you, too. Not just what I do and how, but what’s working when it comes to online marketing.

What got me here won’t get me there.

Then, I relied a lot on content upgrades and JV webinars to build my audience, and they worked — they worked really well! Now, my ideal customer doesn’t want another worksheet and sure as hell isn’t going to sit through an hour long webinar to teach her what she really wants to outsource to somebody else (sound familiar).

Then I wrote reams, books worth of articles detailing how to set up a content marketing strategy. Now, my customer doesn’t want to read a blog post about how to write her blog, she wants to know how to get it off her to-do list.

Then I thought scaling meant selling courses, workbooks, and workshops. Now I am scaling through growing a team.

What got me here won’t get me there.

Understanding all that, I’ve started to feel… stuck. Uninspired. Mired in what hasn’t worked rather than striving for what might. Innovation has always been a strong value for my brand, and while I’ve still been churning out new ideas for clients, the well seemed to have gone dry for me.

I saw a business acquaintance recently post, “I’ve needed ME in my business for so long now… and she’s finally HERE!”

I don’t know if she literally meant that she needed to show up in her own business for herself (or if she meant she’d hired someone to do for her what she does for others), but that’s the way I chose to read it, because I know the feeling.

I’ve been uninspired by lackluster results from marketing experiments, afraid of making a leap, energetically holding back from making the decision to call forth the right number of the right kind of clients…

And if I want to make it to 10 years and beyond, that’s got to stop.

So let me say what’s in my head and on my heart right now.

Here’s what I know to be true: you are not meeting your full potential by not consistently putting out top quality content for your business.

If you’re not consistently sharing your thoughts, your vision, your passion with your audience through content — because you are

  • too busy to take the time to write
  • running out of things to say (it’s been seven years after all…)
  • worried that your content isn’t working the way it used to
  • ready to delegate, but unsure who you can trust with such an important task…

take a deep breath.

These are all legitimate reasons to struggle around consistently creating content — and they are holding you back from reaching your true potential in your business.

Because if you stay stuck here, if you continue to let content creation fall to the bottom of your to-do list, you are going to lose the momentum you built up this far in your business.

Content is a long game, and it’s also the foundation of all the marketing work you want to do today, tomorrow, any time in the future. When you stop consistently putting out valuable content, when you stop communicating with your audience in one fashion or another, when you stop doing the foundational work, the rest of the marketing funnel will eventually dry up and collapse.

I remember my first year in business, I was working with a business coach at the absolute lowest level she offered, joining a group call every month. And I came on one month and told her, “Last month was my best month ever and this month it’s absolutely crickets. What’s going on?”

She asked me, “How much marketing were you doing last month?” And the answer was… not much. I was so busy working in my business, I wasn’t worried about marketing my business. But her point was plain: I was reaping what I’d sowed.

When we have years of blog posts and emails and webinars and marketing campaigns in our back catalogue, it can be easy to rest on our laurels. Our business can potentially reap the benefits of what we’ve sowed for months, maybe even years to come.

But at some point, we will have gleaned everything we can from that work. At some point we will have to go back to basics and do the work of marketing again. And if we’ve let it all go in between, we’ll spend a great deal of time just trying to rebuild what we had before — instead of building on it and growing from there.

But it doesn’t have to fall to you. Just because you are the face, the voice, the personality of your brand doesn’t mean you have to do all of the things. You don’t have to be able to come up with a killer marketing strategy. You don’t have to think of every blog topic on your own.

Hell, you don’t even have to write the damn things.

You can find someone you trust to help you do all these things, like a boss.

And yeah, I’d like that someone to be me.

Interested in talking about this more? Email me or leave me a comment below with a good email address and I’ll get in touch. Let’s make our next seven years even better than the first.

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2 thoughts on “The Seven-Year Itch

  1. Love that you’re talking about this. I’ve gotten this “itch” frequently in my biz. I started out in 2006 doing one thing. I pivoted massively in 2012. Then I pivoted massively again in 2016. Then in 2017 I had an experimental year where I took on an entirely new audience! Since then, I’ve been reining in my focus and niche-ing down. I’m finally gaining clarity about what I can do really well… But even now, I get the itch every few months! I want to do something new or shift audiences once again. Thinking about my biz as an entity I love and want to stay married to helps so much. Going to keep this in mind the next time I think of chasing after the hot, new idea in my mind.

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