We were just about to invest in our first business website and were talking with great excitement about everything we hoped it could achieve for us and our clients.
All for the lack of an intent
“We could have a panel on the front in which we’d share daily brand and marketing tips”, I said. “Our clients would value that and we would surely rise in their estimation as a result.”
Certain that this was a great idea, two obstacles precluded us from going further: an uncreative but influential key member of staff who thought the idea ‘unprofessional’, and the clunky technology of the time that made changing any text a day’s work.
None the less the idea was prescient even though it would be another eight years before I discovered blogging.
Too easily deflected from our good idea, we got on with the business of the business and our website languished as an online brochure as many still do today.
What we failed to do was peg this simple idea to an intent that informed our desired outcomes. Had we done so,we would have had the conviction to persuade our recalcitrant employee otherwise and we’d have persisted with the technology and gone on to be pioneers of Blogger or WordPress.
With 15 years of blogging under our belts, where might that have lead our businesses today?
The mistake repeated
A little later, consumed by the idea that we had ‘expertise and knowledge to share’ (a core component of good blogging), that would surely benefit our existing clients, attract new clients, and increase the perception that we knew what we were doing, ‘ all core to good marketing’, we decided to write a guideline. It was to be a blueprint on how to get the best out of your brand, website and communications spend.
Death by committee
We involved everyone in our business at the time and laboured over the list of contents and then the actual content for months. We didn’t understand that it was an innovative idea for its time nine years ago and not a guideline but a book. We weren’t thinking ‘book’, but far smaller value than that.
I’ve often marvelled at how close we were to producing something significant that would have singled our company out while promoting why we did what we did for whom.
Like our early idea of the blog, we were deflected by stuff, staff and our lizard brains. The latter were insistent that it was a massive waste of time and effort and that the reward was a pipe dream. There have been so many times I should have strangled those lizards!
The truth is we left ourselves wide open for their slanderous murmurings. We did not sit down as soon as we had the idea and work out the intent for doing it with a set of agreed outcomes.
Had we done so, the wasted hours our lizards so obligingly reminded of us at the start, during and after every meeting to progress the idea would have been fuelled by purpose and not frustration that a good idea was going nowhere.
And yes. Just once more.
Disappointed by the inability to make these ideas happen and inspired by the current Ebook craze, (we are talking 2008 although the craze had run its course by 2004, so the boat had long since left), I decided to write a ebook on what I knew then – how to run a marketing communications and design company.
One third of the way through, I simply lost the heart for it. Not surprisingly, as the very last fluttering flames of interest in our business spluttered, the idea died for ever.
Did I have an intent for this at all? A realisable outcome? No, just an unrealistic idea that posted on Clickbank the book would make a fortune. Sad, but true.
The book, surprisingly insightful for all service businesses, sits along with its sister blueprint and that long ago blog idea, gathering cyber mildew in the metal casing of a very old back up disk.
Lessons in this for anyone?
An idea in business always has a marketing component. Regardless of what it is, before long you’ll be thinking brand, collateral and who you need to tell about it, way before it’s done.
But an idea without intent is marketing sacrilege. It’s not just the human fuel (time, energy and effort) wasted, it’s that it keeps you in the same spot at best and drives your marketing efforts backwards at worst, destroying momentum.
The easy part is having a great idea
When you first start out in business or a new project, the ideas are ready and many.
The difficult part is knowing your purpose with such clarity that you can pitch it coherently, innately and with conviction no matter who you are talking to, because you believe completely in the intent and the outcomes.
Here is a ‘Wild Idea Guide’ to check those ideas. Either to get them done so they do wonderful things for you and your business or before they get out of hand and lose you time and momentum.
Step 1. AWARENESS
Are you in the process of thinking a new idea? Write it down. In detail. Walk away for a little while. If you continue thinking about it, adding to it and mulling it over then move to Step 2. If not, abandon it now.
Step 2. CLARITY
OK, you want to do this, then bring some real rigour to it. First, why? Second, why? Third, why?
Then: How does it add to your business? Who does it serve? What research have you done? Who wants it and why? How will you manage it financially? What will be your return on investment? If you can answer these satisfactorily, then move to Step 3.
Step 3. INTENT
The hardest part. This is articulating the big picture purpose. It might contain emotive words, like serve, uplift, care, change, stir, nurture. It’s the vision for why you are going beyond considering the idea to implementing it. It will shut your lizard up and keep you fuelled. Because of that, you’ll be able to pitch the idea to the right people for the right outcomes. It will hold you accountable. If you are struggling here, then reconsider. Or move onto Step 4.
Step 4. PLAN
You have a reason and it is driving you, but you need to steer in the right direction. All ideas even girded by intent, stumble on obstacles and challenges along the way. As demonstrated, we had neither intent or a plan and gave up at the first or second hurdle.
I believe a plan should be kept to a single page. It is a document that simply outlines the key outcomes and lists the major strategies to achieve those outcomes, by who and when. It’s allowed to change and grow. If you’ve got this far, you’re on your way. So all that is left to do is to do. And review.
STEP 5. REVIEW
Maybe your progress looks like a stock graph. That’s alright, as long as you can see the milestones and you’re trending upwards, despite jiggling up and down a bit. The key is that you haven’t embarked on a project that has long since lost steam but continues to consume energy and time. If it is not achieving the outcomes, then review and revise. Or abandon.
I’m happy to tell you that I’ve learned the lessons from these three lost ideas (and there were many more!). They keep on flowing, but I only progress those that I work through this process. Sometimes, I’d love to still fly by the seat of my pants. No more!
Getting clarity on any aspect of what you are doing is the key to a successful outcome. I’d be delighted to be your guide. Call me.
This has been another in the world famous Word Carnival Monthly series of blogs to help small business. The topic this month is ” How I marketed before I even knew what marketing was” – all about not being scared of the word and the things we did to promote ourselves that paid off (or didn’t in this case) even though we didn’t have a clue. Check it out here. There’ll be wild ideas a plenty, and if you use the Wild Idea Guide, you might be doing something soon that will skyrocket your business and your life.