We were about to put money into our first business website, and we were very excited about what we thought it could do for us and our clients.
All because they didn’t have a plan.
I said, “We could have a panel on the front where we share daily tips on branding and marketing.” “Our clients would like that, and it would make us look better in their eyes.”
We were sure this was a great idea, but we couldn’t move forward because of two things: a key member of staff who wasn’t very creative but had a lot of power said the idea was “unprofessional,” and the technology at the time was so slow that changing any text took a whole day.
Even though I wouldn’t start blogging for another eight years, the idea was still ahead of its time.
We were too easily distracted from our good idea, so we got on with running the business, and our website just sat there as an online brochure, like many websites still do today.
What we didn’t do was connect this simple idea to a goal that shaped what we wanted to happen. If we had done that, we would have had the courage to persuade our stubborn employee to change his mind, and we would have kept working on the technology and become the first people to use Blogger or WordPress.
We’ve been blogging for 15 years. Where might that have taken our businesses now?
The same thing went wrong
A little while later, we decided to write a guideline because we were convinced that we had “expertise and knowledge to share” (a key part of good blogging) that would help our current clients, bring in new clients, and make it seem like we knew what we were doing, which is all part of good marketing. It was supposed to show how to get the most out of your money spent on your brand, website, and communications.
Through a committee
We worked on the list of contents and the book itself for months, involving everyone in our business at the time. We didn’t realize that it was a new idea at the time, nine years ago, and that it wasn’t a set of rules but a book. We didn’t think “book,” but something much less valuable.
I often think about how close we came to making something big that would have made our company stand out and explained what we did and for whom.
Like our early idea for the blog, stuff, staff, and our lizard brains got in the way. The latter kept saying that it was a huge waste of time and effort, and that the reward was just a dream. So many times, I really should have strangled those lizards!
The truth is that we gave them a lot of room to say bad things about us. We didn’t sit down as soon as we had the idea and come up with a list of agreed-upon goals for doing it.
If we had done that, the hours we wasted because our lizards kept reminding us before, during, and after every meeting to move the idea forward would have been driven by a sense of purpose instead of frustration that a good idea was not moving forward.
Certainly. Just this once.
Disappointed that I couldn’t make these ideas come true and inspired by the Ebook craze at the time (this was in 2008, but the craze had peaked in 2004, so the boat had already sailed), I decided to write an ebook about what I knew at the time: how to run a marketing communications and design company.
I lost interest about a third of the way through. Not surprisingly, the idea died when the last flickering flames of interest in our business went out.
Did I want to do this in any way? A possible result? No, it was just a silly idea that if the book was put on Clickbank, it would make a lot of money. True, but sad.
The book, which is surprisingly helpful for all service businesses, is sitting in the metal case of an old back-up disk with its sister blueprint and that blog idea from a long time ago.
Anyone learn anything from this?
Every business idea has a part about how to market it. No matter what it is, you’ll soon be thinking about the brand, the materials, and who you need to tell before it’s even done.
But an idea without a goal is sacrilege in marketing. Not only does it waste time, energy, and effort, but it also keeps you in the same place and, at worst, makes your marketing efforts go backwards, which kills momentum.
Having a good idea is the easy part.
When you start a new business or project, you have many ideas ready to go.
The hard part is knowing your goal so well that you can talk about it in a way that makes sense and has conviction, no matter who you’re talking to, because you believe in the goal and the results.
Here is a “Wild Idea Guide” that you can use to check these ideas. Either so they can help you and your business in great ways, or so they don’t get out of hand and cost you time and momentum.
Step 1. AWARENESS
Are you trying to come up with a new idea? Put it on paper. In detail. Get out of here for a while. If you keep thinking about it and adding to it, then move on to Step 2. If not, drop it right away.
Step 2: BE CLEAR
Ok, if you want to do this, then do it with a lot of seriousness. Why, first? Why, second? Lastly, why?
Then, ask yourself how it helps your business. Who will it help? What have you found out? Why do they want it? How are you going to pay for it? How much money will you make back? If you can give good answers to these, move on to Step 3.
Step 3. INTENT
It was the hardest. This is saying what the big picture goal is. It could have words that make you feel something, like serve, uplift, care, change, stir, nurture, or move. It’s the reason why you want to do more than just think about the idea and start putting it into action. It will keep you fed and quiet your lizard. Because of this, you’ll be able to tell the right people about the idea and get the right results. You will have to answer for it. If you are having trouble here, you should think again. Or, go to the next step.
Step 4. PLAN
You are being driven by a reason, but you need to go in the right direction. Even well-thought-out ideas run into problems and setbacks along the way. We had neither a goal nor a plan, so we gave up after the first or second obstacle.
I think a plan should only be one page long. It is a simple document that lists the key results and the main ways to reach those results, by whom, and when. It’s okay for it to grow and change. You’re on your way if you’ve made it this far. So now all that’s left is to do. And look over.
STEP 5. REVIEW
Your progress might look like a graph of stock prices. That’s fine, as long as you can see the milestones and are going in the right direction, even if you’re going up and down a bit. The important thing is that you haven’t started a project that has lost steam but is still taking up your time and energy. If it’s not getting the results you want, look at it and change it. Or abandon.
I’m happy to say that I’ve learned from these three lost ideas, as well as many others. They keep coming, but I only move forward the ones I’m working on. I sometimes wish I could still just go with the flow. No more!