You have an idea and you think it is awesome. You get pretty psyched about it; maybe you mention it to a friend or 2. Maybe you even mention it to your mom.
It feels like this could be “The One” — even though in the back of your mind, you know the “perfect idea” does not really exist (along with 6 other weird cognitive distortions you probably have).
So you begin the process of “launching” the creating to the world. You immediately start doing all the things you think you need to start spreading the word about your awesome new business.
- Get a new logo designed (“OMG what should my brand colors be? We have to stay on brand!)
- Open up a Twitter account and Facebook fan page (“Got to make sure we are engaging!”)
- Set up a business checking account/get business cards …
Then you do some more tweeting, fiddling and strategizing … and wait. And nothing happens.
Nobody retweeted or shared, hit your site or donated to your Kickstarter; nobody is talking about you and nobody cares — it is awful.
Especially when you see other startups that seemingly come from nowhere and blow up.
What did you do wrong? Is there any way to turn this thing around? Or is your idea just a dud?
This week, as I was re-reading Seth Godin’s Purple Cow, I was reminded that there are usually 3 reasons why ideas do not take off — and if you do not know what they are, there is a good chance your idea is going to flop, too.
Now, without further ado, here are 3 reasons why your idea is not taking off (and what to do about it):
- “You cannot out-Apple Apple.”
I am a little afraid to type this in public, but I will just go ahead and say it …
Apple no longer makes the best smart phone.
The iPhone does not have the most features. It does not integrate and play nicely with everything. The operating system is not the best or the fastest — nor is the camera. The phone is not the most durable and it is way overpriced in comparison to many other phones on the market.
The iPhone 6? Well, I got it. And to say the least — it is underwhelming. But one look at the market and you would have no idea. The launch of the iPhone 6 broke all previous records and sold billions of dollars before the phones even hit the stores. If they are not the best phone anymore, how do they continually crush the competition in sales and brand value?
Simple: Apple’s competitors (I am looking at you, Samsung and Microsoft) try to beat Apple by being … more “Apple-y.”
For years, Apple ran successful campaigns by poking fun at the inflexibility of Microsoft computers. Microsoft then started to make parodies of these parodies.
Apple released the iPhone. Microsoft, are you there?
Apple released the iPad in 2010. The Microsoft Surface took a full 2 years later to come out (and it was not as good.)
And of course, Microsoft figured out 10 years late that opening up retail stores was a good idea. So what do they do? Copy Apple.
Wherever Apple goes, Microsoft is at least 2 years late to the party — and rather than come up with fresh ideas and genuine reasons for why they are the best choice … well, they are simply content to copy what has already been done, then tell you why you should not pick Apple.
By trying to prove they are better, they are inadvertently advertising their competition — and trying to “one up” Apple by making slight tweaks to a technology that Apple already developed and saying, “Are you impressed? We made our phone talk too … and it is pretty good!”
Samsung does the same thing with the “Next Big Thing” campaign — which literally implies that they are not the big thing right now.
Both of these companies, despite having superior products in some cases, try to out-do Apple by just being more “Apple-y,” but that is impossible.
Apple’s entire existence is built on witty and cool — do not try to be wittier or cooler. Apple’s design focus is clean and modern. Do not try to be better at their aesthetic than they are, and for God’s sake, do not let your only differentiating factor be that you have X more speed than Apple, Y more power than Apple or Z more features than Apple.
Are you committing the same mistake with your idea?
Sometimes, it is cool to differentiate yourself by being a little better in a few categories than your competition. But is that all you have going for you?
So many people want to start the next Facebook.
“I will start a new social network — like Facebook, except with a better news feed!”
You will never win.
Even if yours actually is better, Facebook has that covered. They are already known for the news feed. You are not going to out-Facebook them.
So take a hard look at your idea. Is it just a rehashed, barely original version of an idea that someone else already has locked down? If it is, do something else. And tell Microsoft and Samsung while you are at it. They need help.
- You are scared of being disliked.
So there is this awesome little cafe down the street from my house called The 50’s Cafe. The food is pretty good — not too much better or worse than IHOP or Denny’s. The location is decent, but not the best and the prices are average. Every weekend, this place is packed, really packed.
IHOP is about 1 mile away, with tables to spare … but you cannot even get a seat at The 50’s Cafe. Why?
I found out one morning eating breakfast. The waitress gave us the check, I gave her my debit card, and she looked at me like I was an idiot.
“We only accept cash. Don’t you see the sign?”
Sure enough, there were signs everywhere. To go along with the theme of their restaurant (50’s), they do not accept credit or debit. At first, I thought this was a major pain in the ass, and I thought they were stupid. Why would a restaurant willingly turn down thousands of dollars in business because they did not accept modern payment systems? But sure enough, the place was always packed — and I started to see why.
What was originally a point of contention actually started to make the restaurant special.
Conversations go like this:
Hey, do you want to get breakfast?
Sure. Let’s go to The 50’s Cafe.
I do not have any cash on me.
Isn’t it so inconvenient that they do that?
Yeah, I wonder why the owner decided to do that.
I have never heard of a restaurant turning down money. That industry is hard enough.
Whatever, I am hungry. Is there an ATM around?
And the owner isn’t that dumb — because guess what …
He put an ATM right outside the door. Haha.
If he had been too scared to do this “cash only” policy, what would have happened?
He would have had a regular, completely unremarkable diner.
There would be nothing to differentiate him from any other breakfast joint on the block — and certainly nothing worth talking about.
It is counterintuitive … but by making things just a little harder for his customers, he now enjoys the buzz that comes with running a business that is cool and different.
Does his policy piss some people off? Sure, but he was not scared of making a few people mad to stand out.
Are you pissing enough people off?
If not, you should be.
Here is what you have to realize: Playing it safe is literally the riskiest thing you can do. Purposely blending in, not being too “different,” not wanting to “rock the boat” or ruffle some feathers is the quickest road to being forgotten.
Your customers have choices. They have so many choices … and one of the best ways to get their attention is to do something out of the ordinary. Outside of the lines of what is traditionally seen as acceptable.
When you do this, some people will get pissed off. It is inevitable. But, if you are just launching an idea, you cannot afford to play it safe. You cannot color inside the lines and get noticed.
Just remember, love and hate usually come in equal quantities. If you have 5 people that hate what you are doing, there are probably at least 5 who think it is brilliant — because it speaks directly to them. Focus on those people.
Ruffle some feathers.
- You are not remarkable.
First of all, let’s unpack what “remarkable” actually means. It is not some weird, esoteric super-quality. Basically, it just means “worthy of remark.”
Is what you are doing worthy of other people taking time out of their day to talk about it?
Things that are remarkable do not require the user be prodded or poked for them to share it like raving lunatics.
Examples of remarkable products/services I cannot help but blab about to other people:
23andMe — An awesome genetic testing service that has given me insight into my entire family lineage. Never seen this technology before last year. Definitely worthy of remark.
Uber — Particularly when it first came out a few years ago. Imagine the ability to call a car on command. Life-changing. Now they are doing helicopter rides in LA to random winners. Again, remarkable.
Metroflex Long Beach — Without a doubt, the best gym on the planet, full of the most intense people you will ever meet. Home of CT Fletcher. Part colosseum, part Hell. A pit bull named Bently lives there and runs around the gym floor.
These are just a few examples of products/services that have an “x-factor;” that little special something that makes them worth telling about to whoever appears relevant.
I take pride in spreading the word because I want to see businesses like these do well and conquer the world.
Why isn’t your idea remarkable?
My guess is because you tried too hard to copy someone else, or you are too scared of getting rejected.
Go to the detergent aisle. There is Tide, Gain and a few other unremarkable brands that I have never committed to memory. I have no preference other than I buy what my mom always bought (Tide). But, none of those products stand out. They are commodities and as such, they do not care about being remarkable. They just want to maintain market share. Your idea is new. It has no market share. People do not know about it, and they do not care.
You have to make it so good that people have to choice but to talk. You have to be so good that they cannot ignore you.
That is how you make it remarkable. If it is not, back to the drawing board.
Image credit: CC by Jennifer C.