For now, hang loose

It’s great to be in control, but sometimes this can throttle your efforts.

Early-stage enterprises are ambiguous, uncertain animals that are never a perfect fit with the market. They need a lot of tweaking and changing.

Being imprecise over goals and methods can be an advantage.

During the Vietnam War, the insurgents and North Vietnamese used the Russian AK-47 semi-automatic rifle, which was very effective in battle because it was engineered slack. U.S. forces, by contrast, were saddled with the fine-tolerance M16 weapon that in its early form needed frequent cleaning and often jammed, resulting in unnecessary loss of life.

LOOSE AND EASY

Anyone who plays tennis knows the virtue of a floppy serve and a relaxed grip. This allows a whippy racquet motion, using the pivot points of the fingers, wrist, elbow, shoulder and back. The grip is tightened up before the racquet contacts the ball.

Ever listened to Bob Dylan’s early songs or read the prose poems on his album covers? Their meanings are often vague and impressionistic. They say almost whatever you want them to, which gives them wide applicability.

So too with business. Hang loose until the moment when you have to tighten up. Let market forces and other uncontrollable variables tell you what you need to know.

Be free, people.

The pilot must be allowed to die

Marketing is often trial and error. If something doesn’t work, we should stop, change it, and see if that makes a difference.

Pilot programs and prototypes therefore make sense. We don’t want to pour resources into something that may not be effective. Better to start tiny, then scale up once there’s something that nudges the needle.

Evidence for success will show up at the very beginning. Most responses to advertising, for example, are revealed early in the campaign.

This is why advertising should be rested and restarted. And why it should be changed.

EIGHT EXPOSURES

There’s an oft-recited mantra that it takes up to eight exposures to a marketing message before the prospect is ready to purchase. Notice, Recognise, Discuss, Desire, Budget, Imagine owning, Plan delivery, Buy.

In practice, you’ll get indications of buyer interest long before the actual sale. These may be views, clicks, likes, leads, sampling, requests for a brochure, or visitors to your store. All evidence that the needle has moved.

The most frustrating result is one that isn’t big and isn’t small. Your messages aren’t a failure, nor are they a success.

The temptation here is to soldier away, hoping that the marketing will catch on.

KILL IT OR CHANGE

It takes guts to euthanase a pilot or prototype that isn’t showing early results. After all, we’re optimists, right? We believe that tomorrow will be better.

But let’s not kid ourselves that our new product will take off “next year”. It won’t. Now is the time to rework it or lay the babe to rest.