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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Testing your ideas

Yesterday morning, I floated a trial balloon on this blog, suggesting that the Design and Construction Report could be an effective opportunity to associate your interests (as Construction Marketing Ideas blog readers) with our own marketing strategies.

I then presented the idea to our weekly general meeting, and received what amounted to a collective "sigh" from my company's sales team. They effectively told me, "no, this won't work."

Glub. "Brilliant ideas" go nowhere without execution. So, the question is, am I wrong to assume there is a valid marketing correlation between responses and connections from this blog and the marketing of publicity-focused services, or should I push forward and (even more dramatically) invest time, resources, and money in making it happen?

Most of the time, these sorts of questions are aired and responded quietly within our own businesses.

But this blog's foundation is its openness and experimentation -- you can see ideas maturing, tested, and sometimes failing, right in front of your eyes. The result hopefully show you what can work for your own business, and which ideas should be dropped like lead balloons. (That's the second balloon analogy in this posting.)

In practice, most successful business people process dozens, even hundreds, of ideas a year. These arrive through their own experiences, insight flashes, employees, external media publicity and conferences, and sometimes, the initiative of outside sales representatives.

We need to process the ideas quickly and sort them into ones worthy of further experimentation and implementation. Most ideas rightfully end up right in the trash can, but unfortunately, I'm sure, many worthy innovations are not introduced because of inertia, fear, laziness, or simply lack of knowledge.

The question is, how can you sift the ideas effectively and quickly and focus your energies where they will be most useful? I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest these tests are worthy of consideration.

Is the idea you are testing low risk, easy to implement, and not likely to cause too much disruption in existing operations?
This is an "easy to say yes" idea -- but one which probably won't have that much impact long-term.

If you are asking someone else to do something, would you do it yourself? If not, why not?
My sales representatives said "no" to the idea of marketing leads generated by this blog for the Design and Construction Report. I suppose I could force them to do some work here -- but if I'm not ready to do it myself, why should I ignore their resistance?

Can you find quick tests that will validate your assumptions, without burning bridges or draining resources?
A few years ago, a well-placed person proposed a business idea that seemed relevant and valid, but would have required commitments of resources and effort beyond normal levels. We spent months setting up the concept, even developing prototypes. But I hesitated and decided I needed to see how the market would respond. I contracted with a reliable but non-employee representative to work with me for three days to see whether he could sell the idea. It failed, miserably. Maybe the idea should have received a 'second chance' but I realized that we were entering the space of diminishing returns. I dropped it.

Will the idea produce immediate revenue or reduce costs right away, or is it an "investment for the future"?
The former two variables are easy to say "yes" and move forward, the latter requires a much higher commitment threshold (and the risk increases with the investment size).

Can you find a test that will quickly provide you with insights and results at minimum cost and effort?
The three day test described above for an idea we had worked on for months made sense (and the investment in a few days pay for one person proved to be worth every cent), but do you want to spend that much time and effort validating other ideas, at the earlier stages of their development. You need some quick tests and measuring tools to tell you whether to take things further, or drop the idea.

For the idea I posted yesterday, the negative feedback from my staff is a major warning to go slow, if at all.

I can now take things in two directions: Pick up the phone or send some emails to a sampling of potential clients to see their interest (that is, do the work myself, with sampling, one by one), or survey the readers with a quick online poll.

I decided on the latter -- it is fast, easy, and if it works, will provide immediate and actionable leads. And if it doesn't work, I'll know equally quickly, and we can move on to other ideas.

If you haven't already received the survey invitation email from me, you can see it here -- and once you complete the survey, you will also see the results!

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