Having found out today that the Zune is probably dead, I look at Microsoft and think “this was a good idea gone wrong.” From outside appearances, Microsoft never really identified what the brand “Zune” stood for. At one point it was a music player. Then it was a music service. Now, because Microsoft couldn’t make up it’s mind, it’s soon to be nothing. It seems to be a textbook case of jumbled product design.
The iPod never had that problem.
From the beginning, there was clear differentiation between the iPod and iTunes. One was a service, the other a little sexy looking hard drive that Apple marketed as a music player.
Cool Design Alone Doesn’t Win the Day
But people forget that the first iPod wasn’t a blockbuster; quite the contrary. Initially, in 2002 iPod sales were about 40,000 units a month. That may sound like a ton, but not when compared to the 56 million iPods sold in 2008. The product took some time to catch on. It took consistent backing of the manufacturer and a laser-like focus on the end product without distractions.
In the short time I’ve been blogging, a good number of well-designed and well-written sites have disappeared. I’ve watched blogs implode under the weight of the writer’s unrealistic expectations that if they wrote something (anything) the market would come running immediately.
This “quick success” isn’t limited to blogging. Restaurants open daily without any real planning and end up highlighted on the Gordon Ramsay show Kitchen Nightmares. Viewers like me ask “what were they thinking?” as you see people ill-suited for prime-time trying to run a restaurant.
There are other industries: tech gambles, films, online stores, retail and B2B operations. In each category you’ll find businesspeople who were hoping for quick riches.
In forums I’d see new owners complain that people weren’t coming to their site/restaurant/store. They’d rail against the injustice of lesser companies gaining the traction that they’d wished for. I wasn’t ever surprised when these businesses were gone in a hurry. Inspiration is great, but it doesn’t create an overnight success.
I think you start to understand business when you realize: you won’t be an overnight success. At that point, you’ll go into business with a clear understanding of what it’s going to take to succeed: tireless effort and a long-standing belief in your product.
The band Silversun Pickups was nominated in the Best New Artist category at the 2009 Grammy Awards. The band had been around since 2005….four years! Lead singer Brian Aubert, when asked about the three-year-late New Artist nomination answered: “It’s not lost on us how lucky we are.”
People want instant success, but the wise entrepreneur is ready for the long haul, and feels lucky when they finally find their audience. In most businesses, you don’t have to fall into the “get rich now” trap.
Instead, you can take the longer view:
1) Revisit your product. Do you have a jumbled message or a well-designed idea?
2) Realize that you have a cool product and treat it every day as awesome.
3) Interact with your audience in a way that cool companies would interact with their fans.
4) Be patient, but continue seeking out opportunities to invest in yourself and your chance of success.
Sure, sometimes you run out of patience or money. But if you’ve gone into business with the long view, rather than the “I’m gonna get rich quick” attitude, you’re far more likely to win because you’ve set up your business plan expecting it to be a marathon, not a sprint.
Who knows, four years into your new venture, like the Silversun Pickups or the iPod, you might be the next overnight success.
How do you remain patient about your business?
Roshawn @ Watson Inc says
“Cool Design Alone Doesn’t Win the Day”
I absolutely agree. I think there are plenty of examples of mediocre products that do well and fabulous products that fail. I think interacting with your customers is very important (Apple, for one, seems to do this like no other). The best product without meaningful connections to its buyers (& potential buyers) has a tough road ahead to say the least.
Average Joe says
I just had my carpets cleaned and will use this guy over and over. He took me on a tour of what he was going to do and laid out little footie slippers to cross the carpets in while they were wet (he even put candies on top of the kid’s slippers so they’d wear them!
You’re right on, Roshawn: this is nothing special (carpet cleaning) but the owner had a HUGE connection with the customer (ME). I’ll never go anywhere else if he keeps this up.
I make sure I like what I’m doing. If I don’t, then it’s time to change something up so that I do. While staying within the brand image, of course.
Average Joe says
Within the brand image is a key point, FF. Sometimes people spread themselves out too far and it distracts them from reaching their mission.
Jason @ WSL says
Wouldn’t it be nice if it was as easy as everybody wished that it would be? It takes a lot to build any business. I’m often surprised at how many people think they can just start something and it’s going to be a breeze. Running the blog and pretty much having my own business for my full-time job, there could be nothing further from the truth.
Average Joe says
It would be awesome, Jason. I’d just sit back and watch the affiliate income come in. You did click several of my links while you were here, didn’t you? 😉
From Shopping to Saving says
Really awesome post!!! I remember in my new ventures class during college..my professor said that almost all start-ups fail. It is because of all the points you listed above. Even Justin Bieber wasn’t an overnight sensation…and he’s probably one of the more known “overnight successes” thanks to YouTube. He probably worked hard and his mom posted vids on YouTube for him. People don’t just get discovered. With businesses and blogging you have to put yourself out there and you have to believe in yourself, and stay consistent…and the rest will fall through if you continue to put 100% into it. I think it’s nice that we have to work hard for success though. The world would be weird if everything was easy just because people “thought” it was.
Average Joe says
You’re right, Erika. If it were easy, “awesome” would become the new “just okay.” Of course, I have friends that call just about everything “awesome” anyway, so are we already there? 🙂
Sean @ One Smart Dollar says
I think bad products can survive for a little while if they are marketed properly.
Anthony Thompson says
One of the biggest risks in starting a business is the chance that it could fail, and this true even if you did all the initial preparations. In the U.S., we have a big problem with instant gratification, and many times, we possess the entitlement attitude that we are supposed to get what we want just because we want it. Success takes hard work, time, and lots of patience. There is no getting around it.
Theresa Torres says
Hi Average Joe,
I’ve noticed many of us are starstruck by these overnight successes and never thought of the behind-the-scenes angle. It’s only when we read about or hear their stories that we learn of the years of training, hard work, patience and waiting they’ve been through.
We see them as lucky but we never knew of the little things they did that added up to bring them to where they are today.
It would be nice if we can possess the quality of a weed, just left to prosper without any effort required.:)
Average Joe says
I love that analogy, Therea. We think of weeds as bad things, yet they keep on keepin’ on….great visual.
Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter says
There are a lot of unsung heroes and unfound treasures out there if you ask me. I think it is all about networking and money. Some people just don’t have the resources to get their stuff noticed. In the end though credit comes when credit is due. I also agree with being patient. Good things come in time right?!
It takes guts to launch a new business, and you have to be in the for the long haul. The reality is that many business ventures will fail, and you have to accept that risk going in.
For me, I am not willing to put my life on the line to start a new business, and take chances only in my free time. Because of that, I may never be an overnight success.. But I still believe in myself.