Elephants, marketing projects, and small business successes have a LOT more in common than you might think… First and foremost, ELEPHANTS LOOK A LOT SMALLER FROM A DISTANCE:
When you look at an elephant way off yonder you get a fuzzy, warm feeling in your heart, your mind starts imagining how nice it might be to own one as a pet, you start dreaming about how different your life would be with that warm hearted, brilliant mammal gracing your days, and you become literally delighted about how easy it’s going to be to get him on board, feed him, and keep him happy…
You figure any and all problems associated with your beloved new fantasy “elephant in the distance” can’t possibly be bigger than cockroaches, and surely you’ll crush them with a single step (or rely on your new pet to do it for you).
But the problem is, when you actually adopt an elephant, and get to see what he looks like up close you realize…
That sucker is gigantic, mean, and hungry!
(And get ready to MOVE OVER in your bed and have plenty of sleepless nights, because you know where a 5,000 pound elephant sleeps? Anywhere he wants to!)
It’s the same thing with marketing projects and small businesses in general.
There’s something about the entrepreneurial nature which draws us to them, thinking they’re these ultra cuddly, playful, easy to manage bundles of small little joy which are going to enrich our lives…
When in reality if you REALLY want to raise and keep any worthwhile elephant, it’s probably going to overtake your life for a year or two until you’ve got it tamed (and then it can be wonderful).
In fact, all the successful entrepreneurs and marketers I know seem to embrace and accept this fact.
Sure, in every market there are probably only six real things you need to know in order to stand out from the crowd with a point of difference benefit. That makes it sound EASY… But which six are they? How much research is it going to take to not only figure that out, but to MAKE THOSE SIX POINTS A PART OF WHO YOU ARE… so that you naturally and effortlessly convey them in everything you say and do, and infuse them with passion in all your marketing materials.
Sure, all you really need to do to dominate a market is get in the game and stay in the game until you win it, continually testing and tracking and tweaking your way up the “beat my control” ladder to success…
But it’s EASY to talk about testing…
It’s HARD to do it!
Because testing requires traffic, and traffic requires either time or money. So in reality every single market test you do consumes resources. And once you ARE profitable in the market, every time you divert a percentage of your traffic to a NEW, untested approach, you’re risking that profit at minimum for the duration of the test. (Every marketer is familiar with the phenomenon of getting steady increases with tests early in the game, then reaching a point of diminishing returns where 9 out of 10 tests don’t beat the control… those tests are expensive… WORTH IT, if you manage them correctly, of course, but expensive nonetheless)
Moreover, just like you’ve gotta do research to figure out the six main ideas in every market, you’ve also got to do research to find HIGH LIKELIHOOD PROFITABLE TESTING INPUTS. (As an aside, most people think they’re testing different inputs when in reality they’re just testing versions of the same approach… you’ve got to test radically different and distinct inputs to maximize your testing gains)
OK, I think you get the idea.
What’s the solution?
First of all, remember the premise… most elephants worth raising are big and mean, even though they look small and cuddly in the distance.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is, they look that way to your competitors too… but now you know it and they don’t.
So you can spend the requisite amount of time choosing the RIGHT elephant to adopt, and allocate the right amount of time and resources when you do…
If you do this, you’ll not only be disproportionately less likely than your competition to quit or run out of resources, but you’ll be disproportionately more even keeled and ready to handle the size of the problems and adversity likely to face you when tackling any truly worthwhile project.
On a more practical level, knowing the rule of distant elephants means you’re more careful about choosing your market, and researching it carefully once you have before you start spending money on marketing.
There’s nothing wrong with adopting an elephant if you know what you’re getting yourself into. And the truth is, I can’t think of anything worthwhile in my life I’ve ever accomplished which didn’t have a few elephants involved.
Onwards and Upwards,
Dr. G 🙂
PS – This post inspired by a blog article by Uri Geller.