Eric Paley, an investor, entrepreneur and columnist for Inc. Magazine, shared a great variation of the position that great entrepreneurs are all about execution, not necessarily the "big idea" in his June 2013 piece "A Great Idea is Never Enough." (Not posted online yet).
"Great entrepreneurship is in the execution," says Paley. "Rarely does the initial idea dictate the outcome - perhaps never. Success is about the thousands of ideas and decisions that are made along the way and the speed at which those insights are implemented according to customer needs and feedback."
The notion that a breakthrough idea isn't that big a deal can drive a creative person crazy. After all, what do you execute if you don't have the idea? But Paley and others who take his position (including me) aren't saying that great ideas aren't important. We're saying that ideas alone will not drive success, and in some ways, they rank lower on the success factor ladder than persistence and a fast failure-feedback-adjustment loop.
I would apply this principle to marketing as well as entrepreneurship and overall business success. Great marketers aren't really the ones with the most creative ideas. There are many sources of ideas, some great, some terrible. We only notice the amazing viral successes because we don't have to view the many failed ideas and attempts prior to the big one that took hold. "Overnight success" companies, as well as marketing campaigns, are often the fruit of learning from many failures.
The foundational principle underlying our firm Mythology and our Ten Pillars of Meaningful Marketing System is based on the philosophy that success is about:
- Forming a hypothesis (the idea)
- Generating early feedback from potential customers, partners and other key players in the market
- Applying lessons learned in the form of best practices (i.e., the failures and successes of others)
- Refining, and possibly testing again, the idea or message
- Launching and going "big" with the version that is most likely to succeed
The great failure of many entrepeneurs, creatives and business leaders is that we often fall in the love with our ideas and discount the need for feedback and refinement; after all, it's a great idea, obviously!The trick to generating return on investment is to a) make sure that the feedback/refinement process is followed, and b) speeding up the process.
Many resist testing, refining and laying out the execution of the idea via project management because, well, it just feels like it takes too long. And in some cases, those impatient entrepreneurs and marketers are right, it does take too long. But that's no excuse not to do it. If you don't, you're simply skipping on your merry way to likely failure.
The key is to adopt a framework for ideation, testing, learning, refinement, and application that is speedy and facillitates better execution. That's our value proposition at Mythology for CEO's and CMO's: We want to help you build a marketing system that grows brand, revenue and relationships in a speedier, less costly manner that has a higher likelihood of success.
We love creative ideas and the creative people who spawn them. But we also love ideas that work, and we have observed with our clients that the adoption of the Ten Pillars is an excellent way to solve problems and take advantage of great marketing opportunities.
Consider scheduling a summer workshop to explore these pillars and learn how they apply to your business. We're pretty sure more of your great ideas will come to fruition with this process.