Nothing Sells Itself

Nothing Sells Itself

I have a sense of déjà vu. It is not pleasant.

After I joined CANDDi full time (I was a founder but still engaged in another business in its early days), I spent a long time searching for that elusive thing: product market fit. The emotional trigger. The unfulfilled need.

Call it what you want. It is the most important thing in any business. The ability to connect what you have with what someone wants. What they will pay for. To make that crucial connection with a prospect and convert them.

I’ve never found this easy, despite all my years in marketing. I don’t think anyone does, though I’ve always found it easier from outside than in. Struggling to connect your own product with the market is intensely painful. Every failure extremely personal.

I’m going through it again right now.

If this business is to scale, it can’t be based on selling time as it does today. I’ve been there before, running an agency. It’s a grind, carving out new project opportunities from one month to the next. The early days of Book of the Future have been somewhat the same. Thanks to the profile I have these days and the novelty of the proposition, there’s been a fair amount of business just turning up at the door. But even with some active business development, it’s still uneven — feast and famine. I’m looking for something more stable, as well as more scalable.

To scale this business based on time alone, I would need to start recruiting and training other futurists. Without wanting to blow my own trumpet, it’s a rare skill set. I can think of a few people who I would like to employ — some of them know who they are. But every hire would be high risk and deliver — at best — incremental, and relatively low-margin growth.

I’m looking for a little more than that. And in any case, as any agency boss will testify, growing a time-based business is a rocky road, strewn with obstacles and with only a shallow wall to stop you from going over the side. You’re only ever a few bad months from disaster.

So it is that I find myself moving to a product-based model, deep in the world of search and social advertising, landing pages, and analytics. I wish I’d spent more time listening at SASCon.

I’m experimenting to try to find a connection with the market for Intersections. This is the tool I’ve developed to help busy executives and business-owners to think about the future in a time-efficient way.

Where exercises like Scenario Planning might take months of research and wipe out an executive team for a day or more, Intersections can be completed by an individual in a matter of hours. Instead of vague and debatable outcomes it gives five clear priority issues for a company to tackle. Instead of something you run every five years, it’s something you can — and should — do every few months.

Everyone to whom I’ve given a copy of Intersections loves it — and these are critical people.

But that’s very different to convincing someone to pay for it.

If the message isn’t right, if it doesn’t resonate, then even convincing people to give up an email address is hard.

As an intermediary step in the promotion for Intersections, I’ve offered a cut-down report on the current five macro trends on which the system is based. To get the report you hand over an email address. But without a resonant message people won’t even do that — even when they have clicked through an advert with the same message.

This all sounds very downbeat. And this is where I was at earlier this week.

But I think there’s an answer. And it’s to do with emotion…

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This article is by Tom Cheesewright. This post forms part of the Future of Business series. For more posts on this subject, visit the Future of Business page.

Tom Cheesewright

Futurist speaker Tom Cheesewright is one of the UK's leading commentators on technology and tomorrow. Tom has worked with a huge range of organisations across a variety of markets, to help them to see a clear vision of tomorrow, share that vision and respond with agility. Tom draws on his experience to create original, compelling talks that are keyed to the experience of the audience but which surprise and shock with unexpected facts and examples.

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