I spent an afternoon at a VC conference last week, and was depressingly reminded there about the incredible odds against any type of business success. You've heard 'em all before:
- 95% of all start-ups fail
- 90% of all new products disappear after one year
- Most bands never make it
- Most books don't sell
- Most artists starve
- More actors work in restaurants than on stage
- ( insert your own gloomy statistic here )
So why do we do it? Why do entrepreneurs seek capital to start businesses? Why do writers write, do singers sing, do chefs cook?
Because of The Genie.
Here's my theory of success, particularly as it pertains to marketing.
With every product, every business, every new idea, all we are doing, ultimately, is making a wish.
Yup. A wish. We should stop kidding ourselves, we have no control over the outcome. No matter how much research we do, no matter how diligently we plan, no matter how financially savvy our projections, once we press the "Go" button and launch, the fate of our endeavor is in the hands of a greater power.
That power is what I call "The Genie."
Well, it's WHO I call The Genie, actually, as The Genie is that one person whose endorsement, whose action on your behalf, whose belief in what you've done will be enough to start what Malcolm Gladwell coined "The Tipping Point." Even if a company, an organization, a conglomerate does the eventual pushing, it's always one person within it who was the catalyst to get it moving.
That's The Genie. Talk about One-to-One marketing!
Brian Govern is The Genie for the Three-Wolf Moon T-Shirt. In the film (and book) The Soloist, journalist Steve Lopez is The Genie for emotionally-challenged cello prodigy Nathaniel Ayers. Maverick VC Roger McNamee is The Genie for Palm. By making us a mobile video partner, Paul Palmieri of Verizon Wireless was The Genie to Airborne Mobile back in the rocky days of 2001. Some Pfizer scientist who noticed the strange side-effect of the failed UK-92,480 drug was The Genie for Viagra. Oprah has been The Genie to too many people to count.
But you don't need to be powerful, or well-placed; anyone can be The Genie. (I really should say The Genies plural, as throughout the lifecycle of a business, a product or a career, there could be--should be!--many of 'em.) It could be a blogger. A housewife. A college student. A preacher. An enemy. You just never know in advance. You never know who's reading, who's watching, who's listening, who just happens to be in the right place at the right time for you.
So why do we market? To reach this Genie. Whoever it may be.
It's why we advertise, why we reach out to bloggers, why we Tweet, why we spend money devising crafty PR stunts, why we sponsor events, why we do media tours, why we bust our ass and work late and on weekends: to increase our chances of meeting The Genie. Because the encounter is never guaranteed.
Meeting The Genie is akin to a raffle. Do nothing, you have no chance. Buy one ticket, you have one chance. Buy 100 tickets, and you increase your probability 100-fold. It's rare that The Genie will come to you. So do the work. The math is simple. It's the black-box outcome process that's complicated.
So this is why we market. And keep marketing. And why VCs still invest. And why entrepreneurs bleed, sweat and cry. All an attempt to meet our version of The Genie.
You know, to be very frank with you all, that's why I wrote this blog post.
I've had this idea kicking around my head for weeks. I spent a couple of late Saturday hours putting it into words. Now that it's done, I put it out there. So, will it be an influential post, passed around virally, hailed for its wisdom? Will it spark debate and a legion of followers? Will the concept become part of the marketing lexicon?
Or will it be ignored...amusing a small audience slightly before they go onto their next blog in search of entertainment and enlightenment?
Let's test the theory.
Let's see if this post finds its Genie.