Monthly Archives: May 2014

Premature Prognostication

It's Too Soon ClockNot for the first time, I was speaking with the CEO of a tech firm who was lamenting the lack of success of a previous firm he had worked for. He said, “sadly, they were just ahead of their time.”

I stopped to reflect on that comment and said, “No, they just sucked at communicating what their value was.” Tech firms in particular run into this problem (but certainly not exclusively). I think it stems from a couple of reasons. Firstly, the nature of tech is such that a company is often coming to market with a product that is new or different. Secondly, tech firms are very apt to believe (as engineers often do) that the value of their proposition is obvious to anyone who looks, and so needs little explanation beyond, perhaps, a cool name.

So listen up: No one cares. Few look. And your name is not that cool.

“Ahead of its time”? Really? Is that not the same thing as having a jump on everyone? So you’re a genius if it works, but it’s not your fault if it doesn’t?

If no one understands what you do or why they need what you are offering, then where do you expect your idea to go? As I often tell clients: “People don’t care who you are; they care what they are in you.”  Which is to say, people want to know why their life is going to be better because they are using your product or service. And if they don’t understand what you do, or why your product is different – and better – from the five other products that they perceive to be the same, then you have a problem. And the fact that you bought an oh-so-clever domain name like smoochypoochie.com is not going to fix it for you.

I remember coaching some students for a venture capital competition and watching them show up for a rehearsal looking unkempt and with a glitchy PowerPoint. My admonition to them was, “Don’t ask me to respect you more than you respect you.”

Similarly, don’t ask your potential customers to figure you out beyond what you are willing to clearly communicate to them.

— Simon Dixon