On a daily basis we meet with and read about scores of companies that think they will be successful simply because they view themselves as the deliverers of "more". They "empower" the consumer to "virally" share content with one another. They "deliver more" content to a larger potential audience. They have the exclusive! rights to all podcasts targeting typewriter and beeper enthusiasts. Collectively, these startups waste staggering amounts of bandwidth and manpower in the vain quest for 2.0 nirvana, only to settle in the dead pool of 2.0 failure, all because they were driving while looking sideways.
Sideways driving is almost as dangerous as driving with your eyes closed. Sideways drivers look at the cars next to them and gauge their success based on their own perspective, not that of the greater reality. It is entirely possible that there is a car two lanes over that is outperforming them, but sideways drivers are unaware of this car, as it is out of their view.
Sideways drivers look only at the ebbs and waves of a massive matrix, not at the powers behind these trends. Sideways drivers see a social media phenomena and launch a flog, see the power of You Tube and post infomercials and pathetic re-purposed 30 second television spots. Sideways drivers run themselves off the road by failing to see everything happening in front of, behind and beside (on the other side of) them.
Successful drivers recognize the importance of using their mirrors. Successful driver always keep an eye on the traffic flow surrounding your vehicle, as no one on the road travels in a vacuum. Successful drivers learn as they move forward, watching those behind them, those beside them, and those in front of them, learning from their success and learning more from their failures.
What kind of driver are you? Where do you find your inspiration? Where do you want to be? Where do you want to go, and what are you doing to get there? Are your eyes on the map? Are you watching the road? Are you using your skill, taking frequent glances in your mirrors and adjusting your strategies accordingly? Do you have your radio on and are you listening to traffic reports and adjusting your expectations accordingly?
And most importantly, are you even on the right road?
Here's a couple of quick ways to check if you are heading in the right direction:
- Why does your target want to use your product?
- Why does your target want to use your product in the manner that you are presenting it?
- How do you differentiate from the one hundred and one other companies with remarkably similar offering, and how are you communicating this differentiation to both you target users and supporting advertisers?
If you cannot honestly answer all of these questions, you need to pull over for a couple of minutes and ask for directions. It's ok to ask, but if you keep "moving forward" without checking your mirrors, you're going to crash.