This Week’s Assignment

Today I went online to look for some information. I was looking to make a painting, a big one, and I wanted to find a supplier of paper in the size I needed.

I found myself on a forum post from several years ago. Somebody wanted something similar, and forum participants were offering potential options. This company makes it in 6 x 8, that company only goes up to 5 feet, this other one is really expensive – that sort of thing.

Then everybody’s favorite forum doofus shows up and says that if she were the original poster, she’d start with a postcard size piece. “It doesn’t have to be big to be a masterpiece.”

Let’s look at the presuppositions in play here, off the top of our heads.

She said “start”. She’s assuming the asker is “starting”.

She said “masterpiece”. She’s assuming the asker is trying to make a masterpiece.

She said “doesn’t have to”. She’s assuming this is about some sense of obligation, like the asker wouldn’t make their painting big unless they erroneously assumed they were somehow required to do so.

It’s so weird to read something like this, so random. Like this spontaneous internet non sequitur that popped up like an unexpected Whack-A-Mole. But what we read and hear, we digest, even unconsciously.

As an artist, I worry about this woman being let loose on the populace. I worry about her execution of her right to free speech. I worry that a nice, young artist with a dream of a mural will hear too many statements like this and start unconsciously internalizing these messages.

As a marketer, I worry about the same thing.

The internet is a hotbed of information. It’s also a hotbed of misinformation, bias, and agenda.

When I started this business, there were no small business blogs. None. People consumed whatever information was available because it was all that was available. We will take the wisdom that is offered, even if it’s not that wise.

Now there are thousands of blogs like this one. YouTube channels, blogs, podcasts, books, online magazines, guest posts, and more, all telling you what you should do, all (including this one) with a limited amount of knowledge, all (including this one) generally assuming they know all there is to know.

That’s bad, guys.

It’s bad because it’s affecting all of us on an unconscious, subconscious and even sometimes conscious level.

Most of the time, when I give advice, I try to avoid assuming your objectives, but I forget sometimes. I try to avoid assuming you want what I think you want, or what most people want, or even what you think you want but probably don’t. But I forget sometimes, and that affects the quality of what you read here, and how well it applies to you.

This week, I have an assignment for you.

As you go through your week, as you consume information, instruction, and advice, I want you to keep in the front of your mind two questions:

  1. Does this person know what I’m trying to do? Am I absolutely sure of that?
  2. Do I know what I’m trying to do? Am I absolutely sure of that?

That’s all. Have a great day. I’ll see you tomorrow.

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.

No growth plan is going to sound reasonable.

Let’s say that you’ve got an eye on growing your revenue at a significant rate. Maybe you’re hoping to double it, or maybe even triple it. Maybe you’re considering adding a zero or hitting a specific round number that seems desirable to you. You think, “This is the year that I’m finally going to hit [insert big number].”

That’s exciting stuff.

(Well, at least in theory. It’s generally exciting until you start thinking about what you would need to DO to make it happen. And how much of it you’d need to do.)

I get this, I really do. We get excited about transformation, we get all tingly inside about accomplishing something different than we’ve every accomplished before, and then the realization of what it will take to do it is like a bucket of cold water to the face.

As it should be. Because that’s always how it works.

Here’s the thing about significant revenue growth:

You will rarely, if ever, get significant growth by doing more of what you are currently doing. Sometimes it works, but that’s only if you’re already doing things that are getting noteworthy, measurable growth and are scaleable.

If you’re already putting $500 into advertising, and it’s netting you $1500 in revenue, then tripling that budget may triple that revenue.

If you’ve got one hot dog stand and the lineup is considerable, opening a second one may double your revenue.

But that only works up to a point. You’ll experience growth, but you’ll plateau.

And if you’re not doing something particularly scaleable, this is doubly true. Your capacity is your capacity. There’s only so much you can do.

And that’s where you hit your cap.

To access significant growth, you have to break your own status quo.

You are where you are now because you are doing the things you have grown accustomed to. Maybe it’s working well for you, maybe it’s not. That actually doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that you are currently acting on your own internal status quo – the things that you find easiest to do, the things you are most comfortable doing, the things that have an acceptable level of risk for you.

And that will keep you exactly where you are now.

But growth doesn’t happen that way. Working harder at what you’re already familiar with will potentially get you gains, yes. But not the big gains.

The big gains come when you’re willing to do things that break your current patterns. When you’re willing to say “yes” to some of the things you’ve been saying “no” to. The things that seem dramatic or unreasonable to the version of you who has grown quite accustomed to doing what you’re doing now.

No growth plan is ever going to sound reasonable.

Whatever your growth plan may be, it’s going to have some part of it that will make you uncomfortable, that’s going to sound like more than you can handle.

Perhaps it seems like a lot more work than you’d prefer to do. Perhaps you’ll have to learn new skills and technologies, and that feels hard. Perhaps you’ll have to get more organized about how you’re spending your time or money, and that stirs up identity stuff.

And maybe, on top of all that, it’s intimidating as hell.

But that’s normal.

To get on track for significant growth, you’re going to have to change a fair number of things about the way you do business. And if it feels scary, or it feels daunting, it’s probably because it IS scary and it IS daunting.

But “daunt” doesn’t mean it’s impossible. You can still decide to do it anyway. You still get paid even if the work is daunting the whole time.

Your plan to make a strata jump is going to sound unreasonable by default. “Reasonable” tends to be the word we use internally to describe things that never demand that we grow as a person. Anything that truly stretches us … well, that’s just crazy talk, right?

So, something to think about.

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.

Recently, I found myself in a Denny’s. Sometimes there’s not much to do in a Denny’s other than stare at a bottle of ketchup, and so stare at a bottle of ketchup I did.

This particular bottle of ketchup was a little bit special. It was cobranded – Heinz and Trivial Pursuit – and on the back was an invitation to scan a QR code to “start the fun”. The fun refers, I assume, to a version of Trivial Pursuit that you can play with your family while you wait for your food.

ketchupThis kind of thing is always really funny to me. My idea of a pleasant meal is one where everybody at the table puts down their smartphones, so a big ol’ gathering of people huddled over one sounds a little counterintuitive. But I’m weird and I know it, and who knows? Maybe people who are not me love this sort of thing.

It got me wondering, though. How many people are actually scanning this little code and going to the site? What’s their conversion rate? What happens when they get there? Is there some kind of email opt-in or offer? Do you have to fill in your email address to play? What happens after they get you to ketchupy trivia Valhalla?

I wondered, would they be better off putting a trivia question on the bottle itself? It seems like it would get a lot more people to engage. People would pick it up and think and stare and ponder and challenge their dining companions. Little boys could dash out of their booths and collect all the ketchup bottles to see what the different questions are, to the annoyance of diner waitresses everywhere.


Then my eggs came and I stopped thinking about it too hard.

What was Heinz trying to do here?

What was the better idea? Should they have put the trivia on the bottle, or should they have sent me to the website? Let’s look and see.

If Heinz wants a good number – let’s say 10-50% – of people who see the bottle to hold it, look at it, think about it, talk about it, and personally engage with it, they should put the trivia on the bottle itself. Making people scan a QR code would be insanity. Providing an enjoyable experience immediately, without requiring action, could seriously increase affection for the brand.

“Have you seen those new ketchup bottles?”
“Oh, the ones with the Trivial Pursuit?”
“Yeah, I love those.”

That sort of thing. On the other hand…

If Heinz wants a fraction – maybe .0001% – of people who see the bottle to scan a QR code and take some kind of measurable action, they should do what they’re doing right now. Make the trivia appealing, and only available to those who take action. Get them on the site and, hopefully, into some kind of email funnel.

Those are both good objectives, but they’re complete opposites.

So which one’s better?

Imagine Heinz calls in some marketing guru and asks, “We’re thinking of doing this thing with Trivial Pursuit. How should we do it?”

I sure hope that guru confirms Heinz’s objectives before answering the question.

But here’s what tends to actually happen.

What tends to actually happen is the marketing guru asks what the objective is, and the company says, “Sell more ketchup!”

Well, yes. That’s assumed. So you’re calling in a marketing guy to find out where to put your trivia questions to sell more ketchup?

How in the hell is anybody supposed to know that? Who is supposed to know whether online trivia or on-bottle trivia is going to have a greater impact on ketchup sales?


Nobody, that’s who.

When it comes to specific marketing tactics, objectives must be sliced very thin.

“What are you trying to do?” should be answered as narrowly as possible. “Sell more ketchup” is obvious and utterly unhelpful. It’s Heinz, not a freaking non-profit.

The objective should be something like, “Get some people to the website so we can pitch them on an email coupon.” Ahh. Perfect. Then go with the online version.

Alternatively, “Get the absolute maximum possible people holding a bottle of Heinz ketchup while thinking nice thoughts.” In that case, put the trivia on the back of the bottle. You’ll get about 10 million more people that way.

No, you’re not Heinz, but this still applies to you.

Of course you want to get more people’s buy your coaching, or your cat collars, or your ketchup. That is self-evident. But what are you trying to do today?

If you ask better questions, you’ll get better answers. And “what are my top three objectives for this campaign?” (or this quarter, or this email) is a great question to start with.

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.