So you think your marketing idea might be silly.

I had a delightful conversation with a woman from Zurich today. She had an idea for the launch of her business – just a little idea, one small tactic for a fun promotional opportunity.

She asked me, “Is that a good idea? Or do you think it's silly?”

That's a good question.

Marketing Ideas
One of the most difficult parts of running a business – and in particular starting a business – is having no idea if you're out of your mind. This applies to everything from domain names to product lines to stationery to the t-shirt you wear to the trade show.

On every conceivable front, you could be totally insane, and you wouldn't even know it. It's nice to have somebody to ask the simplest of questions – is this silly?

So I asked her what I always ask in response to this question.

“Is there a downside?”

In almost all cases like this, the answer is no.

Sure, if the idea was “rent a $30,000 booth at the New York book fair”, well, yeah. There's a downside.

But usually the idea is “put a little bluebird beside the ISBN on the book cover”.

There's not really much that can go wrong with that one.

One of the reasons we go into business is to be able to do all the little things we weren't allowed to do before.

In corporate, at school, even on the PTA, there's always somebody wet-blanketing every tiny nice thing you want to do. It's stifling, and we crave the independence of being able to put a bluebird anywhere we damn please.

The corporate world was so serious, so grave. Every bluebird needs a planning meeting. We crave being away from it.


We're so conditioned to that corporate gravity that often, when we become our own bosses, we become our own bosses. We act like they did, because we have no other frame of reference. In the absence of their gravity, we supply our own. Now that they're not worried about the bluebirds, we worry instead.

That's fine. That's normal. You're not stupid. But there is a way out.

The first step of the way out is to ask:

“Is there a downside?”

If there's no downside, or you can easily absorb the loss of any predictable downside, go ahead.

You always wanted to advertise your new book on the side of a bus, and you've got the money? Go for it. There's no downside.

You always wanted to package your soap like the woman in Castaway, with the colorful butterflies? Go for it. There's no downside.

You want to send a little present after every clarity call, and it'll only cost you $80 a month? Go for it. There's no downside.

If there's no downside, or you can easily absorb the loss of any predictable downside, go ahead.

Put your bluebird where you want.