Apologies to the 5 of you who take the trouble to read this stuff. I know that it’s been a little while since I last posted anything. It’s a funny thing: you start taking a project just a little bit seriously and KABOOM! All of a sudden you’re onto a second whiteboard. One for daily tasks. The other for strategising.
Yup. I’m afraid to say that in the time that I’ve been away from this blog, I have become someone who not only strategises (and believes that this is an acceptable word), but someone who can fill an entire 600 x 900mm whiteboard with the results.
Not only that, but I find myself saying awful things and meaning them. Terrible things, like:
– what is our “why message”?*
– how can we make the user journey more engaging?
There’s not a lot I can say in my defence. It’s a pretty clear cut case of me becoming a total cringemeister.
You see, working on a start-up is a bit like living in a parallel universe. Given that something like 4 out of 5 start-ups fail, the only way to protect yourself from the cruel, cruel world of reality is to stay cocooned inside the cosy little bubble of your “vision”.
You have to be able to survive in a near-permanent state of suspended disbelief about the actual merits of what you’re doing. There’s no room for self-doubt. If you let your guard drop for a second, you risk opening the floodgates to a tsunami of ridicule and utter snivelling contempt. From yourself. And that’s no good when you’re not much of a swimmer. Or climber. So you have to saddle up your whiteboards, stick your fingers in your ears and, shouting la-la-la-la-la to ward off the spectre of imminent defeat, you ride into battle once more.
First world problems; young person’s game
In our bubble, quite often obstacles can seem Herculean. Overwhelming and insurmountable. There’s only two of us, after all. Trying to start up a whole online community business on our own. Having never done this before. It’s really hard. No-one really understands what it’s like…
We’ve (um, I’ve) totally bought in to how hard it is and it’s a pile of nonsense. The stuff we’re doing (marketing, sales, talking to people, drawing bees) is not difficult. The worst we can really say is that some of our tasks are a bit time-consuming and tedious. Occasionally they require a bit of thinking, perhaps a whole hour’s worth at a stretch. Sometimes our computers don’t save stuff and then we get really mad. And we have to rub really hard to get the red ink off the whiteboard or use a wet cloth. That’s a bit annoying.
I can almost see you playing the world’s smallest violin as you read this…
Still, I can see why start-ups are a young person thing. By the time you hit your mid 30s you’re already starting to have that generally tired feeling. You know you’ve got it when you see other people’s pictures of full-on party times on Facebook and your instinct is to put the kettle on. And also if you use the expression “full-on party times”.
Youngsters benefit from the confidence that comes from zero sum knowledge of the law which dictates that most stuff doesn’t work out. They’ve got time to burn and plump, youthful skin, which deflects the death-rays of failure.
Good for them and their unwavering enthusiasm. I may not have their energy, or drive, or untested belief in their own greatness. And I sure don’t have their carefree attitude to money or access to parental subsidies. But I have the twin-turbo motivators of absolute bloody necessity and can’t possibly ever show my face around town if this thing fails.
Plus, my rubber-skin syndrome (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, if you’re interested, or want to wiki some quite freaky photos) is really starting to come into its own, as the years roll on and the collagen leeches from my skin. It won’t be long till I’m having to tuck folds of it into my pockets, or up my sleeves, like I do with hankies. And I’m sure there’ll be someone, somewhere, willing to pay me to demonstrate just how far I can stretch my jowls. So, my Plan B is sorted.
Inside the bubble, it’s difficult to judge progress. Obviously, we know that time is passing. But beyond that, it gets a bit fuzzy. We’re doing the stuff you’re supposed to do: checking Google Analytics for how many people register versus how many people visit the site; how frequently people visit the site and how long they spend on it. We track how many people open our newsletters, how many click on the links we provide. We test different subject lines and different content in our newsletters. And we’ve been able to draw some conclusions:
– it doesn’t matter what the subject matter says
– it doesn’t matter what time we send the email (within daylight hours, I haven’t tried a 3am one)
– it doesn’t matter if I spend hours designing the template or if I just cobble something together
– it doesn’t matter which bits from the site I pick for the newsletter
In fact, nothing seems to radically influence people’s behaviour when it comes to the newsletters. Except:
BIG BUTTONS. People love to click on big buttons. Particularly if they are a red/orange colour. If you have a whacking great big button that says “Click Here”, then it seems people just can’t resist hitting the big button. About 30% more people click on a big ol’ button than on a standard link.
So this week’s newsletter is just a selection of giant buttons. Make’s it a whole lot quicker to create. I doubt that it makes any difference what the buttons say. “Click here for unicorns”. “Click here if you love Alabama”. “Click here if you’re a Godfrey Bloom fan”.
If that goes well, I’ll probably move to just one huge button, filling the whole screen. “Click here for everything”.
And then I can probably retire.