Unless your work takes you to the far side of the moon, you recall how the late-night talk show shuffle turned Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien into players in a melodrama. Whether you prefer Jay, Conan, or an early bedtime, you know the fallout was ultimately about business decisions. Bad business moves are easy to see in hindsight, but sometimes, they’re defended as “taking a chance on a new idea.”
It all reminded a reporter friend of what her former newspaper tried. “For some reason, it was decided that merging three distinct, successful, weekly sections would be a great idea,” she said. Each section—separately featuring travel, food and entertainment– carried ads skewed to a specific readership. The paper’s sales force fretted over pitching the new product, advertisers protested the blurring of their niche markets, and focus groups suggested that the paper might lose readers.
When prototypes of the “super section” appeared, staffers from every department offered feedback. ”But management didn’t want critiques, just compliments,” said my friend. Negative comments were brushed aside and the new section was launched, amid expensive, extensive promotion.
The super section was a super disaster, disliked by readers and shunned by advertisers. Less than a year later, after tweaking its format and shrinking its staff, the paper quietly dropped its “great idea.” The disappointment could have been dodged, along with resources saved. Yet those in charge ignored all instincts but their own.
Ever been so wedded to an idea that you overlook the caution flags from colleagues or customers? One last look before taking the plunge may bring an early glimpse of welcome hindsight —and the foresight for success, not regret.
Consider using a focus group of your customers before the launch of a new idea, product, or service, or survey customers to see if there is a need and interest in what you are trying to sell. Your customers will be happier and your bottom line, more robust!