A Classic Success-Thwarting Mistake

I sent a memo to a client last week, telling him about a clever advertising campaign that one of his competitors is using. I had inside info that the competitor is making a lot of money with it.

My client’s response was to tell me what is wrong with what his competitor is doing. And then to explain why his program is “much better.”

I was stunned.

Instead of being happy to get information about a new marketing technique he could profit from, my client was using his considerable intellectual energy to eighty-six it.


* Sometimes, we ridicule ideas because we are overwhelmed with work and don’t want to contemplate taking on something new.

This is a bad habit to develop. If you allow your mental inbox to get “full,” you will start rejecting ideas that could be very, very good.

There is a better way to deal with idea overload. Be thankful for every idea you are given, but don’t feel compelled to take any action on it immediately. Just schedule some time during your week for reviewing new ideas, and get to them then.

I have a nice little system for doing this that I’ll show you in a future issue of ETR (if you remind me).

The point is, you should never reject a new marketing idea because you are overwhelmed with existing ideas. Take it in. Check it out when you have time. Don’t even consider taking action unless you get really excited about it.

But I don’t think my client was suffering from idea overload. What else could it have been?

* Sometimes, we refuse to accept ideas because we don’t trust the source.

This may have been the case with my client. He had told me several times that he didn’t trust the competitor I was telling him about.

If that were the reason, he was foolish.

Good ideas can come from bad places. In fact, most “bad” business practices have at their center a perfectly good — and usually very powerful — insight. Rather than scoff at the idea, break it down into its component parts and try to see if you can save or reinvent some of them.

* Sometimes, we dismiss ideas simply because we don’t understand them.

This — however stupid it sounds — is actually the best excuse I can think of for rejecting new marketing ideas.

Some innovations are complicated. And if they are making lots of money, you have to get on board. But you don’t have to be one of the first companies out there every single time. I can’t tell you how many Internet tricks I’ve seen come and go over the past 10 years. My rule is to wait until you can see that they are real. Then jump in, learn them, and outsell the competition.

But my client didn’t have that problem. He understood the technique I was talking about.

The real problem he had was a very simple one. The problem was his ego.

He didn’t want to believe that someone he disrespected could come up with a marketing idea that was more effective than the one he was using. So rather than think, “Gee, this could work for me!” he figures out umpteen reasons why it’s probably not working or will soon fail to work or wouldn’t work for him anyway.

Life is rich with opportunities — chances to be smarter, happier, richer, and more successful. Sometimes, they appear fully formed and stare you in the eyes until you recognize them. More often, they arrive in puffs and whiffs — in the form of ephemeral suggestions and remarks.

If you keep your eyes and ears open, you’ll recognize them. But noticing them is not enough. You have to keep your mind open too, and block out your instinct to come up with a list of good and rational reasons why you shouldn’t seize the day.