Earlier this evening, I was at MSP with a bit of extra time before my flight to Denver. I decided that I wanted to find a good spot to eat and catch up on email. After I passed through security I could see that a little ways in front of me was an interactive kiosk with a listing of all that can be found in the airport. Being curious about how technology is being used in various settings and uncertain of where I wanted to go, I decided to check it out. It ended up being a total waste of time as the touch screen was registering very slowly and quite poorly.
As I walked away from this terrible user experience, it made me think about the importance of stepping back to consider how much of a return on investment (ROI) we're getting for the time we spend making the things we make and the return others get for spending their time with them.
Time is a luxury. With the amount of demands we all have on our lives, we have become very aware of how we spend it. When the world is full of unlimited choices for how to spend our time, we need to make sure that the things we create make people feel like the time they gave us was worth every second.
When you're working on launching something new into the world, ask yourself few simple questions at every evaluation point along the way:
Would somebody I personally know who is actually the target audience pay attention to/go to/do/download/play/use this? If I didn't work for this company, would I?
If the answer is "no" to the first, absolutely don't move forward. Go back and rework it until you can answer "yes." If it's yes to the first and no to the second, pause and consider if you really should still move forward. Unless there is a very obvious and good reason why you wouldn't, odds are that the idea needs reworked.
When you have decided that you should go ahead, ask yourself another set of questions:
Would the person we're trying to reach tell their friends about it? If I didn't work for this company, would I?
Again, if the answer is "no" on the first, don't move forward. Go back and find a way to build in something that makes people want to share it. And if it's yes to the first but no on the second, pause again to consider what might make it better.
Working to get to "yes" on all of these questions might mean that you won't get your new thing launched as quickly as you had hoped. But so what? If you can't answer yes to these questions, it doesn't matter how fast you got your new idea out there because nobody will care to spend time with it and nobody will care to tell others about it.
To bring this to a close, I'll quote an early paragraph from Donald Miller's book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years:
If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on and think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.
As marketers, we've been given a valuable gift—the gift of being able to create new stories, ideas and experiences for others. If we're not making those things as inspiring as possible, we're not only wasting other people's time, we're wasting our own.
If you're going take the time to make something new, make something with a high time ROI for both yourself and the people you are making it for. If you're going to make something, don't make a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo. Make something worth talking about.