by Alyson Dutch
When Googling the term, “elephant hunting,” Zimbabwe, “poaching” and “trophy fees” top the list of searches, but scattered among them are a few quotes from business leaders which allude to an unfortunate syndrome suffered by many an entrepreneur. Like it sounds, elephant hunting is a very rich man’s game, it’s dangerous and it gives one an exceedingly intimate experience with a very rare creature. I mean, when was the last time you saw an elephant in your vicinity? If you want to see one, never mind hunt it, chances are you there is at least one very long plane ride ahead of you.
I work with entrepreneurs everyday and cannot tell you how many are convinced their idea has to achieve only “one thing” that once accomplished will cast their business off into the stratosphere of celebrity, fame and fortune. Being a publicist, that “one thing” is usually Oprah; and she is the exception to this rule, because nearly every product she’s given a thumbs up to, has struck gold, but only for a short time. This is great, but it does not make a business. Just in case I didn’t make my point here; if you secretly are thinking “if I could just get to Oprah, my working days would be over,” stop it right now; that is an elephant hunt!
Creating a business requires a few very important things, chief amongst them is called “repetition of message” and “time.” In a great book called Predictable Success by Les McKeown, he notes that the first stage of any company is called Early Struggle. During that time, he says, the only thing that matters is finding customers to pay you enough to cover your expenses before your starting capital runs out. That’s it. Just find customers and make money. To illustrate, let’s say you have a men’s product and have $5M dollars available. You decide to blow $4.9M on a Superbowl ad which will expose your product to approximately 90 million eyeballs and it will be seen on the most watched TV program in the US – for 30 seconds. Does that guarantee sales or the budding of a viable business that will sustain your family for years to come? I’m the eternal optimist by the way, so don’t get me wrong here, but here’s a good guess on what would occur: you’ll be broke and praying that enough of those football lovers noticed your ad. You would be betting that a 30 second exposure to your product, while they were chowing on bean dip and throwing back Budweiser, would result in a guy running to store or onto your website buy your stuff. Worse yet, you’re gambling on the fact that these game watchers were sober and would even remember your ad the next day when they were in retail environment or near a computer. Are you really going to throw all your precious dollars at one giant effort when you don’t even have a market yet? Being new at this, you probably don’t realize that there are a some very important steps that must happen in a customer’s mind from a first exposure to the act of purchase – most of all having “heard of it before.” But, if you spent that money over a one year period, spreading it out with publicity that ran in 40 magazines, 25 newspapers, 50 blogs, a few TV and radio shows, you’d have money left over for all kinds of marketing that appeals to your target customer; maybe a pay per click campaign, an email blast with a joint venture partner, a promotion with a gym, a sampling program in a retail store, a co-op advertisement or coupon with your retailer, a trade show, maybe even a targeted ad campaign on a ESPN.com. Here’s the rub, the two options may reach a similar number of customers, but the second option guarantees your target customer will likely see it more than once, their friends will talk about it and it will begin to have a “presence” among your target consumer community. This is what triggers the “oh yeah I’ve heard of that” response that snowballs and if you’re lucky, goes viral. All these marketing methodologies are employed solely to find customers and make money. Once you’ve found your market and are making a profit, the marketing game changes a bit, but just getting to that point is a lot of work and it requires time – specifically, at least one year.
You may be on your heels at this moment, thinking, “hmmm, but I know I read a story somewhere about some guy who started a company and boom, it blew up after one certain thing he did.” I hate to break this to you, but the reason why you may have “read a story somewhere” about that guy is because it was so unusual, so amazing, that it was “news.”
There are many marketing methods you can use, some spread your money and exposure out more than others. Psssst: here’s a secret – most startups begin with PR because it has the widest exposure, is the cheapest form of marketing and provides an objective opinion about your product, called “third party endorsement” of a reporter. There’s a reason for this and it’s a whole other conversation, which you can find in a video I prepared just for Inventor’s Digest readers at www.PRHandbookForEntrepreneurs.com. Check it out and let me know your thoughts. My email is there too.
Happy Non-Elephant Hunting
P.S. to make matters worse, elephants are an endangered species – just a few left. Geez, it’s exhausting just thinking about what it would take to find one….