One of the hardest conversations we have with businesspeople happens when they have an idea that’s just an idea. Good ideas are the fuel of business. But they aren’t news. Often, they aren’t even worth communicating, at least not toward the beginning.
The most extreme example of this occurred a few years ago when an enterprising engineer came to see us to tell us about a new product he invented. Once we started talking about it, we realized it hadn’t really been invented yet. It was just an idea. He wanted news attention for it to attract the interest of investors so it could be developed and taken to market. It was an interesting idea, but he had no track record. He had no news. I had to tell him that we couldn’t help him. We didn’t want to waste his money, our time or float a ludicrous pitch to journalists.
We see this, to a less extreme degree, with our clients. For example, maybe they have an idea for an event. Until there’s a date set, actual participation and the public can be invited, then there’s nothing to communicate. It won’t be newsworthy until it meets other criteria (most notably, timeliness). Other examples include ideas for new product lines. Until they are ready for “prime time,” they are just ideas.
We tell clients and would-be clients that there is a timeline that exists on which a concept becomes a product. That’s when an idea becomes “real,” complete with proof, customers and availability to audiences. It is best for us to get involved just before that tipping point and take action with communications just after. If it’s too far before, we really have nothing to communicate but one of billions of ideas. If it’s too far after, you may miss your window of opportunity for interest and exposure.
Sometimes, we end up hurting feelings when we tell someone we can’t help them or just that the timing isn’t right. But think about this – why would a firm that you that it didn’t want to do work on a project for you because the timing isn’t right be for any reason other than your best interest? Why would we turn away revenue unless it was really in everyone’s best interest? That should be an idea worth understanding.