Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Rules are Changing - A Little

It used to be that "you have one chance at a first impression 'period''. Over the past few years, we have had the impression that the rules on that are changing somewhat. It's not that you can just fool around and keep changing how you come off -- hoping that people will permanently give you a pass. But, because we live in the world where introducing products is easy, there is much more tolerance for experimentation today than ever before; even when the experiment ultimately fails.

That is underscored with Google's announcement that it is killing Google Answers. This, apparently, was an experiment that didn't work as hoped.

So what is the lesson here? Today, experimentation is ok. Especially when, like Google, you have an established track record of succeeding often enough. This is a good thing. Because, with experimentation comes innovation.

But, we contend that it's important to understand the parameters of where you can experiment and where you need to look solid, decisive, and consistent. This is particularly true with young, untested companies that need to enter the market and gain credibility. Following are some guidelines that we have established over time:

  • Before you proactively introduce yourself to the market, have a pretty good idea of who you are and where you believe you are going. (We have referenced a "communications architecture" elsewhere in this blog.)
  • Educate, don't hype. Help the market understand your vision and its direction rather than just your products and their specs.
  • Experiment if you can demonstrate consistency and decisiveness as the experiment refines.
  • Always be professional: even if things might change (well, that's a certainty), having presence and an air of dependability can go a long way.
This kind of rule-changing in the world of communications is one of the very interesting things going on in the market. It means that it's important to always think carefully about how you are communication and, in the future, how you plan to communicate.

And then, once you have done the thinking, move ahead.