Second question for Seth on our Business Blog Book Tour:
Q: You touch on a very important issue related to bringing ideas to fruition, and that’s a sense of confidence to push through a very edgy new idea. I ran into this a few months ago with a telecom client. Customers were frustrated with purchasing a line for $29.99, yet getting their first bill and finding that – with all the fees and surcharges – that line really costs about $45. I proposed that my client do something truly novel in the industry: tell the customer exactly what they’d pay for a line, and educate them on fees and surcharges. Sort of a ‘full disclosure’ way of doing business and building trust that was a complete break from how the industry traditionally operates. Of course, my client shot the idea down immediately: we can’t possibly do that, we get a lot of our revenue from fees and surcharges, our line cost would appear to be higher than our competitors, etc etc. And I wasn’t completely confident enough in the idea to champion it; it was pretty radical, and what if it backfired? My reputation was on the line. Turns out that the FCC is now considering a mandate for full disclosure of fees and surcharges. My client – along with everyone else – will reluctantly be forced to do it, yet if they had done it proactively they would have been viewed as a trustworthy champion of the customer.
Long story short, your book talks about how to sell the idea internally to give people the impression that it’s going to work… but what happens if it doesn’t? If you yourself don’t believe deep down that it’s absolutely going to work, there’s no way you can convince others. Most people know that for every idea that works, there are many more that turn out to be complete flops. So I’m thinking that the root cause of the infrequency of ‘free prize’ innovations isn’t because the idea can’t be sold, it’s more to do with the champion’s fear of failure. Can you expand on this issue and how to deal with it?
A: Great question! Of course you can’t be sure that it’s going to work. But can you be sure that the boring status quo is going to work? The fact is that all the major products and brands and services are under threat today, threat from Walmart, threat from being boring, threats from competition. We don’t spend a lot of time in a cold sweat about all that risk, but it’s real and it’s here and it’s proven.
So, what should you do? You should realize that unless you can stand up and say, “I’ll take responsibility” it’s not going to happen, so don’t even try unless you’re willing to do that.
In the case you gave, I think you could ameliorate your risk by doing it as a test, in a small market. What’s the worst that could have happened?
I would have gone even farther and gone all the way PAST the edge. I would have said it costs $49, then sent them the first month’s bill for $45 with a post-it note that says, “We were wrong. After all taxes, it’s only $45. Sorry, but it’s $4 less than we said it was.” Going to the edges gets talked about.
So going to the edge is putting the phrase "no guts, no glory" to the test!
OK, readers... who has a great example of a gutsy, edgy move that paid off?