I know a likeable, personable, articulate, young (23yo) guy. He is an ideas factory. Concepts come to him as easily as girls didn’t come to me when I was young, free and single.
I admire his creativity and the energy and enthusiasm with which he propels his ideas along.
I also love that he brings his ideas to me. Everything that’s popped in to his head has been flashed across my radar for approval, steering and advice. I kind of love him a little bit for this. But only in a good, wholesome way. He has no need to bring me his concepts, he just does.
I always try to be straight with my opinion. I might temper my language, shape how I’m going to say something, but the message, whatever my opinion on the concept, remains clear. I can be extremely positive, guardedly positive, cautious – it doesn’t matter.
Whatever my position on an idea, I always try to add my thinking to the mix; try to introduce some of the experience and knowledge (practical or academic) that I have gained as I’ve trundled through life. Two heads, etc.
His latest idea for an unusually functional piece of internet-based activity has a lot of merit. I can see that some way down the line there are big things to be straightened out, but the concept looks sound.
‘Can I send you my marketing document,’ he asked earlier this week. ’I'm running out of words and you can only do copy and paste so many times.’ Naturally I said ‘yes’.
What arrived was a Word document, 5 pages, 500 words.
‘Who is the audience?’ was my first question.
‘OK, but who?’
‘B&Q, Virgin Media, BT, Tesco, PC World.’
‘And how complete do you reckon this document is?’
‘About a third of the way.’
‘And just to be clear, the target is the chief marketing officer/manager in each of these corporations?’
How do you do it? How do you say that the chances of anyone in that position in those corporation making it halfway down the first page of a 15-page document is nil?
How do you say ‘I’ve read what you’ve written and after five pages you haven’t spelt out what the concept is. Or shaped, for the reader, how it is going to work?’
And how do you do these things without smothering his enthusiasm?
This is an illustration of the gaps in his knowledge. That you can just ‘ring a blue-chip, get the name of the top honcho (honchoess) in Marketing, email through a 15-page brochure then sit back and wait for him (her) to beat a path to your door,’ because a) it exposes a depth of knowledge best categorised as ‘slim to none’ and b) is not going to work.
Unless I’ve missed my boat, the top honcho (honchoess) in Marketing in blue-chips are likely to be working flat-out; definitely five days-a-week, possibly six.
And his/her email device is likely to be the corporate Crackberry or iPhone - most probably accessed while in BAU or Dev projects, to distract from the tedium of something that actually isn’t his/her BAU.
What I did was roughed out a quick plan:
- Find out who the head honcho (honchoess) is
- Write a script that is edited down to the minimum amount of words but gets YOUR NAME and the main message in
- Call him/her until you make contact
- Follow up the contact with an ultra-brief email to confirm what you’ve talked about
- Send a slimmed-down document: size: 1 page A4 folded (is that A5? I get confused) which does a brief intro to the concept, lays functionality out in bullet points and gives the highlights on costs/penetration/predictions
- Follow that up three/four days later with another phone call, arrange to go and see him/her and do a high-level presentation in person
That was my initial plan.
Unfortunately, this time, what I had hoped to be constructive criticism seems to have been taken the wrong way.
I was only trying to help!
Personally I blame The Apprentice, because it leads people to think the real world works in that way, and it doesn’t.