Why You Might Not Want to Be ‘The Next Big Thing’

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Empty Conference RoomFlipboard’s rapid ascension to the fandom of the social media and tech scene, and just as quick outright derision and speculation about its struggles to scale among some tech and media reporters/bloggers offers an interesting glimpse into what is more and more becoming an issue within the technology and media sectors: Heavily-funded start-up makes big splash with big influencers, only to suddenly realize it’s nowhere near prepared for the onslaught of actual people using its product and service. This, inevitably, creates a perception among consumers, partners, advertisers, etc. that tech media darling just isn’t quite ready for prime time.

Thus, all of that build up and hype is wasted, and it’s back to square one.

It’s one of the biggest reasons why whenever I go into a new business meeting with any potential client, I am very upfront in telling them we’re not going to promise them the world when it comes to major media coverage or big hype around their company. Sure, I let them know we’ll work our tails for them and do everything we possibly can to help build their business from a marketing perspective, but we’re just not going to promise we’ll quickly turn them into “the next big thing.”

It’s only natural for any entrepreneur to want to see their company—their baby, really—come out of its beta release as the greatest company since Apple, but even Apple spent years getting to where it is now. It didn’t become a success overnight because very few successful businesses—no matter what industry they are in—are overnight successes. Most took years to reach mainstream notoriety and sustain long-term growth and revenues, and there are many reasons for that, but from a marketing perspective, the biggest I think more entrepreneurs should keep in mind is this: being “the next big thing” doesn’t mean squat unless you can prove it day after day.

Think about it: If you’re “the next big thing” today, that means every single day after that, for years on end, your key audiences (and the general public) will expect your company to live up to that lofty standard—every day.

It just isn’t going to happen, and as exciting as it is to achieve that overnight success and notoriety—the cover of The New York Times, along with a big CEO profile in Fast Company about why you and your team have unlocked the secrets to eternal entrepreneurial success—it’s going to be a royal pain to live up to that, not to mention continue scaling so you can sustain that kind of growth.

Alternatively, try taking the more traditional route. Take some time to make sure that unlike Flipboard, or Blippy (Remember Blippy? It was supposed to be the new wave of social check-in services, with people sharing with friends what they purchase with their credit cards. Well, that lasted about 5 minutes until Blippy user’s credit card numbers ended up in Google search.), your company, your employees, vendors, partners, etc. are ready to go big when the moment comes.

The big notoriety may never come for some businesses, but for those that take the proper steps before they hit it big, ensuring they have the right marketing, public relations, sales and other components in place to capitalize on that success, the long-term benefits can far outweigh being “the next big thing.”

It all comes down to a balance; choosing whether you want your business to be huge for a day, week or a month, or being a great business for years to come. In my experience, people value those great, long-term businesses far more than the “next big thing.”

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  • http://www.jeffrutherford.com jeffrutherford

    Totally agree with this. I've never understood why tech entrepreneurs can't understand that they get 30 seconds to make an impression. I've had numerous discussions over the years, “We need to do a soft launch or you better make sure your prepared for heavy traffic from day 1.” They insist on a splashy launch with inadequate bandwidth.

    In today's Twitter, flittering attention spans, you've got about 30 seconds to make an impression. If your site or app won't load or work correctly, the number of people who will bookmark your site and return again is very, very, very few.

  • http://prbreakfastclub.com/ Keith Trivitt

    Jeff – Well said. The thing is, many of today's tech and social Web entrepreneurs actually play into the hands of the fleeting attention spans of many by trying to artificially over-hype their products and services pre-launch, neglecting the core capabilities, that while not as sexy or flashy as the obvious, are absolutely necessary to be in place if a company truly wants to be great over the long run.

    Like I said, I'd much rather work with companies and brands that are primarily concerned with long-term growth and greatness than those who want the big, splashy one-off launch and haven't really focused on core competencies that time and again have been shown to absolutely be needed in place before any type of big launch or before a company becomes 'the next big thing'

    Thanks for chiming in with some great thoughts.

  • Brenda Williams

    Big article in USA Today, August 11, 2010 issue – Technology section. Sounds like they’ve got a lot of interest. Are you saying they’re a “flop”?