"Give me three hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first two hours sharpening the axe"
~ Abraham Lincoln
Every so often my wife and I will host a dinner party, inviting a few friends to our house to gather and eat. After dinner, a couple of invited friends and I will adjourn to the backyard or perhaps the living room, in the wintertime, to play some acoustic music together, reliving our youth by entertaining the groupies among us (otherwise known as our wives).
These memorable evenings are fueled by tasty food, fine wine, and lots of laughter (mostly laughing at ourselves for being so ridiculous).
While the final outcome of the evening’s events is typically a full stomach, a lot of laughter and a bunch of shared memories for the guests and myself, the actual planning for the evening is rarely the result of an impromptu gathering of friends but rather a carefully orchestrated series of decisions, planning and execution... starting from the desired outcome to the many steps along the way.
In planning an event like this, typically I find myself preparing from the end of the event and work myself back to the present instead of the perhaps more natural way of doing things... beginning with step one and moving forward.
The very first thing I may want to consider is, who exactly do I want to invite to my little soiree. This is a very important decision. Not all of my friends play nice together. There are those who might drink a bit too much as well as other considerations.
It is important to me, in order to make the evening a success, to arrange the guest list in a way that will leave all my friends with a lasting positive memory and wanting to come back again soon... that is my desired outcome.
Therefore trying to predict what those memories will be before the event occurs, while difficult, is not impossible based on my knowledge of my friends’ expectations and normal behaviors. It’s also important to me to assemble the right mix of musicians, who enjoy similar musical tastes and play a variety of instruments (there is nothing worse than assembling a "band" consisting of 4 drummers).
Once the projected results are firmly embedded in my head, it is easy to assemble a guest list that will help me to meet my objectives. Now that the list is completed, personal invitations will be sent to the potential guests several weeks in advance to ensure that they will be free for the evening.
The next major decision will be that of the location for our musical venue... indoors or outdoors.
Outdoors, under the stars at night with candles, fresh air, and perfect acoustics for music make for a truly enchanted evening. However, a cold damp evening would most likely make my guests uncomfortable taking their attentions away from the music and ambiance and focusing it solely upon the uncomfortable chill of the night.
Once the guests and venue are decided... then attention can be directed to the menu and task to our guests with their individual contributions (no one like to come empty-handed... so it’s best to give out assignments as not to double up on one item while being short of others).
With the menu planned... then a backwards timetable is constructed...
Midnight - everyone goes home with great memories
9:00pm - start playing music
8:45pm - set up instruments
8:30pm - clean up dinner
7:30pm - start dinner
6:00pm - guests arrive - wine and appetizers
5:30pm - put lasagna into the oven / dress for dinner
4:30pm - prepare lasagna
2:00pm - clean and straighten house / set up backyard venue
Noon - go shopping for dinner ingredients
One week prior - send reminder email to guests with an assignment of what to bring
Three weeks prior - send a handwritten invitation.
A successful and memorable dinner party leaves very little to chance and involves a lot of forethought.
Imagine the same evening... this time... waiting until the last minute... trying to call several friends to join us at our house about 4pm on the day of the event. Scrambling to buy some prepared food to bring home and spoon out of cartons... ending up with the wrong musicians who play similar instruments or enjoy playing dissimilar types of music (country or blues versus classic-rock perhaps)...
What type of experience would the guests go away with at the end of the night as opposed to the well-orchestrated night with lots of planning and effort?
Now it might work out just fine... (especially if there is a lot of good wine flowing freely during the evening)... but it is really too much left to chance as well as a bunch of last-minute hysterics and herculean efforts to pull it all together...
So now instead of a dinner party...
I want you to think of the last large scale marketing project your company engaged in... perhaps it was a new e-commerce website with a major launch strategy.
Were the final results of the projects agreed upon prior to starting the project or did the leaders of the project just start working on the various design elements?
The first and foremost critical question that needs to be asked before any organization begins any major project is, "what are the actual and measureable results that they hope to achieve at the end this project?"
Perhaps some critical questions that need to be asked up front for the new website project might be:
- Why do we need a new website at all? (hint: "just because everyone else is doing it" or "because our site is tired" is not the correct answer here)
- Who are the people who might use the site and why?
- Will they typically be using a mobile device (smart phone) to visit our site or will they be using a large screen computing device?... these are two very different designs
- What critical information do we need to provide our potential customers who use the new site?
- What path will our website provide to our customers so they can easily navigate to find this critical information?
- How easy will it be for customers to actually buy something from us? (a few directed steps or a gauntlet of dead-ends)
Answering the questions above (as well as perhaps, another 100 or so, less important questions) will have a serious impact on defining the success or failure of your project.
Many times, our seemingly worthwhile projects will end up failing because we haven’t done a good enough job in defining our desired outcome and/or results.
Sure, the project may still succeed at some level by sheer chance, herculean efforts, or by needlessly throwing lots of resources (time and money) into the project...
...but that’s not an intelligent design...
...be it a dinner party serving 10 people... or a new e-commerce site serving millions of people...
I want to leave you with one additional thought today...
Take just a moment to think about your own life..
...how might it change...
...if you gave consideration to everything you wanted to achieve and/or accomplish by the time you reached the end...
...now just work your way backwards to today... would you do anything differently?
Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse where we hope to see you in our future...
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