The One In A Million Chance

One in a MillionThings had been quiet around The Effective Detective in the last week. I was hoping that things were going to stay relatively quiet for this week’s discussion, whatever that might be. The Detective seemed to rouse himself as I came into the room.

“Watson, how very nice to see you today,” The Detective started. “Do you know what this is?” he asked, holding up a rectangular piece of thick paper.

“I do believe it is a lottery ticket, sir,” I replied, and then out of some misplaced sense of possibility, I exclaimed, “You didn’t actually win sir?! Has lady luck smiled down upon you and granted us riches?”

The Detective heartily laughed before replying, “Heaven’s sakes man! Do you know what the odds are of winning this ridiculous game of chance? I merely needed you to identify it to start today’s discussion, not jump to conclusions regarding my possession of said ticket.”

“Seems a simple lesson, sir, don’t gamble, it is a waste of time,” I sighed dejectedly.

“That is where you are wrong Watson! All things in life are gambles. There is a chance for success and a chance for failure. Where we go astray is simple – we look only at the level of effort and risk against the chance that we could win, ignoring the overwhelming odds of actually doing so.”

The Detective paused briefly, and I took this chance to interject, thinking our conversation had somehow gone off the rails, if indeed it had ever been on the track at all. “But sir, what in the world does this have to do with business and marketing?” The Detective gave me that half-smile, and I realized that once again, I had fallen into one of his carefully laid traps.

“A shame Watson, your powers of logic and observation had been showing great signs of improvement. The relationship is simple. Why is it that you think so many entrepreneurs have invested so much time and energy in social media and Internet Marketing of physical products? Social Media especially carries little risk in terms of investment. We ask a bunch of people to like our page, or follow our tweets, or help make your latest video viral and then sit back and wait. You know that over a billion people are on Facebook, and you believe even though there is little chance very many will see your posts, ‘if’ they do, the payoff will be fantastic! Of course the payback only comes to a lucky few that were in the right place at the right time,” a second pause, and I thought I would see if I could provoke a reaction.

“So it is hopeless then. We should all just pack up and give up on business since only the lucky ones will win!” I answered injecting what I hoped was just the right amount of sarcasm.

“That would be silly and rather stupid Watson. You are missing the point. I said all things in life are gambles. The key is to take the occasional no risk, big return gamble – like buying a lottery ticket or posting on social media, but to be far more consistent with the gambles that carry a little more or sometimes a lot more risk – posting consistently on your blog and sending it out to your list – which requires time and effort – along with the occasional offer leveraging the trust built up. Creating local events – which will often cost you something for at least the venue, and time and effort to market – that might bring in a few thousand dollars, but builds up both possible client and referral relationships. Are any of these guaranteed to generate that big score? Of course not, but they are far more likely to generate something! Too often we look for the risk free score. The result is almost always disappointment.” The Detective looked at me expectantly, his point now made.

“Not hopeless, just not risk or effort free,” I said after a minute of reflection.

“Well summarized Watson! Now shall we get back to our slightly risky work requiring effort?” The Detective answered, closing discussion for another day.