Sometimes Ideas Fail, and You May Never Know Why, Exactly

Jim Dee
Jim Dee
Sep 29, 2017 · 5 min read
Photo adapted from “Vision” by Mélanie Plante (Flickr, Creative Commons).

Years ago, when I was serving as a marketing and business development director for a CPA firm, I used to read the local business journal religiously. I’m speaking about the weekly newspaper published in 40+ larger U.S. markets, owned by American City Business Journals.

My favorite part of the paper was always the local lists —e.g., “The Top 25 Largest [fill in the blank]” in the city, complete with CEO names, addresses, etc. For marketing and business development professionals, this was key information to review and, even better, follow up on.

I decided that it would be a good idea each week to send a packet of information about our firm, along with my business card, to all of the executives on this list. Fortunately, I’d already written up industry-specific information applicable to many of the lists, and I certainly had enough general information to send out to everyone else.

I still think this is / was “good marketing,” to be honest. After all, you’re getting your marketing material in front of the CEOs of the top 25 players in basically every industry in your local market. Granted, much of that will hit the circular file right away, and/or may not make it past the gatekeeper. But, it’s also safe to assume that some will get through.

As I recall, it didn’t make the phone ring too much, but I also learned that, over time, people knew who we were. Marketing is often a long game like that — tough to quantify ROI in such circumstances, to be sure. But, then again, when we’re looking at a project like this one, the time and cost required were fairly low (just make up 25 packets and send them out each week).

The “Aha” Moment

As easy as it was to perpetuate the campaign, after a while, I thought to myself: “Why hasn’t anyone ever approached ME about managing this marketing initiative?” Surely other marketers and business developers are doing this same thing each week.

If such a company doesn’t exist, why not build out a company to do just that? Each week, we could send out flyers, brochures, and other materials to everyone on that list, on behalf of all of our clients.

It seemed like a giant brainstorm moment. I thought that we could warehouse clients’ letterhead, marketing collateral, and business cards. We could craft generic “congrats” letters that we’d mail merge each week for them, and even provide a means for determining which lists get sent to and which do not. (For example, if the client is a CPA firm, they probably do not want to send their information out to other CPA firms.)

So, I had all of the service offerings setup, pricing details, and even a web site. In short, “Top 25 Agency” was born.

And then… we started cold calling. We started with law firms and CPA firms, since professional services was what I knew best. I was pretty excited because these lists come out in 40+ markets, so the potential was really 40x whatever I could get going in my own home city (where I was starting as a test market).

What Happened

Out of the many hundreds we called, many hundreds we mailed to, and countless emails sent, no one liked the idea. Occasionally, we’d get an “interesting … but that’s something we’d rather do ourselves” response.

What can I say: It completely fizzled!

Lessons Learned

  1. The level of excitement and/or vision you have about something does not necessarily translate into market adoption or acceptance. I had this whole thing so clearly envisioned that I believed it would be successful.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” ~Michael Jordan


✍🏻 Jim Dee maintains his personal blog, “Hawthorne Crow,” and a web design blog, “Web Designer | Web Developer Magazine.” He also contributes to various Medium.com publications. Find him at JPDbooks.com, his Amazon Author page, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Medium, or via email at Jim [at] ArrayWebDevelopment.com. His latest novel, CHROO, is available on Amazon.com. If you enjoy humorous literary tales, please grab a copy!

Web Designer / Web Developer Magazine

WDWD Magazine features articles on web site design / development, internet marketing, social media, SEO, and topics like marketing, communications, business development, etc. Editor: Jim Dee of Array Web Development — jim@arraywebdevelopment.com.

Jim Dee

Written by

Jim Dee

Web guy at http://ArrayWebDevelopment.com — see also http://JPDbooks.com.

Web Designer / Web Developer Magazine

WDWD Magazine features articles on web site design / development, internet marketing, social media, SEO, and topics like marketing, communications, business development, etc. Editor: Jim Dee of Array Web Development — jim@arraywebdevelopment.com.

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