In the movie “Up”, every so often the dogs interrupt themselves mid-sentence because a squirrel – or even the thought of a squirrel – appears. They stop the conversation or whatever else it is they’re doing to chase that distraction.
We don’t call them squirrels in business. They’re more like bright shiny objects or the next new thing. Sure, we call them something else altogether – market opportunities for one. In some cases, they really are. Most of the time, however, they’re just a squirrel that’s dashed across the business plan and provided a major distraction.
Consumers can be fickle. For example, the typical mobile app is used fewer than 10 times before deletion and over a quarter of people use an app once after downloading. If you’re working to monetize one of those apps, you have a very limited window in general. Most businesses aren’t living in that fickle a world unless they choose to be there. They do that by chasing squirrels.
So how does one distinguish between a legitimate opportunity and a shiny object/squirrel? As always, it’s a combination of things; some consumer-focused, some business-focused. With respect to the latter, any new business extension will require resources of some sort, even if it’s the shifting of existing support to the new thing. Resources are finite in most businesses. Do you have them?
Ask yourself if customers care. We can point to any number of examples of being too early for the market. GO had a mobile operating system and mobile, pen-based computers long before the iPad or iPhone. NextNewNetworks was doing video long before there was broadband to support streaming. WebTV was another. In those and other cases consumers couldn’t understand what was in it for them. After all, selling is about providing value. How does the squirrel you’re considering do that? Does it really provide sustainable growth or just a brief pop in revenues (and maybe not in profits)?
Looking over the horizon is the hardest part of any good business person’s job. The great ones learn to stay focused on what’s in front of them while taking that peek while ignoring the squirrels. Can you do that?