You’re on to the next big thing. You’re patiently watching the cogs whir away, waiting for the moment it gains serious traction and makes you the success story you always knew it would.
Except you’re still waiting. You’re inching along and telling yourself it’s a slow burner. But, what if it’s not? What it if it’s never going to take off? You’re going to be waiting a long time and wasting a lot of energy. This is known as slow burner fallacy.
You are truly convinced that, given a long enough time period, your business will succeed. But when is this true, and when should you stop trying?
Overnight success is a myth
Many aspects of a great business take time to build. Content producers might post consistently for decades before their work picks up traction. Food products might take years of testing only to launch terribly and then make exponential sales after word of mouth has taken flight. As AirBNB founder Brian Chesky said, “Our overnight success took ten years.”
It is possible that you’re at the start of something that will one day change the world. Perhaps the world isn’t ready for it yet. Perhaps you’re ahead of your time, or you haven’t got the messaging right. Perhaps you think you need more money or time or manpower in order to make it big. Maybe you haven’t found the right audience; you’re thinking too broadly, or you haven’t worked out your dream customer.
But how do you know?
Property developers purchase empty units during a downturn and then do nothing with them until the market improves. They sit on them. There’s not much point renovating straight away and the prices are too low to sell. On one hand, they’re onto a slow burner but they have faith in the future of the economy.
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It’s not quite the same with a business. Sure, you can sit on an idea, but when it’s up and running it takes energy to get it moving and keep it going. By the time the world is ready for it, it won’t be ready for the world. If you’re not putting that energy in because you think your venture is a slow burner, you’ll be overtaken by those who were priming themselves better.
If the first hundred people who try your product don’t love it; it’s either not a good product or it’s not the right audience. If your perfect audience like your product but don’t tell their friends; leave it right there. The success of your business relies on word of mouth or internet virality in order to keep growing. Without word of mouth, between friends or online networks, every order you secure has a marketing cost, and it’s impossible to reach the exponential success you have in mind.
If your business just isn’t taking off despite all of your genuine energy and best efforts, it’s time to seriously ask why. It’s time to predict what’s going to change in the future. If you built an audience, primed them perfectly, perfected your sell, launched your concept and they didn’t buy; you might be onto less of a slow burner and more of a damp squib. At least you know.
Get comfy with the fact that you may, just may, have created something that the market doesn’t need and will probably never want. You don’t even want it yourself. Draw a firm line under any more time or cash outlay and find your true calling elsewhere. Avoid falling for sunk-cost bias. How else could you spend that time? What other problems could you solve? See it as an opportunity.
If you’re seeing promising signs every day, however, it might mean you’re leading somewhere good. If your customers are telling their friends, if your launches in new areas go well, if you’ve found your niche, however small, and you are serving them well and you’re putting in the required energy to keep this moving; keep going.