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The Spark & The Framework. The Side Project Enigma.


Just because you have a good idea, doesn’t make it a good idea. Everything has to tie back to your objectives and strategy.

When you dilute something you lose the essence of what it is in the first place. Adding too much water to something that originally had a lot of flavour, eventually becomes water.

There has to be a framework from that initial spark of an idea. The side project promises nervous anticipation of the unknown, which is why they can be such a powerful part of your overall armoury.

However, we can be easily led astray just because something doesn’t have a significant cost investment next to it, but the drain on other resources, notably time, can become huge.


Jump, Jump

I have seen over the past few years, business owners jumping onto wagons with one wheel and horses with three legs that become a burden.

The business coach who offers the two day ‘how to use social for business’ seminar at £700 a ticket to the entrepreneur looking to share knowledge with an industrial marketplace and the half day seminar in the local hotel. Both solid topics probably filled with an abundance of relevant information to share, but both suffered ie. events pulled, because:

  1. they didn’t have an audience in the first place
  2. what they were looking to preach didn’t tie back to anywhere on their respective websites and the core belief/foundation of their business

If you are pursuing an owned media approach where you control the flow and connection with others, the goal is to refine what you do, not widen it.


Are Others Going To Be Receptive?

Just because people are telling you to start using Snapchat for your business, doesn’t mean that your audience are there. It is not necessary to react to everything you notice.

We don’t need to know everything. Just because Jessica Ennis-Hill is the world’s greatest ever-female heptathlete, she doesn’t have to be the world’s best at all seven events.

We are presented with all manner of channels to impose our views on others. Many of them are low cost, most are free to set-up. From thinking that people will come to an event just because you set up via Eventbrite. Taking the route to self publish a book and do away with the whole publisher, editorial framework. Thinking that setting up a YouTube channel will guarantee a way to deliver an opinion and approach. The question has to come back to, is it needed or wanted by other people?

Just because U2 pushed an album onto 500 million iTunes customers in 2014, didn’t make it a good idea. It resulted in only 6,000 sales from their back catalogue. It was the album equivalent of a 67 meg spam to many people.


The Spark / Framework Formula

side project

An idea is an idea unless there becomes a trigger that ties back to everything that you do and believe in.

I have wasted many hours over the years on activity that did not draw in an audience (the If You Could Go Back project), or has taken a significant amount of time to prepare with limited return (I printed a series of quarterly newsletters in 2012, called The Insight).

Here is a formula. The spark becomes a fire when there is an impact on someone else.



Let me explain.

Imagine you have created/curated an event that draws in only 15 people. Your talk may be on ‘Sales opportunities that will surpass everyone else in 2017.’ This may take you two days to prepare and if you have invited someone else to participate the cost of travel and making sure they are on board as well. It doesn’t necessarily matter if there were only 15 people who attended, but out of those 15 people what further value was extrapolated, such as signing up for the next event, subscribing to a further course, or leading to a sale.

If a small audience came from many hours/days of preparation with a limited return or value exchange (further and deeper connection), then the impact will be negative. If the 15 people looked to continue and be a part of the cause that you stand for, an impact has been made.

Lets look at another example. The Marketing Homebrew podcast is now well into 100 shows. We have an audience (approximately 2,000 unique downloads per month). The time it takes to create with Ian (Rhodes) and myself starts with a 15 minute conversation before we record, spend 30 minutes recording each show and is on iTunes and Stitcher every Friday morning with limited editing. The value measurement are the people who come back to listen each week and the audience we have grown since 2015. This has made a positive impact.

Podcasts, events, social media indulgence, the weekly email, the new ebook, the printed newspaper you always wanted to do, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. For instance, just because you know someone’s email address, doesn’t mean they automatically want to receive the newsletter.


Consistency With The Side Project

It’s like being 19 again and the first holiday overseas with friends. I look back now and give myself a pat on the back that I didn’t get that AFC Bournemouth emblem tattooed on my left arm (in fact I had that intention on most overseas holidays during my 20s). Again, just because you can do it, doesn’t mean that you should.

Every idea that you are looking to bring into fruition, does it tie back to the thing that you believe in and what you stand for? If it doesn’t, then the vanity metrics are looking to take you over the hill.

Here are questions to ask yourself to ensure consistency and longevity of an idea that can build fruition:

Are there other priorities at the moment? From making sure new customers feel embedded into your way of work to recognising that the time commitment just isn’t there for other activity is a stoic stand to make.

Do you have the capacity to deliver consistently? If it ties back to your overall strategy great, but do you have the ability to pursue? If the email is promised on the first of every month, it has to be every month. Rhythm builds persistency that leads to connection.

Is there an audience in the first place? A few years ago, I printed a 12-page newsletter, the thing is, I didn’t have an audience to distribute to, apart from a handful of clients. It was more about having a piece of print in my hand, than looking to share with an opinion piece.

Does it add to your business offering? If it compliments the way you serve your audience, go for it, if it is more about ego, then becomes a drain on everything. A spark only ignites when people associate the delivery with your belief system.

Does it diminish what you do? To learn a new skillset and to do it well, takes time, application and an investment of energy. You don’t want it to become a burden and takes you away from how you make a return.

When The New Idea Replaces The Old Idea

Being brave is when the new spark ties in better with your business and you have to let go of what you are currently pursuing.

Maybe it’s the podcast is outperforming the blog, a format for an event surpasses another event. A good idea reaches its goal.


Moving forward with a new idea means stepping away from an old one. I am seeing this myself at the moment with an event that has been in place since 2014, I loved doing this event. However, what is currently in place with the monthly You Are The Media Lunch Club and the activity scheduled for 2017 has a far deeper connection with what the business is all about. This is encouraging people and businesses to perfect what they know and take on board a content/owned media approach.


Lets Round Up

A spark has to come from a framework that is centred on how you become better at business.

You have to be careful not to jump from idea to idea. I see this in abundance where it is clear that it is easy to set up an idea (lets give doing video/audio/writing a go). The challenge for all of us is to see that spark through where it becomes a roaring fire, not a birthday cake where everyone gets excited and once the candles are blown out and you’ve had a slice, it’s forgotten about.

A spark works when you are in for the long haul. When there is a framework it enables you to make an impact on an audience where you can change the behaviour of someone else and modify how it links to your overall objectives.

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