The Objective Blog

Keep up with what we're thinking, reading, and doing.

Don’t Waste Your Money on a Website

September 19th, 2014 - by Dallas - Salt Lake City, Utah

Jane has an idea.

Jane will talk to her friends and family, and everybody will tell her how much they love her idea.

Everybody except for Uncle Brian.

Uncle Brian doesn’t like any idea because he has a list of his own ideas that he never had courage to pursue, so he’s certain your idea will fail.

But, Jane will dismiss Uncle Brian and she will start moving forward, responsibly, by doing some market research.

In case you’re not familiar with marketing, market research is any kind of data that affirms your original hypothesis.

Usually this includes doing some web searches, asking people if they’ve ever heard of an idea like yours, and then doing some more web searches. I say that somewhat sarcastically, but it is the way 80% of new companies do their [ahem] market research.

As it turns out, Jane’s web searches don’t bring up anything that match her product idea, but there are enough ideas that are similar that she feels confident there will be a place in the market for hers.

Let’s be clear here: Jane’s idea is a good idea. There have been successful brands that started with worse.

So Jane takes the next obvious step: production.

She bravely makes contact with manufacturers, has molds made, gets some tooling done and fills the minimum order quantities the factory requires. It is expensive to do all of this, but she has faith. She’s heard many inspiring stories. She knows that people will love her idea. She then gets a warehouse to hold her product, and a website designed to make her look like a legitimate brand. She’s all in!

Now that she has everything she needs, it’s time to get customers. So she starts working to attract retailers. She does what every consumer-products brand does to find retailers: she attends trade shows. Each trade show costs about $7,000 once all the expenses are considered. But she’s confident she’ll recover that in a couple years.

Unfortunately, she doesn’t get the traction she was hoping for.

The brand looks nice, but she has a small booth, in the New Brands section—established retailers and distributors show little interest in working with a company that may not be around next year.

They don’t buy her products They don’t go to her website. The most they do, if they do anything at all, is browse her booth and take a catalog. A catalog that will be tossed aside with dozens of other catalogs and worthless, trade show SWAG.

She needs attention.

She needs sales.

She needs customers.

She decides to go direct: forget the retail world—she’s going to sell her products direct to consumers. There’s higher margins in that, anyway. So Jane gets a loan and doubles-down on a new website—one with e-commerce enabled. This is expensive, but she plans on growing and doesn’t want the headache of moving to a new system once she gets big.

She hires someone out of college to manage her social media. Twitter; Facebook; Pinterest; Instagram; LinkedIn

She buys online ads.

She sponsors community events.

But it is too little, too late.

She is bleeding cash and the progress she is seeing barely serves as a bandaid.

She has invested $100,000 of her own money, $25,000 of the bank’s money and has only a warehouse of product and a fancy website to show for it.

She is low on cash. Low on motivation. And she knows a lot about what she would do differently next time, but can’t bring herself to find enough money to move forward now.

Her only hope is that she can sell off her inventory at a fraction of what it cost her to develop.

Where did things go wrong?

There are many things that could have maybe turned the tides for Jane: she could have started with $250k instead of just $100. She could have had a large dose of luck and sold to a retail outlet that would be patient with her ability to scale, and would provide much-needed capital while was doing so. She could have had a YouTube video go viral and ride through the finish line of success on her trusty unicorn.

But none of those things happened. And even if they had happened, there’s still no guarantee it would have been enough.

Besides, unicorns aren’t all that trusty.

There is one thing that Jane could have done differently to minimize risk and to position herself for success and growth: she could have turned her product development phase into a marketing phase, instead.

Here’s the new process.

  1. Have a good idea. How do you know if your idea is good? Well, you should probably assume it’s not. In fact, write that idea down and never look at it again.
    But, if you can’t ignore it, ask yourself if it realistically could make money—like, can you sell it for 8 or 10 times what it costs you to make—and if the answer is no, then give the idea to somebody else. But if the answer is yes—or even a solid maybe—then proceed to the next step.
  2. Don’t get hung up on research. At a recent 3Things lecture, Bret Rasmussen, founder of Kuru running shoes, told attendees that your friends and family will lie to you when they say they would buy your product if you made it. They will lie, though it’s not intentional: Research suggests most people behave differently than they think they will—it’s called the intention-behavior gap.
  3. Craft the first iteration of your brand identity. Get a logo. Create a website Weebly, StoreEnvy, or Squarespace. It doesn’t matter. Just get something up as quickly as possible and spend your time figuring out the language of selling your product. Don’t get hung up on the design just yet. You’re testing the product feasibility, you’re visual brand identity doesn’t matter as much at this point.
  4. Buy attention. Instead of spending your money on prototypes, spend some money on ads for the product. See if anybody is even interested. Learn how to get traffic to your site. Sure, you don’t have actual product yet, but people can sign up to know when you have launched.  Which leads us to our next step:
  5. Pre-sell your product. Do a kickstarter campaign; create a pre-order page; try to find the early adopters. These will be your loyal customers. In step four, you figured out that the general market has interest in your idea. In this step, you’ll collect your initial band of early adopters. These people will pay to have your product first. They care about you. They will be your fans. In this step, you will start refining your brand identity because it will start to matter.
  6. Build product. Now that you have interested customers; Now that you have orders to fill; Now that you know how to find more customers and know what to say to them; Now you are ready to start building product.
  7. Stay small until you can’t stay small any longer. Get by with your first website until you are confident it’s costing you orders. Spend time understanding your customer and clarifying your own brand identity.
  8. Do everything else. Your business should now be making enough money to afford professional help. Now, when I say professional help, I’m not talking about a psychiatrist, though that might help, too, I’m talking about a group like, well, us. A group that will work with you to dial-in your brand identity. A group that will build the website site that will take you to the next level. A group that will develop the marketing materials you need in order to make the most of the opportunities facing you.

My advice? Just live simply; minimize your lifestyle; be happy with less; and keep the job you have. Remember what grandma used to say when you were a kid, “dreams are dangerous.”

But if you are determined to create a product and a company—to boldly step forward and brave the cold consumer winds of rejection while clinging to hopes of basking in the warm, glistening rays of glory—then the above steps may just be the way to start your journey on the right foot.

May the winds of progress be always with you—even if they’re full of hot air.

A Brief Typography Primer

April 8th, 2014 - by marissa - Salt Lake City, Utah


This month’s internal training was a crash course in the basics of typography. The history goes back several hundred years. Although Gutenberg is often called the “father of typography,” it was actually the Chinese that first started creating woodblock printings and wooden movable type as early as 1100 A.D. However, the simplicity of the Latin alphabet allowed printing presses to be created and used quickly and efficiently; whereas the Chinese language had thousands of characters, making the typesetting process much more complex and time-intensive.

Gutenberg’s first type blocks used a typeface called Black Letter, which resembled the handwriting in books and manuscripts at the time. Type slowly evolved to more legible letter forms, like Roman and Caslon. The first sans-serif typeset was developed in 1816 by William Caslon IV. Some of the most famous fonts, Futura and Helvetica, were created in 1927 and 1957, respectively.

Modern Typography

Letter forms have anatomy that typographers can refer to when describing them. Some examples include bowl, counter, stem, tittle, and leg. There are even more terms when it comes to digital typesetting processes, including leading, kerning, point size, line length, and tracking.

Few people outside of the typesetting industry understand the difference between typography and lettering. Typography is the style and arrangement or appearance of typeset matter, whereas lettering is the art of drawing letters.

Users also need to beware of free fonts! More often than not free fonts have poor quality, poor auto kerning, a limited glyph library and formatting issues. Often, if you’re looking for a font for your business or project, it’s going to be worth it to purchase a high-quality font.

Logos in Your Email Signature

July 1st, 2011 - by Brett Derricott - Salt Lake City, Utah

Last December I wrote a short post begging people to stop putting images in their email signatures. Commenters were pretty divided as to whether or not they agreed with my views.

To stir the pot a bit more, check out the proposed email rules by TED’s Chris Anderson who also urges you to avoid images in your signature (see #10 in his list). Does this help convince any of you who were previously against the idea?

Your Process Is Important, But It Isn’t Everything

June 22nd, 2011 - by Objective - Salt Lake City, Utah

We’re fans of processes. It’s nice to have a consistent, standard way of doing things. A tight process can increase efficiency, reduce misunderstandings, and result in more consistent quality. But sometimes we’re tempted to believe that the right process can make everything perfect so when something doesn’t seem to be going right, we’re quick to blame the process.

Here are a few scenarios which have lead us to review our process in the past:

  • A potential client says our proposal is too expensive. The result: we discuss ways to improve our process to help clients understand that an “e-commerce site like Amazon” can’t be built for a few thousand dollars.
  • After completing a project, a client asks for changes and complains about having to pay for them. The result: we review our process to find a way to help clients understand that change orders have fees.
  • A client takes months to deliver assets or content to us and then expects us to drop everything to resume work on their project. The result: we decide our process needs to set firmer controls on client responsibilities.

In these cases, and many more, we blame the process and then attempt to revise the process accordingly so that future projects won’t suffer the same issues. This isn’t inherently bad; this is a valuable, healthy method of refining the way that we work and of perfecting our service. The trouble, however, is when we fall into the trap of believing we can use process to prevent all problems.

Flawed Thinking

In reality, no process can ever account for every possible scenario.

Like us, you’ve probably seen 50-page legal documents which attempt to eliminate all risk for a transaction. Ask any attorney, however, and they’ll tell you that document is no guarantee. It may be a strong measure of protection, but it isn’t a guarantee no matter how long it is nor who created it.

Proposals, scope documents, or project contracts are no different. We’ve tried creating project documents so detailed that it seems impossible anyone could ever disagree as to the exact meaning. How did we fare? Not much better than on other projects where we spent less time trying to create a bulletproof agreement.

We’ve figured out why.

The Client is a Factor

Memorize this sentence: A good process will never fully compensate for a bad client.

It doesn’t matter how perfectly-crafted your process, a bad client will always find a loophole or cause a scenario you neither envisioned nor prepared for. To believe that the process is 100% responsible for a successful project outcome is to remove all responsibility from the client. A good process is critical, but the process can’t do it all.

With the right client, your process shouldn’t have to bear the full burden of guaranteeing the project will be problem free.


We’re by no means advocating that process is unimportant. It’s very important. The change we’re advocating is that the client be considered as part of the equation. Here’s how we’re currently working to improve in this area:

  1. Our process is always in need of refinement, and we’re committed to continue working on it.
  2. We believe that a good process will never fully compensate for a bad client.
  3. We’re working on methods for quickly recognizing which clients we want to work with and those that aren’t a fit for us.

What do you think? Do you rely on a bulletproof process or are you more focused on being selective about who you work with? We’d love to hear your thoughts, advice, or objections in the comments below!

Ditch the Logos in Your Email Signature. Please.

December 20th, 2010 - by Brett Derricott - Salt Lake City, Utah

It’s good to expose people to your brand as often as possible. I get that. But I don’t get why people think it’s OK to attach their logo to every email they send. How is this practice helpful? I think it’s annoying.

True, you can send an HTML email and just reference the logo’s URL so that it isn’t attached, but my overall point is that I don’t need to see your logo in every message you send. It’s probably fine to get crafty with an email message if you’re sending a note to your scrapbooking club, but this is the business world. A concise, text-only message is all I need.

I know how the decision gets made: I’ve heard plenty of conversations about how email is a form of communication and it should be rich and interactive and branded and yada yada. Some people are even including multiple images in their email signature, with links to Facebook, Twitter, etc. I’m sure the intention is good, but this is a practice that needs to stop.

Why? Email doesn’t need to be “jazzed up” in the business setting. I don’t need to see your logo every time you email me and I don’t need to see the Facebook icon in your email signature when a plain-text link would do just fine.

Worse still, in most cases images included in an email signature show up as attachments to the email message. This means I either think you’ve sent me an attachment that I need to review, only to find out it’s just your logo again, or that I have to search through the Facebook, Twitter, and company logos from your signature in order to find the one legitimate attachment that I’m supposed to look at.

Either way, I’m annoyed. And that’s probably not the brand interaction you’re hoping to have. Let’s get rid of the email signature logos.