Show and Tell For Fun… and Profit

24 Sep

A version of this appeared on ClickZ.

For the next few minutes forget about opt-in policies, response rates or one-to-one marketing. Instead flash back to your childhood and recall the excitement of show-and-tell.

Remember scrambling around your room just before school trying to find something that would impress the teacher and not embarrass you in front of your friends? Yeah, most of the time it was something pretty lame.

Dig deep and recall the time you took in that dinosaur fossil or autographed rock-star picture that set off a buzz in the classroom. Showing off something cool is intoxicating.

So when is the last time you did it? When was the last time you plunged headlong into the Internet toy chest and found something truly amazing?

Here we are working in one of the most amazing environments ever created, surrounded by an expanding universe of ideas. Yet too many of us slogging away like this just another job.

Wake up! At this very moment the Internet is allowing me to:

  • Listen to the music collection of some complete stranger.
  • Track in real time, every satellite in orbit on an interactive 3-D map.
  • Watch sports scores scroll across my screen.
  • Carry on ICQ chats with three friends scattered around the country.

All right, so I like to multi-task. But the fact is that every one of those things are Internet features that I either stumbled across or a friend told me about.

It seems to me that we are too quick to look for established answers for our clients, or at best create variants of what’s already been done.

Instead we should spend at least part of our day letting the mental gears spin out of control, conjuring up ideas that seem so out in left field as to be ridiculous. Do it often enough and nothing will seem too far out to be reasonable.

I realize that most of my clients have no need to track satellites in orbit, or supply sports scores to mouse-potatoes. But I want them to know that it is possible. And if that’s possible, what else might seize the customer’s attention?

Our clients deserve sites and features that make people grab the first person they see and drag them over to see this amazing thing. Our colleagues deserve the rush that comes from creating something worth boasting about.

One of the best ideas I’ve ever stolen was a weekly brainstorming session aimed at tapping all the expertise of the staff. Late on Friday, when little work is getting done anyway, start a casual discussion focused on one topic: Neat things I saw, heard or found.

Try it. You’ll be amazed how quickly people distill seemingly wild ideas down to strategies that can be used for existing projects.

Add a little beer, some pizza and you’ve got a distinctly Internet concept. I guarantee someone will come to show and tell with something really cool.