Potential is the enemy of likely

Everything has potential. I have the potential to run a marathon this month, even though it’s been four years since I completed my last one. The Colts have the potential to win the next Super Bowl, even though they only won two games last year. If you’re under 40, there’s potential that Social Security will fund your retirement, even though it’s running out of money faster than Snooki in the Hawaiian Tropic aisle.

The truth is, acting as if those things are likely, and not just potential, can lead to some counterproductive behavior. Trying to run 13 miles instead of starting with something more reasonable. Betting huge money on the Colts instead of making an occasional, well-timed, friendly wager. Banking on Social Security instead of saving for retirement.

The same applies to social media. Does Pinterest have the potential to help market Viagra to men over 50 even though Pinterest’s wheelhouse is women 25-44? Potential, yes; likely, no. Does your widget manufacturing company have the potential to sell widgets on Facebook, even though the predominant mindset on Facebook is play, not work? Potential, yes; likely, no. Does a retailer have the potential to connect with his end-user customer on LinkedIn even though LinkedIn is much better suited to help them build relationships with suppliers, co-workers, and business partners? Potential, yes; likely, no.

Even if you only focus on what’s likely, you already have enough to do. Chasing down potential will divert your attention, waste resources, and almost assuredly lead nowhere.

Potential is the enemy of likely because it leads you to believe that all potential is created equal. Focus on likely, and let others be the guinea pigs for potential.

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3 Responses to Potential is the enemy of likely

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. We all have limited time. Pick what is LIKELY to work FIRST. In other words, don’t do Facebook marketing if you don’t have a decent web site. Do that first. We know web sites work pretty much for all businesses.

  2. Anthony, this post is brilliant. We fall into this trap because the barrier to entry in social media has no cash cost. If it cost $125 a month for Facebook, and $75 a month for Twitter, and $35 a month for Pintrist, we’d make more rational decisions. Because it’s “free” to explore the “potential,” we negate the cost of our time, energy and the “opportunity cost.” And so companies may squander many many thousands, because the cost is in terms of salaries — and not itemized separately in the budget.

  3. ajjuliano says:

    Steve, you hit the nail on the head. We don’t value our time as much as we should. The truth is, it’s much, much easier to make up lost money than it is to make up lost time.

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