Is Your Bang Too Big?

I moved to Boston in 1982.

It’s not a huge city and the subway (or “T” as we like to call it) only has five lines. And so it didn’t take me long to get comfortable and find my way around.

That all changed abruptly in 1986.

Because in the spring of that year, I bought my first car (a 1970, orange, Toyota hatchback).

Suddenly, instead of hopping on and off the train and walking the rest of the way to wherever I was headed, I started driving places. That was a problem.

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And not just because the drivers here view traffic laws as well-meaning suggestions (although that certainly didn’t help).

No, my problem was navigation.

Unlike many cities that are laid out in some type of intelligent grid system, Boston was laid out by (I’m guessing) drunken farm animals with a freakish enthusiasm for one-way streets.

It was frustrating.

I remember one incident in which my date and I were attempting to drive to a particular restaurant. We could see the building – but we couldn’t get there.

We went back and forth through the city, sometimes getting closer, but then suddenly we’d be far away again. Once we even got caught in the traffic flow and ended up on the wrong side of the river in Cambridge.

Finally, after about an hour of driving and with the restaurant again in sight, I pushed her out of the car at a traffic light and told her to let me know how dinner turned out. (Yes, if you must know, that was our last date.)

But then I had a brilliant idea. Over the next few weeks, I went out several times at three in the morning and drove around the city. No traffic, no pedestrians, no hungry companions.

It was the same city with the same streets, of course. But with nobody else out there, I could take my time, back track when necessary, and make plenty of mistakes – all with little consequence.

Thirty-plus years later, I apply this same, “Learn Important Stuff When Few People Are Watching,” approach to the way I market my business.

In other words, rather than going for the big bang with the launch of a web site, newsletter, blog, podcast or whatever, I don’t go for a bang at all.

Instead, I tell just a few people and see how it works. Then I tell some more people. On and on it goes, with whatever it is I’m working on getting tested, tweaked and improved with the input of lots and lots of people.

By the time I do finally make the big announcement, I’m on version 5.0 instead of 1.0.

Here’s the bottom line. Make your mistakes “at night” when nobody cares and few people are paying attention. You’ll end up releasing something way better and with a lot less pressure to make the right turn, at the right intersection, at the right time.

Discussion questions:

  1. What’s your approach to launching something new? Big bang or something else?
  1. What was the first vehicle you ever owned?
  1. Did you ever push anybody out of it? Explain.

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11 thoughts on “Is Your Bang Too Big?

  1. Betsy Harper

    1) Agree with your “No Big Bang Theory” and can’t believe you missed that opportunity for such a pithy subject title.

    2) A 1970 Peugeot 303 – orange with tan leather interior. I knew French was chic – even then – but had no idea that in true French fashion, it was constantly breaking down.

    3) My first husband.

  2. Charles Alexander

    1. Anytime I create a new style of video I will run it by my creative friends (web designers, videographers, graphic designers) and let them tear it apart, i.e. they tell me to change the font, speed the pace, use a different graphic, etc. After they “like” it, I know my busy professionals (CPAs and bankers) will “love” it.

    2. I was the youngest of 5, so I ended up with a 1970ish, OldsmoBuickThing. It was primarily lime green and 4 other colors, one of which was rust, and had been totaled 2 times. It did have a working 8-track player though.

    3. I had to beg people to stay in the OldsmoBuickThing. Although, I did threaten to leave my 6 year old on the side of the road, just last night.

  3. Becky Berry

    I liked this idea when you talked about in one of our calls. I tried it when I launched my site – it was great.

    1. I have used the buckshot approach – crazy and tricky to recover from. Now I use the timed release approach – always keeping in mind that the worst my site, newsletter, or whatever else I’m doing will look is the first time I send it out!!

    2. What was the first vehicle you ever owned? Brand new, 1982 Ford Escort, manual transmission.

    3. Did you ever push anybody out of it? Explain. Nope, but I wrecked it the 2nd week I owned it. Of course, that’s not to say that I didn’t consider pushing anyone out (or under) it….

    BTW, Now I know why I enjoy your work so much, Michael. You and my dad have the same birthday. He was 80, I’m guessing you were more like 35. 🙂 Becky Berry aka Mary Berry

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hello Becky Berry! Yes, I am more like 35 than 80 (barely, I had to do the math to be sure).

      Glad the slow launch has worked well for you too!

  4. Diane

    So just when I am about to share my new web site with my multi-million-person customer database…you stop me. DARN. Seriously, I always like to send it to a few close friends whose opinions matter. Then edit some more.

    Puke (I think they call it PUCE) green VW Rabbit with black and white herringbone cloth seats. No radio and my parent sold it to me for the market price of $3000 in 1980!!! MY dad still feels bad he ripped me off…but it was about the teachable lesson in those days.

    Never pushed anyone out of it, but was ever so happy to trade in years later on a MAZDA GLC I picked out at the Boston auto show. it was a great little car!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Great stuff, Diane. It seems cars came in many more colors back in the day (I wonder why)? Today it seems it’s black, white, grey and silver with an occasional notable exception. What will our kids tell their kids if they can’t describe the hideous colors they had?!

  5. Sunni

    Drunken farm animals! LOL

    The one time I went to Boston I walked and took the subway, so I didn’t notice all the one-way streets as much.

    My launch is the same as years… something small and “at night.” I’m always humbled by how many things just one or two other people can tell needs improving. Sure don’t need hundreds or thousands of people to see all those soft spots and blotches all at once.

    Btw, do you still have the orange Toyota hatchback? That’d be epic, dude. (What your son might say lol.)


    1. Michael Katz Post author

      The best thing about living in Boston is that when you travel to any other US city, it’s unbelievably easy to find your way and drive places!

      The Toyota hatchback is long gone (once the gas tank started leaking I took that as a sign to get out!).

      1. Sunni

        Yikes, a leaking a gas tank? Good thing you noticed it and let the car go.

        Great outlook on Boston. That’s how I felt about India every time I’ve been there. Soooooo confusing to find anything. That’s probably one reason so many people take taxis or hire drivers there. 🙂


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