Everybody Wants to Believe

Quod volimus credimus libenter. Four words that should be tattooed on the forehead of every online entrepreneur.

If your Latin is a mite rusty, the translation runs something like this. “We believe what we want to.”

And we do. It’s our nature. From the cradle to the grave.

Great price on that used car? Strange ticking sound from the engine? We believe the seller when he says it’s nothing because we want to.

A girl smiles in our direction over a dance floor? We believe she is interested because we want to.

And nowhere is the siren call of “Quod volimus credimus libenter” stronger than in the world of the dot-com start-up.

We’ll believe just about anything.

Here are my three favorite goofy assumptions, in no particular order.

1. “My visitors will see my web site the same way I do.”

Hmm, I said “in no particular order,” but this has to be the goofiest and most common way to persuade yourself that “If I believe it enough, it must surely be true.”

Whether you’re heading up a division in a global company with a mandate to get stuff online or you’re a “pure play” dot-com entrepreneur rid yourself of this horrible nonsense.

It doesn’t matter how often you say “But my department heads are all in agreement on this.” And please don’t say “I had 10 friends over for dinner, and they ALL loved it.” And please, please don’t say “But if I came to our site and saw this page the way it is now… ”

People with whom you have regular contact in your work and social life have almost no bearing on the needs and desires of your dot-com audience unless you’re marketing to your friends and colleagues.

Build your site to please your audience. Not to please yourself. And however hard you wish that one site will achieve both, it won’t.

2. “Our first-round check is in the mail.”

No it isn’t. Never count your investors’ money until it has cleared and is in your account.

Raising cash for your venture is a horribly tough and emotionally wrenching thing to do.

Nobody will blame you when you come back from that three-hour lunch and declare “It’s in the bag! They said yes!” Trouble is, it’s rarely so.

So do yourself a favor. However much you’d like to believe it, don’t. Not until the cash is in your hand.

3. “Our new viral program will ensure an exponential growth of visitors for the foreseeable future!”

No it won’t. But a lot of folks wish it would. Building your site is tough enough. Then you face the daunting task of actually driving enough traffic to make ends meet and one day make a profit.

So conversations in the meeting room run a little like this:

    “Hey, if I received this in my email, I’d send it on to 20 friends. Wouldn’t you Bob?”

    “Sure would, Chuck. Heck, maybe we should add more email address boxes to the referral page. I’d send 40!”

Who can blame them for their optimism? The thing is, their audience won’t see it the same way. Of course your core team thinks the site and viral offer are the best things since sliced bread. But to your visitors, you’re just one more web site with yet another offer.

This doesn’t mean your viral plan won’t work. It very well may. But you’ll have to keep working at it, stoking the fire. Promoting it. You know the drill work hard and spend some money.

So there you have my top three goofy assumptions.

To avoid making these assumptions, get a big brass plate engraved with “Quod volimus credimus libenter.”

And add one more word on a second line.


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