From the Shop: Funnels, Burritos, and Poor Business decisions

Chapter 19 of Seth Godin’s excellent new book, “This Is Marketing” is titled, “The Funnel.”  He explains it this way:

“Visualize a funnel, one with a bunch of leaks and holes in it.

At the top of the funnel, you pour attention.

At the bottom of the funnel, committed loyal customers come out.

Between the top and the bottom, most people leak out.”

I’ve now experienced this first hand, and can quantify it.  The Facebook post for first blog post I did about the Mosquito Burrito reached 5,600 people.  The actual blog post has been viewed 567 times.  The Facebook post for the the product page for the boat with ordering info was seen by 8,600 people.  Wow.  A huge thanks to everyone who liked, shared, or commented.  That’s a lot of attention going into the top of the funnel.  The page itself has been viewed 1,357 times.  People are interested, or at least curious.  Seems like a slam-dunk.

So what came out of the bottom of the funnel?  The “crowdfunding” deadline is tomorrow, but what I’ve gotten so far is nine orders for boats, and four orders for T-shirts from people who thought it was an interesting enough idea to support it.  That puts me roughly half way to breaking even on the cost of the mold and production of the first batch (not including my time or overhead).  That… That’s a pretty leaky funnel.  That…That’s kind of a kick in the balls.  It’s exactly where I didn’t want to be with this.  Best case scenario would have been enough pre-orders that I knew I was going to make a little bit of money.  Second best would be really close to breaking even.  Or if I’d gotten two orders, it would be easy to say “sorry, it’s not going to happen.”

But here I am, stuck the middle with you.  And that’s just it.  Thinking about trying to crowdfund this, I realized I need to be part of the crowd too.  If this is something I truly believe should exist, what length or cost or risk or effort am I willing to put into it?  That’s a tough question.  If I truly believe it should exist, is it going to be easier or more cost effective if I put if off until later?  That’s an easier question.  It’s not.  Will I ever break even on this?  Probably eventually, but who knows?

And so it comes down to the head vs. the heart.  Looking at the numbers, it makes no sense to make this boat for 9 people to buy it, or really even twice as many.  I can tell myself stories about more people wanting to buy one once the project moves forward or once the boat actually exists, but I’m not sure I believe those stories.  On the other hand, I really want to make this boat.  It IS something I believe should exist.  That’s a powerful instinct, and for better or worse, it’s gotten me this far.

I’ve decided to follow my heart on this one and move ahead with the Mosquito Burrito.  It’s a pretty terrible business decision, but as I’ve said before, if I wanted to ‘run a business,’ I wouldn’t have started a canoe company.  The preorders thus far have more than covered the initial deposit for the mold, so I’m going to go ahead and get the ball rolling on that.  I’ll still need more orders to cover the balance on the mold, shipping, set up costs, etc, so I’m going to leave the pre order pricing and supporter t-shirts up for order until the end of January.  I’m excited, optimistic, nervous, realistic to see how this goes.