Zero percent of a million is still zero

Here’s is a painful but relevant story on the effect of the Internet and it’s ability to reach the masses:

A friend of mine was asked by a musician to help him do a huge mail-out of CDs.

The musician had pressed up 10,000 copies of his CD in anticipation of 10,000 orders that were sure to come through that week.

He had bought a quarter-page advertisement in the back of a magazine with a circulation of one million people.

He kept saying, “If only one percent of the people reading this magazine buy my CD… that’ll be 10,000 copies! And that’s only one percent!”

He bought 10,000 padded mailers and mailing labels. He converted his garage into a big mailing center.

He kept saying, “Maybe we can get like 10 percent! That’s 100,000! But worst case scenario, if only 1 percent… that’s still awesome!”

The magazine issue came out, and… nothing. He bought an issue. There was his ad. But the orders were not coming in! Was something wrong? No. He tested it. Everything was working.

Over the next few weeks he received four orders. Total CDs sold: 4.

My friend telling the story ends it with the best line:

“He forgot there was a number lower than one percent.”

I think of this every time I hear business plans that say, “With over 30 million iPhones sold, our app is sure to…”

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