Why the bicycle was (almost) never invented

Last week I was relaxing in Bad Godesberg, Germany, on the banks of the beautiful Rhine river. Recharging before a week of non-stop consulting for a European publishing house.

In the park next to my hotel, I see a toddler circling a fountain on a push bike. No pedals, no training wheels, just two feet alternating on the ground to keep vehicle and child upright and safe. (Something like the photo below, which I grabbed off a site selling the Skuut brand of push bikes.)

Which reminds me about…

The strange history of the bicycle

Da Vinci or a student of his may have sketched one some time in the 15th century. But like his famous flying machine, the bicycle never got off the ground either.

Fast forward four centuries, to 1816, the famous Year without a Summer, when crops were destroyed by really freaky weather. Like snow and ice in Pennsylvania in July and August.

In Europe, crop failures led to starvation and social unrest. One of the most egregious effects was the decimation of the horse population. There simply wasn’t enough oats to keep them alive and healthy.

German inventor Karl Drais put his mind to work to develop a horseless form of transportation. On June 12, 1817, he amazed the public by riding his Laufmaschine ("running machine") from Mannheim to Rheinau, a 118km trip along the banks of the Rhine.

Now, 118 kilometers (75 miles) is a decent afternoon’s ride on my Bianchi hybrid road bike. But imagine going that far on what’s essentially a seated muscle-powered scooter – a two-wheeler with no gears and no pedals – just two feet alternating on the ground to keep the good Herr Professor upright, safe, and motoring.

Why No Pedals?

The really interesting thing about the bicycle’s evolution was how long it took for someone to act on Da Vinci’s inspiration and stick a couple of pedals on the darn thing. I mean, it seems pretty bloody obvious to me that the thing would go faster, with less effort, if you used pedals and a chain. This technology had been around in mills for thousands of years. What was the limiting factor?

The problem, as it turns out, is that no one could conceive of a rider being able to keep their balance without constantly touching down with a foot on one side or the other. Why add pedals when the feet were needing for balance?

It was only after that particular limited belief was challenged that the modern bicycle could appear – and now small children can learn to stay upright in an afternoon (provided some loving adult is willing to sacrifice their spinal integrity to help).

What Does This Have to Do With Online Marketing?

Nothing, really. I’m just trying to justify a tax write-off for a new bike.

No, silly IRS auditor. That was just a little joke. Not serious at all.

What Does This Have to Do With Online Marketing? Be Serious This Time

OK. Fine.

Inherent in your business (and mine, and everyone’s) are beliefs that limit what we think is possible, based on what’s going on now.

If you’re getting 20 leads a week from AdWords, it’s hard to imagine what 200 leads a week would look like. From your current perspective, it will probably look just like 20, except 10 times more.

But when volume and velocity and quality of traffic increase, lots of things change. Big time.

You can get much pickier about the leads you accept as clients.

You can create hurdles to prescreen and prequalify, and to give you the power and authority in the relationship.

You can create waiting lists to generate the perception of great demand.

You can raise your prices.

You can build your business and hire help, so you get to focus exclusively on the stuff you love and are good at, instead of having to do it all yourself.

You can refer business to your competitors and become the go-to guy or gal for your industry.

If you sell products, you can start to source them at a cheaper rate.

You can negotiate deals with your suppliers.

You can cut out middle men and go straight to the manufacturers.

You can increase your profit margins.

In all cases, you end up making more money while expending less of your life energy (time and emotional angst) to get it.

It All Starts With Traffic

When you understand your market, and what keywords they search for, and what they want when they’re searching, and how to engage them in your ads and landing pages – you start a process that can end with you being the biggest player in your market.

No traffic, no sales.

No traffic, nothing to test and improve.

No traffic, no conversations with customers and no feedback on how to build a better business.

Is Your Business a Stationary Bicycle?

Without enough velocity, any business can feel like a stationary bike. Lots of hard work – good for the soul, right? – but not much movement.

And if you’re a cyclist, you know that you simply can’t describe the exhilaration of a fast downhill on a cool morning, after cranking up the hill via switchbacks and granny gears, to someone who just goes to the gym and pedals a stationary bike for 45 minutes while watching CNN or listening to Lil Wayne on their iPod.

Two completely different universes.

Are you ready for that downhill?

Traffic Surge Starts Tomorrow

Tomorrow, Wednesday 20 May, 2009, is the first day of the long-awaited Traffic Surge telecourse.

Due to my inability to interpret a calendar, the course is not filled. Instead of putting out the required number of promotions in the right time frame, I was busy consulting in Germany (and now I’m up at 4am in NYC, writing this before attending and speaking at a Media Relations Conference all day).

So I just put out a free webinar loaded with great content (watch the replay here), sent one email, and golly gee – it wasn’t enough.

So I can’t say, "Hurry, there’s only one seat left." Actually, there are more like 6 seats left. I can’t use that "extreme scarcity" technique to get you to sign up. (I could lie, I guess, but you’d see right through me. I have no poker face.)

So here’s the real scarcity pitch: the bleepin’ course starts tomorrow! It’s deeper than I’ve ever gone into the mind of the market.

How to combine the insight of an anthropologist with the high-tech savvy of an online marketer.

How to find out – quickly and for free – how big and hungry the market is before committing resources.

How to write ads and craft landing pages that scratch the big itch – and make you the most desirable path to action for your prospects.

So hurry, there’s only ONE SEAT DAY LEFT.

Find out all about Traffic Surge – I’ll bet it’s less expensive than you’re assuming.

Hope you’ll join me for that ride. It feels better than most people can imagine.

Wishing you health, happiness, prosperity, and the wind in your hair,

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Be Sociable, Share!
4 Comments. Leave a comment or send a Trackback.
  1. #1 • David Nader said on May 19 2009:


    Just a friendly reminder and a shout out to all the other cycling geeks like me who spend WAY too much time “spinning their wheels” on the trainer… how a stationary spinning session is better than NO exercise on a cold, rainy day. But you are right…we much prefer the feeling of moving forward under our own power, preferably with a tail wind (now there’s a good metaphor for your online marketing advice!).

    Great article and good info on how to pick up more traffic.


  2. #2 • Samuel said on May 19 2009:

    That’s a great piece of content. Indeed it’s true that we not only need to get MORE traffic, we need to use it to further improve our sales process.

    Thank you for reminding us to continue having conversations with customers and getting feedback on how to build a better business.

  3. #3 • David said on May 19 2009:

    I was on the Traffic Surge call on the 6th, but didn’t think I could come up with the money for the course. I’ve since managed to dig it up and am signing up today. I’m wondering if the Checkmate incentive that you offered might still be available. It would sure help…
    Dave Brown

  4. #4 • Gemma Laming said on July 1 2011:

    My ex went to Switzerland on his bike along with my son who was at the time, late teen-age. Living in England, Switzerland is quite a way away and they had only got two weeks for the entire tour.

    They phoned three days later I asked them if they were in France they replied no. “What happened, did you break down or miss the boat?” “We’re in Switzerland”

    Well, that ‘s boys for you!