The Difficult Second Album

Lets say you’ve decided to make money selling t-shirts online and built a store using Teemill, with some success. How do you take it to the next level?

Ever heard of “the difficult second album?” It’s an idiom about the difficulty we have in finding a way to produce successful creative content, time after time. Thing is, it’s really quite simple. A good understanding of your goals and applying the constant improvement process will make this stuff a breeze.

So first, what’s your goal?

Too often folks can’t answer this well enough. “Well, to make money of course!” – when actually, you might be more interested in growing the brand and reach at first, and not so bothered about profits. The two have different outcomes: If you want money today, go sell some stuff on eBay. If you want to grow reach, get on social media and hammer out some comms.

Clarification of goals is the fastest way to find the right action to take.

Once we’ve clarified our goals, for example, to increase the number of tees we sell, we need to find the right metric. Simple: It’s not money, it’s volume of tees sold. Now we can make a plan.

Constant Improvement Process

Enter our ethos, the constant improvement process. The constant improvement process is a way of thinking that helps growing businesses facilitate the change they need to get to where they want to be – in other words, a framework for your goals.



Planning is where you set out your goals, and devise plan to achieve them. Be calm when planning – your strategy could be any plan, even a bad one. Just write it down.

  • Plan: Increase sales of t-shirts by eating more salami.


This rule is important. When you do it, you do it. No half measures, no slacking. You go at it like Obi Wan vs. Anakin. Stop after an agreed time, i.e. a week or month.

  • Do: Eat as much Salami as possible in that time frame.


This is not a finger in the air, see how we feel thing. Teemill is equipped with a quality suite of lightweight, powerful analytics tools – use them. Measuring is about numbers – and normalisation, ie. percentages and fractions. “I sold 1000 t-shirts this week” may be great news to a startup but failure to an enterprise: A 50% increase in sales is universal.

  • Measured: Sales dropped by 1%


If you’re working alone, take time to read and think about your report, and challenge assumptions. If you’re in a team, have a quality meeting – it doesn’t matter where, although we find it’s best to go someplace without distractions.

  • Report: Salami does not affect t-shirt sales.


Repeat: Make sure you go straight into your planning phase….

  • Plan: Stop eating so much Salami, it didn’t work. Start posting some marketing communications each day.
  • Do: Post an amazing quality story each day, every day, no matter what.
  • Measure: Sales increased by 10%
  • Report: Posting online increases sales.
  • Plan: Increase posts, and design a new product to keep story fresh.

… Continue all the way to success

So that’s it?

Yes. This is pretty much the engine of most great companies, and is perhaps one way of explaining what people mean when they say “success is not a destination, it’s a state of mind”. Enough of the cheesy stuff. You really should be starting out on your first planning phase. After all, the number of times you repeat this process is linked to how fast you will reach your goals.

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