When it comes to giving marketing advice, I try to stay clear of phrases like, “you need to” and “you must.”
There are exceptions of course: like when something is backed by such strong evidence it would be irresponsible not to speak in absolute terms; and, when it comes to today’s topic: approaching marketing your business like a scientist. This you must do if you want results and don’t want to be overwhelmed in the process:
Form a hypothesis, test it, and then evaluate the results to inform your next moves.
Everybody has a lot of questions about how to reach their customers online. When we’re working solo especially, we would drive ourselves crazy if we tried to figure it all out without seeking advice from others — whether from consultants or coaches or from books, blogs, courses or podcasts.
Three types of advice it’s dangerous to take without critical questioning
1. This is what I know to be true (based on my experience)
I recently attended a workshop hosted by a consultant who charges $1,000 per hour for her time. Surely at that price, she knows what she’s doing, right? She was addressing designers and the changes they “need to” make in order to book more clients.
The problem was, she had a lot of misconceptions about design, the reasons why people purchase it, and the factors that go into choosing a designer. She told a story about how she hired a designer and based her advice on that. But she’s only one type of customer, and the advice she was giving will only work for certain designers but not all.
A lot of advice is based on experience, but everybody’s experience is limited in some way. If the advice is given without knowing the full context of your unique situation, this kind of advice can cause a lot of mental discomforts.
If it feels wrong for you, it’s usually best to trust your gut — it doesn’t matter that an “expert” told you otherwise. That said, remain open — sometimes our guts are wrong too. (What a mess, amirite?)
2. Here’s the formula that works (it worked for me, so it’s sure to work for you too)
This is probably the most common advice I read on blogs and see in online courses. The problem is, what works for one person may not work for another (results may vary).
It’s perhaps the most insidious form of advice because people who implement formulas and don’t see results often feel ashamed, frustrated and give up. When really, they just needed to find a solution that worked better for them and their particular circumstance.
3. I should be trusted because I’m an expert (even though I have no idea what I’m talking about)
People who experience a lot of success sometimes reach a point where they believe their instincts are so good, they should tell everybody else what they need to do whether they have experience and evidence or not. It’s usually delivered in a rigid manner that leaves little room for questioning. I run into this all. the. time.
The intention is good (they want to help), but there’s more than a little ego involved in the equation too. It feels good to tell others what to do because it confirms their “guruness” in their own minds. But do they really know? Or is it just an opinion disguised as fact?
Everything is a hypothesis
When you approach your marketing as if everything is a hypothesis, you’ll never become a victim of bad advice.
Not long ago, one of my smartest mentors offered some advice (see #3) and I chose not to take it. Instead, I decided to test the theory for myself — if I failed, score one for her. But I didn’t.
In fact, the tactic has worked so well for me that I’m now focusing a larger percentage of my attention on it, and the more I do, the better results I get.
Just because somebody’s an expert and tells you what to do, doesn’t mean you should do it. You are the “CEO of YOU” and you ultimately make the call.
Try things, give them your best effort, evaluate the results, and adjust and cull as necessary
There are so many approaches to online marketing, and sometimes it takes experimentation to find what’s really going to work for you. Learn by failing, learn by experience, learn by being critical and as objective as you can be (just because something fails doesn’t mean you’re a failure — just keep moving forward) … these are better teachers than any “guru.”
One of the reasons why things fail is because we give up on them too soon, or we cling too tightly to our assumptions that we don’t even consider that all that might be needed is a minor tweak for it to begin working for us.
“I tried this but it didn’t work.”
What are the possible reasons it didn’t work?Are you using the right strategy? Have you learned enough about it to do it effectively?Did you give it enough time? (Oh, they said you’d get MASSIVE RESULTS™ in 30 days? Come on now, you’re smarter than that.)
Remove your personal attachment to the outcome and send your ego on vacation (“I must suck, that has to be the reason, how embarrassing. Where’s the ice cream?” Get outta here with that nonsense!)
Be curious like a scientist. Investigate, form new hypotheses, tweak and keep going.
When you give a tactic your best effort and enough time but it’s still not working, then it’s time to re-assess. When you’re absolutely certain the experiment has failed, take what you’ve learned and move on to the next hypothesis. The key to avoiding overwhelm knowing when to get rid of what’s not working — this is the part most people forget even though they know all about that 80/20 rule — and focusing your attention on the things that are working.
Does this ring true for you? Have you fallen victim to bad advice? Have you chosen to experiment with something that ended up working for you despite conflicting advice?