In your business, you are decisive, busy, and don’t have time to screw around with people who can’t get things done properly. You are probably managing a team, keen to see the business grow, and know that the business’s growth may or may not help you to retire early. You also know what content you like and dislike — which may stretch to a horror of email newsletters, or a reservation about promoting your content.
If you’re smiling at this description, read on. I’m going to paint a picture for you, teach you a lesson, and then give you something to do.
First, some scenarios. Spot the common factor:
Imagine this. You’re talking to the person who works with you on your business development and digital marketing. You both get along super well, so your conversation is fairly intimate. You’re talking about how to build a community, get buy‐in, and ultimately sell more of what you offer.
Your content advisor suggests that it would be a good idea to use the power of email. That you could stop doing blanket emails, and run targeted publications, the kind that educate, empower, and enable.
‘Mate, I really effing hate email. Nobody likes email. I think we should run webinars instead.‘
In another scenario, you are having a similar conversation. This time, the focus is on crappy leads. Your content advisor suggests that building a focused, qualifying funnel, complete with lead magnets and value, might be a way to stop people ‘skating off’ your website while also capturing just the people you want.
‘Yeah, maybe. But you know what? I never read what people write. I just don’t have time. I don’t think people do anymore. They just want the cliff‐notes, the summary. Right? Who’s got time to read stuff?‘
Did you spot the commonality?
If you suggested the push‐back, well technically you are correct! But you’re only halfway there. It’s much more subtle than this.
The commonality is actually in the business person making a decision based on personal preference.
Poor decision‐making is everywhere in business
As Thomas Redman pointed out in this Harvard Business Review article, we are often perpetrators of rigged or poor decisions, even without realising it. It’s a really subtle effect. It tends to be a justification based on our own experiences, ego, ideology, or fear, or because we consult like‐minded people. It’s also manifest in situations when you use data to justify your decision, or when you take credit for the good stuff and assign blame for the bad stuff.
Redman goes on to remind us that decision‐making is hard work. That it is always hard work, and should be — because it requires us to assemble facts before we do anything else!
Redman recommends asking a series of questions. They are:
“Should someone else who has time to assemble a complete picture make this decision?”
“Do I really have a broad enough perspective to make and defend this decision?”
While we know that we probably should make decisions based on data, some surveys tell us that 58% of businesses rely on intuition or gut‐feel to make a decision.
There are a range of tools available that you can use to make decisions. Though, in our experience here at Brutal Pixie, people are so rushed, so pushed for an outcome, that they tend to rely on their own preferences when it comes to the decisions that they make.
When should you rely on intuition? Isn’t it also valid?
The answer depends on who you read.
Simon Bailey, at Business Journals suggests that both rational decisions and intuitive decisions are valid — but that you ought to validate your hunch before you take any action.
Dr Connson Chou Locke suggests in this article that the ideal situation is to use both, too. However, she also acknowledges that there are situations in which intuition should be avoided at all costs. Those are the times in which you have clear decision‐making rules, objective criteria, and abundant data.
Notice that intuition is not the same thing as using your personal preferences.
Your personal preferences are not the same as intuition
When you use your personal preferences on which to base a decision that impacts the content you produce, you are not using your intuition. You are using bias. And bias tends to lead to a rigged decision.
Here’s the difference, in an illustration:
Your niece tells you that she’d appreciate it if you sent her a pair of 4‐inch, hot pink, sparkly shoes for Christmas. But when you go shopping, you look at the shoes and think of the pain in your back, the fact that you have nothing to wear with it, and how far you (can’t) walk in them. You might even try to think of other people you’ve seen wearing them, but, failing to do so, decide that actually nobody wears shoes like this. So instead, you buy her a book.
Walking out of the store, you get a sudden feeling that you should stop walking and look up. And it’s a good thing you did, because there was a teenager barrelling towards you on a bike who would certainly have slammed into you if you hadn’t stopped.
The first is bias. The second is intuition.
How to stop yourself making biased decisions about what and why to produce any type of content
If you find yourself making biased decisions about your content, or content‐related activities, there is one sure‐fire way to stop yourself.
It’s to create a decision‐making framework.
Your framework doesn’t have to be complicated. It can simply remind you to get enough information before you make a decision about spending time and money on a thing.
- Do we know what burning questions our customers have?
- Do we know what devices they use?
- What have we done in the past that has been valuable?
- If we’re thinking about emails, have we ever asked our customers what they’d appreciate?
- What does our sales/marketing/analytics/feedback data tell us?
- Could we run a pilot to test some things before making a final decision?
It’s a good idea to keep your decision‐making framework handy whenever you are faced with a decision.
If you are also the one analysing data in your business, keep a running tally of what works and what doesn’t work. Make sure your marketing, business development, and content people (internal or external) have access to the same information, and make it part of your regular meetings to discuss it, so that you gain the benefit of multiple minds thinking about the same questions.
Know that if you don’t have data, you can get data
The simplest way is to run split tests, trials, or pilots. If you don’t have data, don’t assume that it’s ok for you to fly with your own personal (biased) ideas: You will likely sink and then not know why.
Better is to set up a whole lot of tests. You can split test things. You can set up a trial or pilot based on your assumptions, and try to prove them.
A good example here at Brutal Pixie is our Sunday Letter. We began sending it to people way back in 2014. When it began, it was a wildly different format from what it is now. We tested its inclusions, we have gotten informal and formal feedback. We tested a whole lot of different times, on every single day of the week. It felt like it took forever — but it’s been consistent now for a couple of years. Our most recent feedback demonstrated that we’ve pretty well got it right — and that was only a few weeks ago. Our outcome is that we now know what content works, what format works, what people enjoy. We also know to the minute the most effective time on which day to send it.
And we still test it, still ask for feedback.
Everything that you do is ultimately for your customers. Even your sales is ultimately for your customers — because that’s what your prospects become! Reach out to them and ask them to help you improve the service that you give to them.
What you are going to do right now
Since you’ve read right to the end of this article, I want you to send me an email with your content‐related, decision‐making commitment.
What I want you to tell me is:
- all of the steps you are going to take to help you move away from poor decision‐making
- the date on which you commit to doing so
- when your framework will be in place
In return, I promise to reply to you. I’ll help you to stay accountable, now and down the track. And I’ll nudge you to track the outcome.
Are you with me? Email your decision‐making commitment now.