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Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
April 13 2021
The alternative to better or worse

The alternative to better or worse

If we don’t measure our work in ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than the alternatives, then what?

Ours and yours.

The ability to make something uniquely ours that can become uniquely yours if it resonates with you, takes ‘better’ or ‘worse’ off the table entirely.

Pursuing ‘better’ means competing with what others are doing, so that they might become ‘worse’.

Pursuing ‘ours’ means doing things without permission or consideration of what alternatives are doing, in hope they’ll resonate enough with YOU for them to become ‘yours’.

Isn’t that more fun than ‘better’ or ‘worse’?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
April 12 2021
Ditch your pink couch

Ditch your pink couch

What is a pink couch?

Ugly, is what it is.

Many of us own a pink couch:

“I really like the way this looks, we should keep it”: You liking something doesn’t mean it’s good, only that you like it. If we’re building things to serve others, it needs to be good to those we serve, or they won’t engage.

“I want this feature adding, I think it’d be really useful”: You thinking it’s useful doesn’t make it useful, except to you. If we’re building functionality to be useful to others, they set the benchmark for what is useful.

“I want to use this marketing style, it’s really cool”: You think it’s cool doesn’t mean it’s cool, only that you think it is. When designing a message for our chosen audience, it’s them who determines what’s cool (and whether or not ‘cool’ is even part of the success criteria or not).

Don’t hold on to your pink couch. It’s ugly, remember?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
April 11 2021
2 Types of Innovation

2 Types of Innovation

Made any innovations lately?

When we hear “innovation”, we immediately start thinking about technical advancements and clever new things.

But oftentimes, the best innovations available to us are less shiny:

A fancy new phone system may be the future, or it may be an elaborate way to avoid calling people back yourself. The “innovation” is the shiny new system. Perhaps the innovation worth pursuing is the discipline of getting better at having great conversations with people on the phone.

An advanced new web platform may be great, or it may be full of bugs for the early-adopters to weed out. The “innovation” is new-fangled unproven tech. Perhaps the innovation worth pursuing is the reliability that comes from battle-tested tech coupled with battle-tested operating procedures.

If innovation means bringing meaningful advantage to market, that’s often at odds with the stereotypes of innovation.

Are you innovating, or are you “innovating”?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
April 10 2021
Show me the evidence

Show me the evidence

The evidence often isn’t there:

“Our customers will love this idea…” Interesting assertion you made there. Show me the evidence. Did they tell you they’ll love this idea, or are you telling them they will?

“We should build this new feature…” Cool feature. But who’s it for? Did your audience tell you it should be built, or did you just see it on your competitor’s website and think you need it too?

“I think the layout should include…” Nice idea, you designer you. But what makes you think so? Did your audience give any indication that it would help them use your product better? At all?

Whenever we have a great idea, the temptation is always to push it forward without even questioning whether or not our audience wants or needs to. Because they’ll surely love this one.

Show me the evidence. It could surprise both of us.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
April 09 2021
The Marketing Isnt About You blog

The Marketing Isnt About You blog

We just launched a second blog!

If you like the the marketing-themed cartoons and insights from this daily blog, you’ll love the new blog.

Each post unpacks a marketing principle or strategy in a long-form web comic format.

The insights will be designed to be useful and actionable. The delivery will be designed to be fun and easy to read.

It’s called Marketing Isn’t About You, just like the book I wrote a couple years back, and you can find it here:

Head over and subscribe to that blog too, I’m looking forward to sharing those posts with you!

(P.S. don’t worry, this daily blog isn’t going anywhere!)

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
April 08 2021
Momentum Traps

Momentum Traps

Momentum is what we all want from our work. The sense of progress, movement.

But there are traps.

Momentum opens doors, opportunities, distractions. We get to take them using the momentum we’ve created – any of them.

Saying ‘yes’ can cost us momentum if they’re ‘opportunities’ that take us off the path we’ve carved out.

Saying ‘no’ closes a door but maintains (or even builds) yet more momentum along the path we’ve chosen.

Build momentum and make progress.

Just watch out for the traps that come with it.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
April 07 2021
Company as a service

Company as a service

We think of our product or service as the thing we sell.

It’s not so for everyone else:

How (and if) you answer the phone matters.

How (and when) you email matters.

How (and to whom) you describe your product matters.

How you show up on video calls matters.

How you handle customer complaints matters.

The actor on stage at your show isn’t the product. The show is the product.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
April 06 2021
How is your trap set?

How is your trap set?

Ambition carries with it the risk of putting your happiness in the pockets of others.

That’s the trap.

If success depends on the reception your work receives, the trap has already been set.

Alternatively, ambition can simply be you, trying to beat your own high-score, at a game you still enjoy playing, where the rules aren’t determined by others.

If success depends on you being a better you, the trap has already been disabled.

What’s the state of your trap?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
April 05 2021
Half vs Half-Hearted

Half vs Half-Hearted

Your competition just did a thing.

How do you respond?

We could rush to adjust our work to match the new status quo, or pursue feature-parity with everybody else. If we’re lucky, we’ll come out equal to the rest, a workable and fine choice.

Or we could do nothing. Instead, we could simply continue making our work better, solving the problems we know our customers have, and carve our path in response to their needs.

There’s no shame in doing half the things another business does. You get to do them well, tailoring your work to your choice of market.

But the world doesn’t need another half-hearted attempt at doing everything everyone else is already doing.

Who do you build for: competitors, or buyers?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
April 04 2021
Best depends

Best depends

What does best mean to you?

Is a website with lots of animations and heavy JavaScript dependency best? Or is a website with really fast load times and comprehensive accessibility support best?

Is a collaboration that’s heated, fast-paced and full-on best? Or is a collaboration that’s calm, slow and asynchronous best?

Is an online product or service better when it comes with a native iOS app? Or is an online product or service better when it’s available on the open web?

When aiming for best, we need to remember that ‘best’ isn’t a universal goal.

Your version of ‘best’ and mine may differ. That’s totally fine.

Focus on what ‘best’ means for those you wish to serve.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
April 03 2021
Small messaging wins

Small messaging wins

“We cannot have a call at the time you requested. Choose another time.”

That’s how a machine might say it.

A negative, followed by a task to do.

“I’m working to help schedule that call as soon as possible for you! I have a call booked already at that time, but I’ve set aside Wednesday 9:00 am EST, if that works for you?”

That’s how a human might say it.

A positive, followed by a problem solved.

It’s a small difference that makes you a positive problem solver, rather than just the bearer of bad news.

Isn’t that better?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
April 02 2021
Putting customers through a meat grinder

Putting customers through a meat grinder

Do you use funnels in your marketing?

Funnels are to make sure you don’t spill something.

Like sausage meat, heading into a meat grinder.

People don’t enjoy being fed to meat grinders.

What people do enjoy, is a great show put on just for them.

Funnels: “Sign up for my thing. You’ll get some stuff designed to push you along to where I want you to go. It’ll be great (for me) if you do.”

Shows: “Come watch this show. You’ll get to see a great performance, we’ve got just the acts you love lined up ready to go. It’ll be great (for you) to come see.”

What if you decided to ease off on the funnels… and instead put on a show they’ll love and tell their friends about?

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
April 01 2021
Alternative to New

Alternative to New

When something new enters the market, a concern many folks share is whether or not it’ll become a sunk cost.

New is exciting.

“Next-gen. Revolutionised. Supercharged, building the future. Featured on ProductHunt.” Things we can’t rely on to be here tomorrow because they were built to be exciting, today.

What’s the alternative?

“Mature. Est’d 1987. Excel. Illustrator. Skype. Not featured on ProductHunt because it didn’t exist back when we launched.” Products that manage to do something useful, pay their own bills, and do the same tomorrow. Things we can rely on because they were build to be relied upon.

We can assure the market that our work may become a sunk cost by reminding them of how exciting it is, today.

Or we can assure them that we’re committed to it not being a sunk cost by reminding them of our commitment to showing up tomorrow.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
March 31 2021
Better Than Tracking

Better Than Tracking

Marketing must include tracking lots of data, right?

So you can make decisions based on that data?

Not necessarily.

Some things get tracked because marketers don’t like the answers they’re getting.

When sending an email marketing message, thank-you replies and swells in sales are usually deemed pipe-dreams. Open-rates and click-through rates are lousy alternatives to thank-yous and sales.

What if that email marketing campaign focused a little less on stalking, and a little more on making things people truly want?

When running a website, things like subscribes, phone calls and purchases are usually deemed pipe-dreams. Obsessive progression-point tracking can’t compare to making the phone (or the cash register) ring.

What if the website team focused a little less on stalking, and a little more on spending time with visitors to learn what they really want and need from that site?

Care and service blow tracking out of the water.

Track less, care more.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
March 30 2021
Solving the right problem

Solving the right problem

Are you solving problems or just moving the chairs around?

Moving the chairs around won’t fix your attendance problem. Get more people to show up, or get more chairs if they’re all full. Turning it into a layout problem solves the wrong problem.

Moving your e-commerce store from WooCommerce to Shopify won’t fix your messaging problem. The words on the page needs improving, with a design that expresses them.

Buying leads won’t fix your systems problem. Critical systems thinking needs introducing, with documentation that expresses them.

Nice pitch decks won’t fix your listening problem. The discipline of routinely listening to your audience needs introducing, so you can bend your work toward them.

There’s always a problem to solve. Keeping an eye on the real reason you’re doing what you’re doing keeps you focused on solving it, rather than just moving the chairs around.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
March 29 2021
Choose your middlemen

Choose your middlemen

Choose your middlemen, or choose none. It’s up to you.

We used to have to go through a huge publisher to get our books out into the world. Now all we need is a blog and an email list.

We used to have to pay through the nose to get into a major supermarket or television network to get our products into the world. Now all we need is a website and an email address.

We used to have to busk and beg to get out voice on camera. Now all we need is a smartphone or laptop and an Internet connection.

We can still leverage middlemen if we choose. But it’s a choice now. You have the power.

Choose to use some middlemen. Or choose total independence. What a time to be alive.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
March 28 2021
No Finds Another Way

No Finds Another Way

“No” often comes with a silver lining:

“This needs to be completed by tomorrow” creates new opportunities for process refinement when the answer is, “No, it can’t be completed by tomorrow.”

Now you get to find a way to create lead time, or possibly even question the need in the first place.

“We need to make a report on this” creates new opportunities for communication when the answer is, “No, we won’t be making a report on this.”

Now you get to find a way of communicating without a report, possibly even creating communication someone will actually want to engage with.

“We need more budget for this” creates new opportunities for products when the answer is, “No, we won’t be adding budget to this.”

Now you get to find a way to make better use of what we have, or get real about how important every single new feature really is.

There’s not a silver lining behind every no.

Just most of them.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
March 27 2021
Exceeding the Anxiety

Exceeding the Anxiety

If you have a great offer, but the anxiety of changing products is greater, will anyone take you up on it?

A world-class smartphone that’s different to the one you’ve bought every time for ages, needs more than features. It needs to break down anxiety.

A new website that’s sure to convert more customers that requires you to abandon your past attempts needs more than promises. It needs to break down anxiety.

Same goes for the offer you’re making. The one you thought everyone would love, but isn’t working quite how you’d hoped.

It might not be the offer itself. It might simply need to break down the anxiety associated with accepting it.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
March 26 2021
Calendar vs Flow

Calendar vs Flow

Apparently I have a thing about calendars.

We’ve talked about them a few times before on this blog… How calendars can lead growth… Scheduling bright ideas… Defending calendar empty space (twice)…

…and I’m bring them up again.

This time, we’re exploring: what if the goal was an emptier schedule, not a fuller one?

A day full of coloured blocks in your calendar looks productive, but ignores the flow of your energy and interests. No time for creative divergent thinking due to the pursuit of becoming a peak-productivity robot.

A day void of blocks gives space to be productive, by respecting the flow of your energy and interests. No time for being a robot when you’re busy producing great work while in your element.

A full calendar can be a place to hide. Too much to do, not enough time, changing plans feels irresponsible.

Whether you choose to do work that matters by using coloured blocks in a calendar, or you choose to do work that matters by keeping the calendar clear to optimise for flow, remember the reason for choosing either:

Doing work that matters.

Adam Fairhead Adam Fairhead
March 25 2021
Leaving your phone behind

Leaving your phone behind

Remember when you’d go for a walk pre-smartphone?

No music streaming. No social messaging. No push notifications. Just you and your thoughts.

A space in time to learn what you think. To chew on a problem. To explore an idea.

We don’t spend as much time with our own thoughts as we used to. Many of us can’t even go to the bathroom without a smartphone anymore.

We used to give important work more time and attention than we do now, because now we give the margins to Big Tech.

If it’s still important work we’re doing, how would it grow and develop if we were to simply give it back the attention we used to give it?

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