Joe Hart recently published a great piece about saving live comedy on Medium. My favorite part directly relates to running a successful business:
There is a belief most people hold which is that comedy writing is a simple process. A comedian has an idea, scribbles it down on a piece of paper and then performs it in a room and everyone laughs. That great pieces of comedy like Eddie Izzard’s Cake or Death sketch were just written and suddenly became funny. This is a lie.
…But really when you watch a comedians set on Live At The Apollo or see their latest show what you’re witnessing is the final form of an evolved piece of material that is probably nothing like the original scribblings in their notebook.
To be able to evolve their material comedians need you. Audience. Since, more so than almost any other performance, comedy is a dialogue. I do not explicitly mean “banter” with the front row, but the simple rhythm of joke-laugh-pause-continue that a comedian practices at these gigs.
Only by gigging around their material and tweaking it and moulding it does material become truly hilarious. The fat is trimmed and the structures within the bit reinforced.
Wow! There’s a lot here that I love and that applies directly to how you can overcome some of the fears stopping your business from improving. I’ll do my best to break it down a bit.
No One Cares About Your Process
Something I’m a little self-conscious about is “growing in public” — that is, gradually changing my writing style or website layout or marketing strategies. A little voice in my head is worried someone will notice what I’m doing differently and call me out.
“Hey! You changed the font you use for widget headings!”
“Hey! Your email template is different!”
“Hey! I see you testing different variations of your landing page copy!”
Ultimately, what I think I’m afraid that little voice will say is…
“Hey! You’re trying to do something different, and that’s not okay!”
I sometimes fall into the trap of worrying what potential clients or customers will think if they catch me refining my process. (Maybe that’s leftover trauma from attending middle school in LA, where even the slightest change in how you dress can lead to ridicule.)
But it’s not just me who’s worried “someone will notice.” Many of my clients second-guess the changes their conversion rate specialists or designers want to make to their marketing efforts. I once heard the boss of a million-dollar company say, “We don’t want to test any differences on our home page because we don’t want customers to go, ‘Wait, what was that?'”
Translation: “We don’t want customers to see our process and think we’re somehow human!”
The fact is, you are human, and your business reflects that humanity. Instead of fighting it, embrace it. We live in an age of transparency due to social media and email leaks, so your customers are conditioned to respond positively to seeing the human side of your work.
No one will care if they can see you working out the best way to deliver goodness to your customers.
We Can’t See the Process of Others
The legendary story of Beach Body’s P90x product is a great example of how constantly tweaking and refining gives the path to success.
The short version is that the wildly successful information you see blared on late night television is the result of millions of dollars in testing. The first version of this infomercial bombed. So did the second and third. But somewhere down the line (and millions of dollars later), Beach Body hit it. They finally discovered the version of their infomercial that exploded their sales.
But do you know this when you’re watching their infomercial while flipping channels? Nope. You’re only watching the latest variation (and likely getting entranced at how good they are at delivering their message).
Successful product marketing often looks much easier than it really is. That’s because we only see the newest (and probably best) version.
What we don’t see is the process every single marketer has to go through: conception, mockups, testing, revisions, more testing, more revision, etc…
No one is such a genius he or she doesn’t need to follow this process.
Don’t let your vanity get the best of you and feel you’re somehow the exception.
If you’re reading this, though, I’m guessing you don’t feel you’re above that. You’re likely smart enough to embrace the subtle changes that gradually draw you closer to success. Right?
Have a nice weekend.
PS: That million dollar business I mentioned earlier? The one whose owner didn’t want to test because he didn’t want his customers to see his business openly trying to improve? It’s lost quite a bit of value and is no longer a million dollar business.