It’s easy to panic and imagine the worst-case scenarios for any project we embark on. And it’s just as easy to fantasize about the very best outcomes.
But it’s a little more difficult, yet profoundly more important, to analyze the most likely best and worst cases.
When running your latest advertising campaign, the worst-case scenario is that you waste all your money, you get sued for making false statements, and your business folds.
Which is so unlikely to happen that we dismiss it, and instead focus on the absolute best case scenario: the advertising is a massive success, sales take off, and we’re rolling in more cash than we know what to do with.
Since neither outcome is likely, we don’t actually do anything differently. We don’t prepare or plan, we don’t optimize for success, and we end up disappointed.
Because what actually happens is the most likely worst-case: nobody notices your ads and nothing happens. Or the most likely best-case: you get a few extra sales but you’re not entirely certain the ads were the cause.
That’s how most advertising campaigns go. So now that we know that, we can plan for the most likely outcomes.
Negatively, we can assume very few people will notice the ads, so we can make them more attractive and more disruptive, or we can create a campaign that doesn’t rely on mass uptake to create a positive return on our spend.
Positively, we can assume that a handful of people will be interested and make a purchase, but volume will be low enough that it won’t be entirely clear what drove the sales. So we can make sure we have an attribution system created, or we can allocate more of our resources in fewer places so we can more clearly analyze the results.
Because paying attention to the absolute best or absolute worst outcomes doesn’t actually give us anything to do—those outcomes are completely outside our control. So we do nothing.
But focusing on the most likely outcomes provides us with things we can actually do to mitigate or amplify the results. And that’s what will get you closer to your goals.
So plan, prepare, and think things through to the end—focusing on what’s most likely to actually happen along the way.