If you ask anyone how to create a successful business, there’s a good chance they’ll say: “Talk to customers.”
And, they’re right. If you don’t know what your best customers actually value most about you, you’re likely to optimize for the wrong things.
For consultants, you’re especially likely to focus on the work you find “difficult,” which to you means “valuable,” instead of on the things your customers love most about you. Which is probably what you find easiest and least like work.
But it’s also possible to focus too much on customers—too much on what’s “best”—and not enough on yourself.
Entrepreneurs hate thinking about themselves, or their own wants. They obsess over the market, the competition, the industry, and everything in between.
Not because it actually helps their business, but because it keeps the anxiety monster that lives in their head at bay.
If they can attach some number to their ambition, some piece of data to their dreams, then everything will make sense. It’ll all work out.
Or if they just do a bit more customer research—or commission one more report, take one more analytics course, or attend one more workshop—then, finally then, they’ll know the right thing to do that will guarantee success.
And, sure, I get it. It won’t work. It can’t work. But sure.
Fear makes us do the wrong things all the time.
But just because fear made you do it doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do.
I see it all the time with personal goals, like physical fitness, or learning a musical instrument.
People do endless research trying to find the ideal way to approach it, trying to optimize something they haven’t even started yet, and probably never will.
They want so badly not to fail that they guarantee it.
Because if they ever do start, they’ve got about two or three solid weeks of effort in them before it all falls apart.
For their whole dang lives they’re just one good New Years Resolution—or motivation app, or productivity system, or SMART goal, or fitness program, or “Okay, for real this time,” or “This is my last _____ ever”—from getting what they want.
But think about it like this: Let’s say there was an objectively perfect way to increase one’s physical fitness through exercise.
Or let’s imagine there was a scientifically perfect way to learn a musical instrument.
Or the absolutely perfect marketing strategy for your business.
While it would be academically interesting to read about, and I’m sure there would be lots of great information to use to augment one’s own system, it wouldn’t matter that it was ideal.
Because you’re still probably not going to do it.
None of us is in need of instruction, or information, on the best way to do anything.
Seriously, just google “the best marketing strategy for [insert your particular type of business here]” or search TikTok for marketing tips for your industry. I’m sure you’ll get plenty of advice that is more or less accurate.
It may, though it’s unlikely, even be the objectively best strategy you could ever employ.
And none of it matters, because knowing the “right” way to do anything is easy. It’s all just a search away.
Great ideas are endless, and worthless. Doing things, making things, implementing things—sticking with things—that’s the only stuff that matters.
Knowing what other people want, or say they want, is easy.
Knowing what you want, though? That’s another story.
New Years Resolutions don’t fail because people don’t want to improve, it’s because people don’t like doing the work of improving.
The reason you haven’t learned to play the piano yet isn’t that you haven’t found the best way to practice. It’s that you hate practicing.
The reason your marketing is struggling isn’t that you don’t know the right ways to do marketing. It’s that you haven’t found what’s right for you.
The people who actually improve just found a way to like it, or found a way of improving that they already liked.
That’s why the physical trainers and music teachers—and marketing consultants—who get the best results from their clients are the ones who customize their program to their clients’ preferences, interests, and specific needs.
Should I run every day? I don’t know, maybe. But will I? No—and I know that for a fact.
Should I spend a few hours every day practicing musical scales? Sure, I guess. But am I going to? History has proven that no, no I will not.
But you know what? I do exercises I like, every single day, and I’ve kept off more than 100 pounds for many years now and I’m easily the healthiest I’ve ever been.
My guitar teacher gives me incredible leeway when it comes to practicing and never judges me for slacking. Because he knows that if he made me feel guilty, I’d quit. Instead, he’s optimizing for keeping me practicing at all, because that’s the way we both win.
Look, I’m an awful guitar player—but I spent most of my life wishing I could play the guitar at all. And now I can. And I can get better, little by little.
I’m by no means in great physical shape, but all those years I spent trying to exercise perfectly kept me from exercising at all. And now that I’ve seen so much progress, that progress creates its own motivation to keep improving.
And I am definitely not the smartest or most creative marketing strategist out there. But my clients stick with their marketing until it works, and they enjoy it enough to improve upon it every single day.
Not just once a year. Or once, and then never again.
So I honestly don’t care what the “best” exercise program is, I only care about the one I’ll stick with.
I don’t care what the objectively perfect guitar instruction is, I focus on what I’m actually going to do.
And I honestly don’t care all that much about the “market” I serve, or what my competitors are up to.
I only care about doing work no one else could ever do as well as I can, because I love it enough to spend more time and energy perfecting it than anyone else.
Because no one could force themselves to outperform me at something I love this much.
So if your business is struggling, if your marketing isn’t performing, if you’re spinning round and round in circles—
Stop looking for the “right” answer.
It’s always been right in front of you.
You already know everything you’re supposed to be doing. Your anxiety monster reminds you every single day and every night you can’t sleep.
And yet, you’re still not doing it.
Not because it doesn’t work, but because it doesn’t work for you.
Today, it’s time to forget about all the things that you might do, and all the things other people are telling you to do.
It’s time to find the things that you will do.
It’s the only thing you can do.