Guilty confession: I haven't sent an email to my list in over a year.
Why? Well, in short:
- Analysis Paralysis
- Loathing (Not for my subscribers, for writing)
We will get into the details in a bit and how I am getting myself out of this rut. But why have I decided to do something about it now?
Well, in part because I was inspired by Tim Urban over at Wait But Why. If you're not familiar with Wait But Why - it's just the best blog on the planet. But here's the thing... Tim didn't write a single thing to his subscribers for OVER 3 YEARS!
I'll let Tim explain why and what happened, but for my purposes... if Tim can rally after 3 years, I feel pretty confident that I can rally after one!
The other reason why I am starting up again after a long silence is because I genuinely believe in serving, I just haven't felt capable of it... but that's changed.
Here's what we're going to get into in this post and follow up posts...
- Analysis Paralysis... what it is, how I got over it, how you can too
- What you should do if you hate doing something (even if you know you should be doing it)
- How I came up with my content strategy and minimum viability
If you don't have time to get into this article - just read this bit below:
Our new content strategy is based on building a business and living a life By Design (Catchy right?)
We're all business owners, entrepreneurs (some may relate to the term "Hustler"). We're doing this because we don't want to punch a clock, we don't want a boss. We want a life of freedom, we want to work when we want, how we want, doing what we love.
If this sounds like you, and you want to connect with like minded business owners, then you need to do a couple of things right now...
- Answer this two question survey that will help us create content and material that will matter to you
- If you feel like you can help other business owners build intentional businesses that pave the way to freedom and you want to teach our audience then we want to hear from you! Fill out this form and we will get back to you.
How I Got Over Analysis Paralysis
Analysis paralysis is when you have unintentionally piled on so many possible paths going forward that you can't figure out what you're supposed to do, and you do nothing.
Sometimes, it looks like circular logic, or a catch 22. i.e.
"I need to grow my list!"
"Before I grow my list I need to write content!"
"I can't write content until I know what my audience wants!"
"I don't know what my audience wants because I don't have a list!"
"I need to grow my list!"
"Before I grown my list I need to write content!"
You get it.
I talk to a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs and this problem is something every single one of us faces. We are in an internet culture where new strategies, tactics, plans, coaching, consultation is constantly hitting up our mailbox.
Just when you think you've sorted out what you are supposed to do, something changes and everything gets thrown into disarray, or someone else comes along with a better tactic.
Compound this by the fact that you are probably a perfectionist (most of us business owners tend to be) - you don't just want a direction, you want THE BEST direction. The definitive, end all, be all, best way to move forward.
So how do you get unstuck?
At the heart of it, Analysis paralysis is a decision making problem... So to get unstuck you need a better way to make decisions.
At the heart of it, Analysis paralysis is a decision making problem...
All of the things you are considering will work. So pick one.
It doesn't matter if you are picking a business model, a marketing strategy, a product idea... chances are very good that everything that you are considering is completely viable and will work if you stick with it.
Of course, do your due diligence, especially if you are going to be spending money, but the point is that follow through, more than anything else, is the key to success.
I look at all business en-devours like climbing a mountain... they are ALL mountains. And the first mile of any mountain is pretty easy walking. But inevitably, the mountain gets steeper, the terrain gets tougher, avalanches become a thing... you get it.
In honor of Tim Urban and Wait but Why, we will be demonstrating this using stick figures.
Here's what happens with a lot of business owners... they walk that first mile and are like "Oh, this is fun! I can do it!"
And then they hit the hard part. They experience a few set backs. They aren't making as much progress as they would like. They start to lose faith that they can actually keep going or get to the top or that there even IS a top.
When that happens, they say "Oh! The is really hard, I don't think this [business model, marketing strategy, product idea etc] is the one for me!"
They go back down the mountain and start walking up another one... rinse and repeat forever.
The fact is that all of the mountains are hard to walk up - so you need to pick the one that makes the most sense for you, your personality, your vision of your life and your business and stick with it.
Here are some questions to get you started - these apply to most of the challenging decisions you can make in business. Including what business is best for you. (Side note: here's a fun quiz to discover your business personality type)
What is my risk tolerance and does this match it?
Everyone has a different risk tolerance. If you tend to be more risk adverse, you may not want to spend a few thousand dollars learning how Google adwords work. By understanding your risk tolerance you can eliminate potential choices that don't match and make your decision easier.
Is this something I will enjoy doing? If not, is it something I can have someone else do?
In life and business, there is only the journey. You never arrive. Every time you think you have arrived, you see the road on the other side of your destination and realize you've got more walking to do.
So, if you don't enjoy what you are doing, you are going to be miserable doing it. If you're considering offering a product that doesn't get you excited to produce, you will lose interest in it and it will fall by the wayside.
But, that doesn't mean you have to enjoy everything you do. If the solution you're considering isn't enjoyable, can you hire someone else to do it for you?
FYI - this is totally how I feel about content creation. Content marketing matches my profile for marketing strategies with the exception that I actually hate writing blog posts. So I hire other people to do it (I'm writing this one, but I can't guarantee I'll be actually writing others)
"The fun part about doing something new is imagining how successful you'll be and what that will feel like."
Do I understand the obstacles and will I be motivated to overcome them?
I repeat: ALL MOUNTAINS HAVE OBSTACLES.
The fun part about doing something new is imagining how successful you'll be and what that will feel like. The fact is that you will 100% fail fully or partially and meet challenges along the way.
Take a minute and list all of the ways this can go wrong, all of the problems you're going to face and have a real conversation with yourself about how you'll do getting over those challenges.
If you know that cold calling is going to be a big part of how you'll get clients - then you should come to terms with the fact that you are going to hear "No" a lot.
Is that ok? If you've been told no 19 times today, are you still going to pick up the phone for the 20th time?
How does being successful at this align with my overall goals?
Ah - The hollow victory. You've achieved success, you've overcome the obstacles and.... you hate what you've created.
There is nothing worse.
What will you have when you accomplish your goal? Will you like what you have? If you decide that you want to be a speaker at events and you're successful... are you going to enjoy traveling? Will being a speaker align with your personal goals?
Here's another example: If you successfully implement a new marketing strategy, will it produce the kinds of leads that you want?
Make sure that success at your en-devour aligns with what you want out of life and out of business, or you could just be meticulously building yourself a new job.
If I completely fail at this... will I survive?
We are all subject to biases - but optimism bias can be a killer. When you're making a decision, it's really important to figure out if you can survive a catastrophic failure - especially if money is involved.
I've gotten into the habit of plotting the outcome probability on a line. I put catastrophic failure at one end, and smashing success at the other.
Then I assign probabilities to those outcomes based on realistic, reasonable assumptions. For instance, I might assign each a probability of 10%. This leaves an 80% chance of something in the middle happening.
I may further assign some other probabilities to the middle section. My goal is to figure out what the probability of success and failure is, what the most likely outcome of this will be.. and if the very worst happens, will I survive?
I did this recently in my decision to be a sponsor for the Digital Agency Expo. I added up all of the expenses for being a sponsor, including the fees, travel costs, marketing costs etc. Then I asked myself "What is the worst that can happen?"
In my case, the worst thing would be that I invest all of this money and in return I get zero new clients - in other words, 100% loss of my investment. OK - So what is the probability of that happening?
To answer this, I did some research on these kinds of events, reached out to some people who have done them and got an idea of what their success rate is like. No one reported a complete loss so I felt that this had about a 5% chance of happening.
So then I asked, what is a smashing success? I arbitrarily decided that 50 new clients would qualify as a smashing success - and attributed a probably of 10% to this outcome.
I also plotted my break even point, the minimum number of new signups I would need to break even and assigned it a probability of 25%.
So here's what my chart looked like...
Based on this, I have a 70% chance of breaking even or better. That sounds pretty good. But there is one important question to ask: If the worst happens.. can I survive?
In other words, if I lost all of the money I invested in this sponsorship, would it wreck the business or severely impact my life? The answer in my case was no and so I felt comfortable going forward with the sponsorship.
"Every time I've thought about emailing my list over the last year, I was struck with Analysis Paralysis."
How I Screwed Up The Courage To Email My (Cold) List
Every time I've thought about emailing my list over the last year, I was struck with Analysis Paralysis.
The root of the problem was really that I didn't know what to say. The email list for Graphic Rhythm Designs is comprised of small business owners and Amazon sellers, in roughly equal parts. These two groups have very different needs and I wasn't sure how I could serve those needs.
There are so many conflicting and different strategies about content creation, I was completely paralyzed. For instance, apparently you shouldn't bother writing a blog post unless it's SEO friendly. You also shouldn't bother unless you have some sort of content upgrade at the bottom.
So, in order to write to my list, I needed both of those things sorted. Well those come with problems because that's more content I have to build - and besides what do I write about?
The key for me came in two forms - Minimum viability and outsourcing.
In my next post I'll get into how I proceeded from here - In the meantime, comment below and tell me what you're paralyzed with right now... I answer every comment!