Its not A or B its A + B + C ++

book-decisive-265x440After hearing a recent interview with Chip Heath co-Author of “Decisive”, a few things about the how and why of decision making came to mind….and moreso the way it is changing.

In “Decisive,” Chip Heath and Dan Heath, the bestselling authors of “Made to Stick” and “Switch,” tackle the thorny problem of how to overcome our natural biases and irrational thinking to make better decisions, about our work, lives, companies and careers.

In doing so they draw on Research in psychology that reveals our decisions are disrupted by an array of biases and irrationalities: “We’re overconfident. We seek out information that supports us and downplay information that doesn’t. We get distracted by short-term emotions. When it comes to making choices, it seems, our brains are flawed instruments. Unfortunately, merely being aware of these shortcomings doesn’t fix the problem, any more than knowing that we are nearsighted helps us to see.”

And naturally enough they raise the burning question: How can we do better? And then set out a framework and answers that help support better decision making.

I will leave you to read the book if you are interested in finding the answers … but one particular issue took my attention as it is one that I talk about often but have never had a name for it ….. The Heath Brothers call it “Narrow Framing” and define it as the tendency to get stuck in one way of thinking about a dilemma, or we ignore the alternatives that are available to us.

With all the tools, technologies, information (eg Google) at our fingertips today its no longer a matter of this or that but more so this and that with perhaps a bit of whatever.

Also the old days of making decisions and sticking with them forever are behind us with the quest by all organisations large and small to become nimble and flexible as they aim to become customer centric.

So now we should have the courage to admit:

a) we got a decision wrong and change quickly
b) accept that it may have been right at the time but times change
c) we simply did not look at the available options.

Hence the concept of management by experimenting is one that many organisations now encourage. A colleague of mine lives by the motto FOCUS – Follow One Course Until Successful – and encourages all to do so. However I would contend that if its not the right course you can waste an awful lot of time and resources following it for too long.

Hence experimenting within a number of approaches can be a very fruitful approach given the tools we have that allow us to implement strategies and then adapt and change ….or in fact implement many and go with those that work best.

Some organisations now design the business that would put them out of business….then build it and if successful fold the old business into the new one….but thats extreme and expensive so ….,

Let me use two examples to demonstrate what I mean….

We are developing a new web presence for a client and experimenting as we go to find the best way to achieve the results we aim for… In the old days we would spend weeks specifying and analysing before committing to an expensive build phase and then hope we got it right.

But now we can get to the best result through a process of experimentation before we commit to a final build.

Firstly we have used Heat Mapping Technology www.crazyegg.com on the existing website and Facebook page to show us where and how often visitors are clicking. This has confirmed firstly that Facebook users have vastly different expectations to web site visitors and it has also has told us what our prospects see as the most important information to them.

Armed with this information we will build 3 landing page concepts and see which ones get the best response in terms of clicking through for more information or to attend a seminar or book an appointment.

We will then build 2 versions building on the most popular elements from the first elimination trial ….and then based on experimenting further we will go with all the most popular elements and information from the second round of experimentation.

And having gone live we will continue to measure and monitor to ensure we are meeting the needs of the visitor and getting the results the brand expects .

Planning has never been about the Plan it has always been about the Process and continuing to evolve and develop the plan ….with today’s rapid deployment of technology this process can be more easily facilitated.

You no longer have to fail fast if you are to determine you are on the wrong track …… you can experiment your way to the right track

The second example —-

A client was desperately keen to run TV Commercials as they had been sold the panacea of success through TV. But I generally see TV as a costly medium in terms of value received unless you have a massive marketing and sales budget to build your brand.

But rather than take the “narrow frame” approach and be overly influenced by my personal biases and ignore the alternatives that are available we decided to explore the possibilities of TV further.

With TV Advertising you pay based on total numbers of viewers ….the vast majority of them would not be interested in our client’s product so therefore we would be paying to reach too many people….. but we looked further.

The questions we asked of ourselves before ruling TV ads in or out included:

  • What Network was most likely to provide the demographics and psychographics most likely to be interested
  • what programming on that network was most aligned to our prospects
  • above all what network was most cost effective.

So rather than go with the top rating network as my client wanted we went with the lowest ranked as they fitted the above criteria and we recognised we didn’t need large numbers so overall volume of viewers wasn’t a key criteria….and we could obviously get a lot more bang for our buck in terms of air time.

Having done this next we decided to put a mechanism in place to test effectiveness of the ads we were to run.   So rather than hoping for the best as you once did we decided to drive traffic to our website and then give them a reason to contact us directly.

Once we knew where to advertise and how to measure it we needed to be as creative as possible for a little as possible.

So we kept it simple and memorable with a consistent message through out …. go to the website to find out the facts about this too good to be true offer.

So for less than $5000 we produced an effective ad by seeking opinions from a number of agencies and for less than $5000 we purchased 2 weeks over one month of air time in a mix of spots some costing as little as $25 for 30 secs.

So all in all we didn’t get stuck with Narrow Framing we opened ourselves to a variety of options and went with a combination of the best and a basic budget test our plans.

Suffice to say a year later we are spending $10,000 per month and $30,000 plus on creative …but we know exactly what results we are getting and we know it isa very profitable approach.

We continue to analyse and test day by day ….this told us very early that more than 30% of people were accessing our website while watching TV so we quickly added a mobile site to cater for them.

 Forget about what you think might be best based on what you think or what you hear and experiment your way to success.

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