“Smart” people make things complicated. Effective people start with a simple plan they can understand. And then they build on it. This is especially true in marketing, where you can’t know how your audience is going to interact with your message on a particular media channel. Even experienced marketers can’t really be sure most of the time. So what’s the solution? Hire a confident marketer who knows lots of fancy words, but can’t really explain what they mean? Or do you start simply, even without research, and build from there?
A Working Hypothesis is Thinking in Action
The simplest way to get really, really good at anything is to gain an understanding of a simple plan and build on it. Just make a plan and make it work a little bit. Then build on what success you have.
- Learning to code? Make a “Hello World” program.
- Learning to do a home remodel? Watch some Youtube and try the paint out on an inconspicuous area.
- Learning to market your product? Make a simple landing page that lets them buy, and make a simple ad campaign that points to it.
A Working Hypothesis Avoids Bottom-Up Thinking
Your working hypothesis means building a simple plan, that, if your assumptions are correct, should work. It’s not like they told you in school that you should “find out everything you can” about a topic. This is going only based on what you know right now.
No hours spent on research that takes you down rabbit holes and eventually has you watching funny youtube cat videos. Just a simple plan, based on what you know.
Top-Down Thinking Keeps You Grounded
It’s the same reason old people tell you to read old literature, like the Stoics and the Bible. It’s simple information that, if it makes sense to you, teaches you to think for yourself. If you can grasp fundamental truths, you can use those truths almost everywhere. They give you a sense of proportion that looks like wisdom and knowledge. And they help you to test every bit of information that comes in.
Bottom-Up Thinking Makes You A Slave
But if you immerse yourself in information, you’re overwhelmed. You start accepting facts before you’re able to evaluate them. It’s like in any cult — or in college if you’re not very, very careful — they give you one point of view, fill you with information that backs it up, giving you no context or sense of proportion. And pretty soon, you find yourself lost. And even though you know something’s wrong, you don’t have the words to express exactly what.
Think before you Research
Research isn’t bad. But be sure your brain is in critical-thinking mode before you start accepting data. This will keep you objective and allow you to see things in proportion.
It’s like in closely held political arguments; we get caught up in the emotion and the need to be right. We accept things we’d never believe if we weren’t so bought-in politically. But what if every American thought about right and wrong before they heard all of the opinions and framing? What if, when you heard that a politician did something wrong, you backed up and thought about it non-politically, like they’re someone in your everyday life who did that.
Now you’re thinking, rather than being told how to think.
Apply it To Marketing
So let’s say you’re making a marketing plan. Who’s the person in your life who would buy your product? If you didn’t know him, where would you advertise? Facebook, an online forum, a sponsorship? What would you say in the ad? What would make him click on the ad and go to your landing page? What would you say on the landing page to convince him to click and buy?
Now, you have a working hypothesis. Make sure you can test each part of that interaction, so you know at least the number of people reached by the ad, the number of people who clicked to visit the page, and the number of people who bought. And adjust from there.
Simplicity is Objectively Right
Trying to seem smart is a trap. The most effective people don’t pretend they know what they don’t know. They keep it simple and use what they know. Be like the simple person who knows what questions to ask rather than the one who knows all of the answers. Because the one who knows how to ask the right questions is the one who doesn’t work as hard and still gets more done, can see through BS, and can make a simple, actionable plan that moves things forward.
For an example of a funnel, check out Mike’s post on content marketing.
For more on the topic of simplicity, read or listen to “Solitude in Leadership” by William Deresiewicz.