Evolution is not a spontaneous instance of gaining your superpowers, of suddenly growing into a creature with no natural enemies. It’s survival of the fittest, it’s all the weaker species dying off until only the strong are left… It’s not so nice when we put it that way, but that’s how it works, in nature and in business and, hopefully, in your office.
Okay that sounds pretty dire so let us clarify: No, we’re not talking about just firing everyone who isn’t cutting the mustard, rather, we’re talking about optimizing your work, and optimizing the content that you produce and release to the public.
When dealing with fellow human beings, obviously you’re going to get a lot farther by being professional, polite and considerate. But we’re talking about content and work habits, here. If you stop writing a blog that isn’t bringing in any new customers, it’s not going to report you to the Better Business Bureau. If you drop a product that isn’t selling, it’s not going to accuse you of wrongful termination. You can, and should, be ruthless in optimizing how you run your business.
Track What Counts
It’s not always easy to measure what’s working and what isn’t. A blog post or Youtube channel might not seem to be netting you any sales, but it may be establishing you as an authority within your niche. That may not pay off today, tomorrow or this month, but if you’re giving people useful advice, if you’re gaining subscribers who are actually watching your videos, not people who simply clicked subscribe and immediately proceeded to ignore all of your content, then it’s worth expending the time and resources to keep it going.
What To Cut
The real challenge with optimizing your content and work habits is that you don’t always know when it’s time to quit or keep going. We can recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and Seth Godin’s The Dip to help you get a sense for when you should keep going and when you should cut your losses, but ultimately it’s a call you’re going to have to make yourself. Sometimes the choice will be obvious, sometimes you’ll have to go on instinct alone and hope you made the right decision.
Obviously, if you’re getting a lot of sales or referrals, keep at it. If you’re getting a lot of repeat business, keep at it. Some things can be measured in numbers and dollars and metrics. Other things are harder to count, and you don’t even know if it’s working until someone recognizes you on the convention floor or you get asked to speak at a TED Talk. Sometimes, it requires a little faith to keep pushing.
The truth about all those psychological triggers that are used in marketing, all the demographic and psychographic research, it’s not exactly a perfect science. It’s more of an art. Ending a blog post with a call to action is a reminder that they should share the post or subscribe to your newsletter or call you for a free estimate, but if they’re the wrong audience, if they’re not interested in what you’re offering, there are no hypnotic tricks that will instantly convert them into a devoted supporter.
Like any art form, marketing takes a lot of practice, and that means doing it poorly for a long time before you can do it well. The good news is that we’re not actually wild animals striving for survival out in the jungle. If we fail, that doesn’t mean we go hungry. As long as you know which risks you can and cannot afford to take, as long as you don’t spend the whole advertising budget on one video, you can stay in the game.
Most of what we try in marketing and business doesn’t work, and we only learn what does work, and how to apply it, by learning what doesn’t. That’s how we get better at what we do, and how we evolve.
Gilbert S is a professional writer with over a decade of experience writing everything from research papers and catalog descriptions to tech magazine articles and music reviews. Gilbert’s interests outside of writing lie in marketing, film, and advanced technology.