Chance Favors The Prepared Mind…

Best Practices are defined as a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark.  What this means is that they have actually been proven.  Proven?  How do you prove that one method or technique is objectively better than another?

Best practices come with real-world examples that can be measured with comprehensible metrics.  Take a newsletter, for example.  You can spend all day having meetings on how to get more names on the mailing list.  If this make-believe newsletter is designed to promote the sales of your new product, best practices would be measured by how many items this newsletter actually converts to sales.  Before doing this, you would need a benchmark.  Who else is using a newsletter to draw in sales?  Why are they successful?  What is the magic number which identifies success and differentiates it from failure?  Metrics are where the rubber meets the road.

Before you make any major decisions about changes to make to your technology, switching vendors, or replacing one tool for another, pay attention to the metrics.  What are you measuring?  How are you measuring it? What do the measurements mean?  Seem abstract?

Let me provide you with a real-world example:

Client A (an actual company, a client of mine), has been sending out an email newsletter every three days with a great many items listed.  Anyone who knows metrics and has studied open rates, knows that the hero product and three minor products are the MOST that the average user will read.  We know this, but we cannot quantify it.  Despite all attempts over the period of two years, and several re-designs, it was impossible to get it through managements head that less is more when it comes to newsletters.  Worse, being able to show the mailing list dropping from 12,000 names to 8,500 names over a nine month period of time did not convince anyone of the need for change.

Client B (another company), was doing the same thing, but they decided to use Google Analytics along with Google Adwords and actually send out three copies of the same newsletter, with slight changes, to different segments of their customer base.  Because the proper codes were entered into the newsletters and Adwords, there was a direct correlation between the sale and the advert it originated from.  The difference was so extreme, that their newsletter policy changed the day the report was printed.

I am now working towards assisting Client A in adding the metric to their newsletter.  So far the resistance has been about the lack of “time”.  I have yet to get them to understand than the reason they are so busy is because they are doing it the hard way.  They are so busy cutting down trees that they have no time to sharpen the saw.  It is their choice, but their mailings are becoming less and less effective with each passing week.

So, if you are trying to operate as an agent of change within your organization…

…Push for the metrics.  They are difficult, time consuming, and irritating.  Nothing, however, gives you better tools for improvement tomorrow, than the ability to quantify how well  or poorly you are doing today.  Your competitors are not beating you because they are lucky or smarter than you.  They are beating you because they can do the math.  They are winning because they can see mathematically where they need to improve and what they need to change.  You, on the other hand, are relying on anecdotes.  When change comes, and it always does, you will not have the metrics to measure the change, leaving you unprepared on how to respond to the paradigm shift.  This delay will allow your competition to pass you and leave you in the dust.

Chance Favors the Prepared Mind.

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