Cup of Joe: Come Experiment With Me!



Ok, first watch this video:

Next watch this one:

Question: What do these two videos have in common?

If you said something about innovation, you’d be right but that’s not what I am looking for. What I am looking for is more about the way the folks in these videos talk about their projects. In both cases they called their work an experiment. Not a product or a service, just an experiment.

This is important.

The way that we talk and think about the projects we are involved in has a direct influence on the decisions that we make. For example, let’s say I decide to write a book. During the process of my writing I am going to be drawing on all of my preconceived notions of what a book is and what it should contain. But, if instead I tell myself and the rest of the world that I am going to write a collection of essays that might one day be bound together, then I would approach the task differently even though in the end it’s the same thing.

Which is why I love the word ‘experiment’. When running an experiment there’s no telling what might happen. In fact, the ambiguity is precisely the whole point. Your job in an experiment is to find out what happens next. What an awesome way to approach your next project! Forget about ROI, profit margins, and conversion rates. As Nike tells us, “Just Do It”, record what happens and move on.

Think about it this way, if all you are concerned about is profit, and increased revenue, then are you really going to be receptive to variables that need changing to find a desired outcome? No, you won’t, because you aren’t looking at the project as an experiment. When we experiment we are open to any variable of success or failure.

Let’s say you are running an SEO campaign, and your goal is to rank #1 for a specific keyword. So you throw all your money into content creation and link-building. Only to find out months later that while your new ranking generates a lot of traffic, it doesn’t convert. However, if you would have approached that same campaign as an experiment you might have been more receptive to other long tail keywords that would convert higher.

Experimenters also take risk. Do you remember Ben the Bodyguard? In that campaign the creators took a considerable design risk by developing a design that went against the mainstream design community. As a result, they generated a bunch of buzz about their product. Taking risk means limiting your fear of failure. What better way to eliminate the fear of failure then to completely take it out of the equation? When we experiment, failure never enters the picture, because there’s never any desired results, only observations.

I mean sure don’t get me wrong, it’s always nice when an experiment pays off. But even if you don’t get any monetary payback you will most definitely have learned more than if you experienced a classical failure.

If you follow me on Twitter you might have heard that last week, I sold a large part of my company. I am already starting to think of new projects that I want to build and promote. I think I am going to approach these as experiments, as a result I will learn more, adapt quicker, and not get tied down to a win/fail mind set. Will they make money? Who knows, but either way I am going to gain a lot more with my experiments.

Go ahead and experiment with me in the comments and tell me what your next experiment is going to be!

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  • http://www.arcanasphere.com MrAndrewJ

    Joe,

    Your Saturday posts get better every week. Last week you kind of shook up my train of thought with your mantra that “Social marketing is not advertising.” (I was looking at it from the opposite extreme you were criticizing, but it was still an extreme.) This — this gives me hope for the future of business on the Internet.

    I still fear, personally, that the consensus will sound as follows: “Okay, experimental. SEO isn’t working. Let’s do experimental. How is everyone else experimenting? We have to do it like them.” I hope I’m wrong. I hope this is my anguished and jaded view of the industry speaking as opposed to the honest truth.

    You’ve been knocking them out of the park lately. Thank you.

    • http://joehall.me Joe Hall

      Andrew,

      First, thanks for reading! I am glad you are enjoying my column. Second, I would suggest asking the folks that constantly go back to doing things the same as everyone else, “what do you have to loose?”

      Experiments shouldn’t be run on your bread and butter. If you are making money consistently then there’s no point in changing things up mid stream. But, if you aren’t seeing any revenue or traction in anyway, then ask them what do they have to loose by experimenting with something new?

      For your bread and butter, you maybe shouldn’t be experimenting, but, you should always be testing. Testing and experimenting are two different things. Testing are things like A/B test, keywords for PPC, and other things that don’t deter from your general scope.

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