Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Best is the Enemy of the Good

One of the most frustrating things for me is when I find people who want to do something new on-line, but aren't willing to start until they know more about whatever it is they are doing. In fact, sometimes they stubbornly insist on waiting until they've found the "best" solution. For example:

  • They want to run webinars, but spend all their time looking for the "best" webinar provider.
  • They want to record a podcast, but they don't have the "best" microphone.
  • They've heard about Google+, but they don't know the "best" way to use it yet.

Barry Schwartz, author of the book "The Paradox of Choice", would call these people "maximisers", because they won't be happy until they've explored every option to find the "best" solution. The other type of person, the "satisficer", is willing to settle for something that's good enough, even though he or she knows there might be a better option available.

Of course, there are times when good enough is not good enough, and you certainly shouldn't be willing to settle for everything. Stephen Covey, for example, said, "The good is the enemy of the best", but he said it in the context of choosing what's really important in your life.

I prefer Voltaire's quotation, which is the exact opposite: The best is the enemy of the good. That perfectly describes the folly of going too far in the other direction, and never achieving anything because of this quest for perfection.

This is especially true in on-line marketing.

When you buy a cup of coffee, visit a friend, or send your tax return to your accountant, you generally know what experience to expect, so it's easy to estimate just how much you're settling for. You know the instant coffee from the tin won't be as good as the barista-made coffee down the road; you know friend A offers stimulating conversation, while with friend B you'll sit and watch the footy; and you know your accountant is slow but reliable.

But that's just not the case with things you haven't done before, because you have nothing to compare with. You don't know whether the instant polling feature of webinar platform X is more useful than the video chat feature of platform Y; you don't know how many people will subscribe to your podcast because they like listening to stuff at the gym; and you don't know how many interesting people you will meet on Google+.

Nobody else can do this for you.

Even if you talk to other people, they can't transfer their experience into your brain! And even if they could, that won't be useful, because they can only tell you their experience of using these tools in their business, with their customers and their mindset. That won't necessarily be the same as yours.

So there's no substitute for experience. Real, hands-on, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-dirty experience. Only when you've experienced it for yourself will you realise what you can (and can't) do, and what it means for your business.

Yes, this means trying lots of things, even when you don't know the outcome, and even when you know some of them won't work for you. Unfortunately, you just don't know which ones will work and which ones won't!

So start! Whether it's creating a YouTube channel, publishing a podcast, writing that blog, or running that webinar, don't wait for the perfect moment.

Start before you're ready.

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