Are You a Genius or Mad Scientist? How to Experiment Without Being Erratic


Podcast
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experimenting in business

Do you remember when your mom would try and talk you into tasting new foods as a kid?

“Come on. Just one bite,” she’d probably say.

(Unless you were born with an already-refined palate. Or, as we say here in the US, European.)

While I was never a highly-picky-eater, I’d endless spend summer afternoons in my childhood shamelessly dodging inquiring spoons full of my Swiss grandmother’s cooking — including chicken liver, eggplant-heavy dishes swimming in unidentifiable sauces, and this weird rice-and-corn-vinegar-salad thing that I begrudgingly tasted… while my older sister sneakily chucked hers into the rose bushes.

(Which later died. Just sayin’.)

Sift Enough Sand, You’ll Find a Few Nuggets

But every now and again, I’d try a bite, and the hairs would stand up on the back of my neck.

Ooh. What is THAT?!

And, with a yum of approval, I’d quickly have a new favorite dish.

Do you remember test-driving new style choices when you were younger?

At least in my case, it would start with ONE slightly-daring item that I would cautiously pair with something “normal” in my closet.

A Trogdor the Burninator hoodie at the start of my emo era, (+10 internet points if you get that reference) paired with my cookie-cutter, preppy light wash American Eagle jeans.

A flower skirt I’d thrifted when my hippie phase began, paired with a low-risk plain, black tank top from Hot Topic.

A pair of black sequin leggings matched with a loose, flowy, post-hippie top in my early clubbing days.

But There’s Experimenting…

Once I got enough compliments on the new look, or felt confident to buy more items in that style? It was game over. That was ME now. #itsnotaphaseMom

For the moment, anyway.

Do you remember what you did before you found your current hobby?

You probably tried a few different things before settling on what you do now to unwind, right?

—Pours one out for the friendship-bracelet-making, fanfiction writing, oil painting, Zumba-doing, and Kung-Fu-fighting sagas of my hobby existence*

Now, I’m not just telling you all this to giggle about my Mémé‘s dead rosebushes, flex my Big Sequins Energy, or remind you I can kinda throw a punch.

I’m telling you to remind you: experimenting is a necessary, healthy part of life.

It’s how we figure out what we like, how we want to be seen, and who we are.

And Then There’s Dithering.

So why do SO many of us shy away from experimenting when it comes to our businesses?

Oh I can’t launch that right now,” we say. “I just launched something three months ago and I don’t want people to be sick of me.

Ugh, that would be so much fun. But I just don’t have the resources right now to do the whole hire-a-designer-and-copwriter, build-the-funnel song and dance.”

And the ever-popular “I would LOVE to do that… but I don’t want people to think I’m erratic, or just throwing stuff at the wall.”

Here’s what this kind of thinking does to us:

It keeps us and our ideas stuck in what my client Racheal Cook calls “The Secret Entrepreneur Lab”.

Always tinkering.

Always sketching out new stuff.

People Love Flowers — So Share the Lily Before It’s Gilded

But never actually shipping our ideas or sharing them publicly, unless they are P E R F E C T, we’ve spent thousands of dollars on them, and our business fairy godmother blesses us 3 times with her magic wand.

(Which means… basically never.)

But what if there was a way to actually enjoy the process of experimenting in your business?

What if you treated new offers and ideas the same way you treated everything else new in your life — by starting small, not spending a fortune, and taking little bites of a new direction to see if you liked it?

Fill a Few Other Baskets While You’re at It

And what if there WAS a way to try new things without looking like you were constantly throwing spaghetti at the wall?

Margo and I discuss all this and more on today’s episode of #HAMYAW, all about (dun dun dunnn!) running your business in experiment mode.

Because the truth is, learning how to test small bites of ideas, launch lean, and deftly try new stuff makes you a better, smarter business owner than you were yesterday…

… AND, it helps prevent the experience of putting ALL your eggs into one idea basket, only to wake up one day and be like: “Uh oh. I hate this basket now.”

Lean Launch Lessons and More

Tune into this fresh-out-the-oven episode to find out:

  • 2:20 Our surprising lessons from a failed launch
  • 6:30 Why you MUST listen to your CUSTOMERS, not your colleagues when you’re experimenting!!
  • 8:43 How do you launch without feeling erratic?
  • 12:15 BIG brands launch lean also, you just don’t realize it
  • 13:20 How to avoid “just throwing $#@% out there”
  • 17:50 Can you “wear out” your audience?

And while you’re over there, give us a holler:

How do YOU treat experiment mode in your business?

It is something you LOVE, or something you avoid… and why?

And, until next time, my friend:

Happy experimenting.

And try not to kill any rose bushes.

Write on,
H

Episode Transcript

Oh my god! I can’t look at the mic! I mean at the… I hate looking at the robot instead of your face. I hate it.  

I know my face is really wonderful. We’ll put a tiny sticker of me over your webcam, my face like. So you know it’s me and you can feel like you’re talking to me the whole time.  

Okay I like it. (upbeat music)  

Welcome back marketing nerds of the world! It is time for another episode of HAMYAW and today, Margo and I wanna talk about a piece in business that can either feel like a make or a break, often. And as you move the trajectory of making the stuff in your business and pivoting your direction, all that great stuff.

And this is the issue and the glorious moment of experiment mode, when you have decided you have a new idea, a new direction in your business, a new thing you wanna try, maybe it’s coaching, consulting, putting a program together, and you start experimenting with it, in the confines of your business. And the biggest question we get around experiment mode throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks, although we do wanna be a little more strategic than that. 

We get a lot of questions about how to do this experiment mode and how to test new things without seeming erratic and like you’re offering a new thing every 30 seconds. So we have a lot we want to talk about here, including some do’s and don’t’s and some actually unexpected success metrics beyond just money.

So, I want to dig into this, real deep today but first I’m going to hand over the microphone to Margo because she has been in the middle of experiment mode recently, as have I, so we are going to be sharing some of our stories with you today and hopefully inspire you to try a little experimentation of your own.  

Yes!  

Margo take it away.  

Does experiment mode ever get less scary?  

I think in a way, actually nope I’m gonna take that back ’cause I think experimenting when you have a small following and there’s not a lot of people watching and stuff, is that it can feel higher stakes for your ego.  

Yeah.  

But I think things get a little scarier as your audience grows and you’re throwing stuff out there and you have people watching you. Even though, we talk a lot about the fact that like, no one’s really watching, like you can do your thing, nobody really cares, it’s impossible to take that,  

What are you talking about?  

That feeling that, they’re all watching me.  

Eyes are on you.  

All the time. (laughing)  

My audience are spies. Anyway, Margo how do you talk to me a little about what experiment mode looks like in your business.  

Oh my god, so you know I think some of it is also channel-specific, let’s start there. Because I am really comfortable playing around on Instagram stories and playing with different positioning, covering different topics, addressing different things. I think the 24-hour turnaround of it just expiring, gives me that flexibility and freedom to be a little bit more creative and fun with my brand. But where it feels high stakes is when you make a sale.

Like, when you’re experimenting specifically not with content per se, but with a product or service, or a new positioning, or a rebrand, those are the kind of things that I’m always like, (screams). (laughing)

So, I recently, like recently over the last 12 months, have undergone a pivot. I stopped doing marketing consulting and I have been launching these writing accountability groups and some coaching around it. I’m helping people defeat resistance and find their voice, and the first time I came out with some of these things, it was like, crickets.

And I didn’t know what to make of this, I was like “What is happening?” like I know these are good emails. I know this is a solid offer, it’s based off what they told me. How do I know is it a pricing issue? Is it a positioning issue? Is it the wrong market? It was so hard to get the metrics that everyone in the hustle bro culture who’s like “Test! Test! Experiment!”  

Yeah  

They have the numbers and ability to segment their test in a way that they’re really viable in terms of science. I didn’t feel that way, I was like “I am just gonna, let’s see what happens here!” And my numbers are still pretty small. And so, I was talking with a colleague, Sarah K Peck, friend of the show, you guys should check out her stuff. Startup Pregnant.

But I was talking to her, aka complaining, about how (laughs) this wasn’t working and she was like, “Margo, the first few times you launch something new after a pivot, where you’ve gone from, I sell marketing things to I sell like writing accountability and coaching things, which is even though content-wise your audience has come with you, it’s a shift. 

“And so that an awareness campaign like, the first few times you launch, it’s basically you’re letting your audience know this is a thing I do.” And that blew my mind ’cause like obvious when she said it but in the moment, I didn’t feel that way. In the moment I was like well revenue is obviously the goal.

Whether something succeeds or fails in an experiment, it sells, so I should keep doing it, it doesn’t sell, don’t do it. And she was basically like “No, no, no, no. They need to know that this is your new thing and this is a thing that you do and they need to hear it over and over again. And” it’s been totally true.

The next few times I’ve launched, I fixed the positioning problems with feedback. I tested different pricing models. I was able to get into the weeds of some of that once I had actually been in the market long enough, but I wouldn’t have ever thought about it as an awareness campaign.  

Yeah, you don’t wanna think about it as an awareness campaign (laughs) ‘Cause you’re like “Oh no, all this time and effort, for what?” Like I think that’s so important for people. It’s like you kinda have this cognitive process that needs to happen and I think about it in terms of the wider world.

How many times do you have to see a Facebook ad before that thing you actually want, before you actually buy it? Shout-out to ThirdLove for patiently serving me ads for about a year and a half before I was like all right, all right, all right, you twisted my arm, let my try this bra. Now I have like six of them. 

It was such a comfort when I realized that because I have done a fair bit of experimentation in my business as well and launched things and retired them and all of that stuff that you kinda have to do through the growth process.

And I think remaking that realization that like the first launch at least, it’s an experiment, it’s about you know, the low hanging fruit, fine, but it’s also about like, “Hey, this is a thing now, and we are going to be using this, K?” And I think it’s so so important to give ourselves that grace through the experiment process. That, you know, the first try is more about letting people know it exists than having your best launch ever.  

Can we sit there for a second? This is the thing about launching to a smaller versus bigger audience. I actually feel the opposite of you. Where like the smaller audiences, scare the shit out of me, and the bigger ones, I feel more anonymous.  

Yeah.  

You know how you’re like lonely in a crowd? I kinda prefer that. I’m like big people, I don’t know you you’re nameless.

When it’s small people I’m like “Oh I know this person, they email me every week!” Like it’s that kinda thing. In the beginning of a new launch, the loudest voices are often your colleagues.  

Mm-hmm.  

And that can drive a person crazy. So, I definitely got really frustrated and had annoying metrics because… Not annoying but like, false positives and false negatives because people that I respect were responding to me being like, “Oh your landing page is missing this.”

And they were like giving me design edits and I was like dude! When you’re MVPing, and I want you to talk about this Hillary, of what it means to be lean, all I need from you is like, is “Keep going”. Because like obviously I know, but that’s what the point of a test is.  

Yep, absolutely. I think it’s so important to keep that in mind too. It’s like don’t worry about optimizing my shit right now ok? We’re trying the thing and to see fits, and we’re literally, I think the first launch is about product market fit. What kind of responses are you getting, and this is what we meant by sort of unlikely metrics.

So unlike when you’re in experiment mode, the first thing is you’re gonna sort of look to aside from money, ’cause money is nice, money is not in this context, especially in the context of pivot like the end all, be all and it’s probably not gonna be your biggest payday ever.

So it’s like what else should you be looking for, right? And that’s that like, how is your audience responding? What kind of emails are you getting? What platforms are you getting the most interaction on? That’s another big one, ’cause somebody was convinced her buyers weren’t on social media, till I yelled at her and told her to get on Insta and do her thing.  

So many buyers on social media y’all! (laughing) I was like my email list isn’t buying but social was buying! I was so confused.  

And that’s the thing too ’cause I think we make a lot of assumptions about our audience and the process of experimentation is a chance for us to kinda get closer to them and understand their buying habits more, ’cause for me you know, smaller emailing list but you know “large” social following.

But like decent social following, and I think there is some embarrassment too when you’re experimenting. It’s like “I’m just going to send it to my list, I’m just going to send it to a tiny corner of my list.” It’s a secret. Because it’s a secret and I just want to see ’cause I think these people will be buyers and then because you have a smaller pool you’re just playing bad odds. So I think that’s

So true!  

Another category of playing bad odds. You would never go far in Vegas. Those are kind of the unlikely metrics to look for.

Like what responses are you getting? Where are you getting the most responses? Like are you figuring out your buyers kind of are? What questions are you getting? And those are all really important, but something else I wanted to talk about today is again, how do you launch without feeling erratic?

And how do you like, try something new without spending a fortune? And this was actually a big one for me because for a number of years, my business, I never launched anything unless it was like, professionally produced. And that (laughs) that was a lot. I spent a lot of money on that but, I think what was like super interesting to me was for example like, the second iteration I guess of why I stuck on. 

Full rebrand, like full launch around it. The Wordshops spent 10K on production, all that good stuff, ’cause I was like, it has, I know. It has to, I made the money back. It has to look professional, it has to feel this way ’cause I really want my brand to feel like top of the line.

But then I started talking to people who are highly successful and I realized they were selling stuff and creating stuff via Google docs. Like via Facebook messenger and like videos and all this stuff. Like there are smaller ways to launch that don’t require even a sales page initially, which is really interesting.

So, this is actually a process I, well I don’t wanna say stole, ’cause I bought the swipe files as part of her program. So, a friend of mine, Tarzan K, had this really interesting process that I picked up as part of her program that I invested in. Shout out Stars, it’s real fun. And it was basically a way to introduce private coaching, using just one email, a Loom video and an application. That was it.  

Wow.  

Whereas for stuff like coaching, historically I was like, it has to be a full sales page and I had to put it by a bunch of people and all that. And so that’s one example of a way to start lean, like if you’re experimenting with some one-on-one coaching, that’s kind of the way to do it.

Announce to your list like there’s an opportunity to work with me privately, I’d love to tell you about it. Hit reply to this email and I’ll tell you more. And then having that conversation, ’cause that sort of gives you a picture of who’s interested in working with you one-on-one, and sends up the Bat-Signal to your list, your following, that you are doing this now. 

One thing that’s been really interesting for me is, for example, recovering from something like the 10k production of the Wordshops which I then retired 18 months later. What was interesting is that when I did my most recent course, Like Lightning, I really wanted to do it super lean.

I didn’t want to have a big production cost, I didn’t even wanna hire a designer. I was like I know this is really straightforward, but this is gonna be the initial launch. This is not a high ticket program, it’s 197. The thing with Like Lightning is that I actually wanted to follow my own process, which is kinda fun. 

So Like Lightning is basically like a five-day mini-course, all about helping you map out your next idea. This is a part of the experiment thing, a big part of my business, I love to teach people this, but it takes them over the five-day mapping process.

So what I did to create it was I actually followed my own process. I was like, okay, where do we start, what are the goals, what’s the offer, what’s the outline, what is the sort of messaging around it and what’s the sales pitch? So that when I was ready to launch, it was easy and it was fast.

And so I was like, all right, put myself through the paces here. I wrote the copy, wrote the worksheets, did the videos, put them all together, had my assistant put the copy up on the sales page, and put the worksheets together using a template on Canva and that was it. And it was easily the easiest launch I’ve ever done. 

I wrote all the emails in about two hours, I knew exactly what I was talking about, I knew exactly what I was doing and it was a matter of really just putting the pieces together without necessarily spending a fortune. It looks great I’d like to think, but without necessarily worrying about optics over content.

And that was a big shift for me and that’s a huge part of launching lean. You can launch using just a Google doc. You can launch using worksheets in a Canva template. You can launch using these very, very simple approaches. You always wanna roll out the red carpet for your customers, but without sort of spending a fortune, in order to put something out there initially.  

I wanna add to this ’cause I think it’s easy for people watching to be like, “Well yeah, you guys can do that ’cause you’re smaller.” But I wanna add that we’ve been behind a lot of really big businesses.  

Yeah.  

And a lot of the businesses that you guys like and the people you follow who have teams behind them, also launch this way, the difference is, you don’t notice and you don’t care because you’re so excited to hear from them.  

Yes exactly, so true.  

And so a lot of it is an optics issue where if like, I don’t want to name names ’cause I don’t think we have permission, but like there’s certain teams that if you got an email from them, it feels less personal when you get the email from a team, but if it goes to a Google Form, you’re like, oh whatever!

Like I’m gonna fill out the Google Form, how nice, and it makes you actually feel closer to them and increases intimacy, so it has this reverse effect. Whereas, at our level, it kinda feels like, oh, it’s just a Google Form?  

Oh hard disagree.  

Right!  

I think people love my Google Forms. What is comes down to, I think people are nervous to experiment ‘cause I think it just requires this huge upfront investment. Of time, money and energy and it doesn’t necessarily have to. And so a part of the big M.O. of this whole discussion, is like, how do you launch without seeming erratic?  

Yeah, let’s talk about it.  

How do you launch without throwing stuff at the wall? I think the key to launching without feeling like you’re just randomly throwing stuff at the wall is first of all, time. So think of an idea, give it time to marinate. Really think it through and most importantly, understanding the future trajectory of your business. Where does this offer fit in?

Where does this piece of the puzzle kind of plug into the ladder of my offerings? How does this fit into the pivot I’m trying to make and all that good stuff? And when you take the time to process that, chew it over, and understand how it fits and why is it necessary to experiment with, it’s gonna keep you from just throwing anything out there erratically because there’s a strategy behind it.  

Yeah, I actually have a little different take on it. I kind of like the fast shipping model a little bit ’cause I don’t always have the answer of where does it fit? And I think there’s a difference between being erratic and feeling erratic.  

Mm-hmm, that’s a really good distinction.  

Yeah, I think those of us who feel like we’re being erratic, probably are being really respectful to our audience.  

(laughs) Yeah, that’s so true.  

And don’t realize that they’re like wanting to hear from us. Like this is something I learned from Hillary, where she’d be like, “Make another offer!” and I’d be like, “No, I talk to them all the time!” And she’s like, “Make the offer!” And then I make it and I like, tail between my legs, I Vox her, and I’m like, “I got sales”.  

Yeah, you’re damn right. Keep the cart open Margo, Jesus, yeah, exactly.  

She’s like, why would you close it on a Saturday? Close it on a Sunday! So there’s things like that that I think, you have to allow for some experimentation that is last minute.  

Yeah.  

As you get better ideas and good advice and you start getting feedback from the market. And then I also think that being erratic, different from feeling erratic, is, when you are being all the place. We all know those people who to your point on being strategic, you might not know everything that you want your brand to do in the next 20 years.

But you have a central idea of how you wanna come off. And the type of brand you want to sell. And I think where it gets really confusing is the push and pull between well we gotta make money now and the larger brand vision. That’s where you start feeling erratic because you get into, we’ve all worked with these clients, it’s like I’m just gonna sell this and now I’m just gonna sell this and now I’m just gonna sell this. And that’s how we’re afraid of coming off.

So, number one, if you’re afraid of this, you’re probably not doing it.  

So true.  

Check out our Imposter Syndrome episode.  

Yes, look closely at that one.  

But also ask yourself like, why does it feel like you’re being too much? What have you actually communicated and look at the evidence?

I had to have some reminders from I think it was in TCC I posted a question like this because I felt I was in promotion mode all the time.So I was like, I’m on a podcast. I had a guest blog and I have a HAMYAW episode and everything just felt like too many asks.

Or do you use like Gary Vaynerchuk’s framework, like too much right hooking and not enough jabs? And so like it bothered me because I like to have a good ratio of like, here’s just pure content un-adulterated by any asks. And then let’s go in hard for the asks and then I realized like, that’s dumb. That is actually that’s moral righteousness we were talking about.  

Check out the Selling by Serving Myth episode folks, go on.  

Yes, I had to call myself out on this where I was like, you know what, there is nothing morally superior about an email that doesn’t ask anyone for anything.  

Yes!  

I was just feeling self-conscious, right? So like the people who follow you they don’t mind like, they signed up to hear from you and learn about what you are doing, now where it gets annoying, I’m thinking of someone in particular who was on my newsfeed recently, like, where it gets annoying is if you’re so preachy and you’re emotionally dishonest, in the way that you sell. Let’s talk about that for a second because that is when you’re getting erratic.

That is when you’re talking down to people when you’re going for a quick sale where it’s very obvious that you’re treating them as transactions. Yeah, then you’re being erratic. Then you’re just wasting their time. And that’s my metric is, am I wasting your time? If I feel like I have been throwing things at you, instead of being in communication with you, then I’m being erratic.  

Yeah. To that point it’s like, this is what you’re putting out designed to help your people and solve a problem? Or is it a way, an easy way for you to make a quick buck? And I think there are moments where sometimes you need a cash infusion and so that easy way to make a quick buck, is tempting.  

Yeah.  

I think there’s a different approach for that than creating like products or experimenting with. When you need a cash infusion, go back to your past clients and let them know you’re running a special. Like you don’t need to necessarily launch that to your list.  

To your audience.  

You don’t necessarily need to pull a product out of your butt in order to make quick cash, because that’s not necessarily gonna work. ‘Cause again, the first couple times you launch it are basically brand awareness campaigns in a big way. So I think, keeping that in mind.  

That’s a really good point too, the difference in like, if you’re building an audience versus having like a consulting or agency model. I think it’s really different. I’ve never in my life, (laughs) heard of people who have one-to-one businesses feel like they’re being erratic because when they test things it’s always in front of a new prospect.

Or a new networking event. Or a different audience. Like when you’re testing to the same audience over and over again, that’s where the self-consciousness comes from.  

Yes, exactly and I think you can wear out your list. And that’s the thing. That is a thing to be concerned about and thinking about. Again, if you launched one thing in the last three months and are nervous to launch another ’cause of being erratic.  

You’re fine.  

You’re fine, it’s okay, keep going. And as your list continues to grow it’s just gonna get more and more fine. And also remember, launches are a great opportunity to build your lists as well as you build up brand awareness. So there are perks for experimentation besides money. It’s also gonna show you a little more about the problem you solve, it’s gonna teach people about your new direction.

It’s gonna help you get seen as an expert in this new position that you really want to be taking up and being in experiment mode and launching lean, it takes a while, it does. We’re talking like six months to a year, two years in order to really cement yourself in this new position.

So you’ve got to learn how to experiment, it’s not an option. But just thinking about those key points, seeing it as a realistic sort of step on the journey as opposed to a means to an end. Massively important and all the more reason to keep going.  

Before we wrap up, I will say one of my favorite life hacks for overcoming the discomfort of like launching and feeling erratic. Take a look at your favorite celebrities’ Instagram.  

Yeah.  

I love looking when Lizzo’s hocking some goods or like Beyonce is telling you again something new she’s doing or like a partnership. They’re all always selling a song, a product, a music video. There’s always something new of course, our brand Mascot, Chris Hemsworth, check him out.  

Our favorite.  

He’s got an app and I couldn’t hear about it enough. So you know. (laughs)  

Exactly, same thing, Kim Kardashian like every third Instagram post is her makeup line or her shapewear line and I love it! I’m like oh I gotta get more stuff.  

Riri is doing the same thing! She had like four Instagram threads yesterday that was on mascara. They were super boring and I watched all of them.  

And I loved it.  

And I was like I am fascinated she puts it on just like I do, like (laughs)  

Yeah, yup, absolutely, absolutely. So, people like you, people want to buy from you. Give them the opportunity.  

Boom, that’s a wrap, all right. So listen you guys, we want to hear from you. We wanna hear about where are you experimenting? Where is it uncomfortable? When was the last time you felt erratic and what did you do? Tell us all about it in the comments. I am Margo Aaron.  

And I’m Hillary Weiss.  

This is HAMYAW, if you like this episode please like it below, share it with your friends, add a comment and subscribe to our channel. We will see you in two weeks!  

Keep experimenting, we’ll see you guys soon. (dramatic beat) 

Photo by Juliet Clare Warren

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