If you missed the earlier posts in Dave’s series on decision making, check out part one, part two and part three.
Welcome to part four in the “how do I decide what to do when everything seems equally important” series.
Now we’ve covered a few factors that make decision making easier – assessing impact and probability – and today we’re going to be talking about bottlenecks.
Specifically, we’re going to look at the various projects you could be focusing on and asking if you should put your effort into bottlenecks versus improvements, or, fixing something that’s broken versus tweaking something that’s working.
(For the purposes of this article, we can throw “starting something new that you’re not already doing” into the improvement category as well.)
Ready? Let’s jump in.
Sometimes one project seems sexier than it should because another project is unappealing.
Have you ever noticed how you can suddenly desire to do something you don’t like because you’re faced with a task you don’t like even more?
Like if you hate doing the dishes, but there’s this big pile of mail on your counter that you know you’re supposed to go through. You see the bills, and suddenly dishes seem like the most appealing thing in the world, even though you actually hate it. But in that moment, you hate the pile of bills even more.
That’s how humans work. That’s also why people get into relationships they don’t like because they don’t like being alone even more. It’s human nature, but it’s not exactly the best life plan.
It’s not the best plan for your business, either.
One of the things we notice in clients a lot (and by “clients”, we mean “clients and ourselves”) is that there is a project they’re avoiding that will actually give them better results than the one they’re focusing on now.
Here’s what a business bottleneck tends to look like.
Common example: Someone wants to get more SEO traffic to their website (improvement) so they will sell more of their product. However, their website is kind of hard to navigate and it’s not easy to stumble across the products they’re selling (bottleneck).
Fixing the website feels draining. Chasing a new project like SEO feels energizing. But if they’re already getting decent traffic, they’ll probably see a lot more visits to their sales pages if they fix their website navigation, add some product banners and put some links inside their existing content.
Now, in this case, the bottleneck is glaring – the website is already a liability. But it’s not often that obvious. Sometimes the proverbial website is okay, just not great. But in this case, the bottleneck would probably be the better choice.
But this could easily go the other way. If the website is okay but could stand some work, should it still be fixed? Maybe. If you have lots of new traffic coming, we’d probably lean towards yes.
But if you look at your stats and notice that 80% of your traffic is repeat visitors – who have probably seen your sales pages already – then maybe getting some fresh, new visitors would actually give you the greater gain. It all depends on the situation.
The trick to decision making is taking a good, hard look at the “it depends” factor.
How to use this question when making your decisions
When we look at decisions, we often look at a number of potential improvements or new initiatives. Should I start using Facebook? Should I start taking SEO seriously? Should I start making new products? These are all good questions, and deserve a liberal dose of the impact question we talked about the other day.
But when you look at decisions that are all improvement-based, you’ll do well to look at the flip side and ask yourself if there’s a bottleneck you could be fixing to support the same goal you’re after, whether you’re looking for more sales, more traffic, or more anything.
The same goes for bottlenecks. You may think you need to fix a bottleneck but discover, upon reflection, that there’s an improvement that you can make that will give you far better results. (Just assess the probability first.)
We have lots of things we feel like we WANT to do, and lots of things that we feel like we SHOULD do but don’t want to.
Often the smartest decision to make is the one you’re avoiding the most.
So take that into consideration.
Now, go read part 5 in this series.
See you next post.
All my best,