Actually, there is more than just one rut, in reality. It’s more like a collection of ruts. It’s CRS. Cultural Rut Syndrome. And it’s when your business is making decisions based on “culture”, “history” or “process” instead of on, say, data, customer feedback or from the results of testing.
Oh, sure, everyone likes to brag up how they do A/B testing, how they have guidelines for content creation and curation, etc. Sounds great ion a meeting or when networking at a conference, I agree.
But are you actually breaking bad molds and making decisions that are best for the business? Or are you stuck in a rut repeating past successes and failures over and over again?
Now, repeating past failures is obviously a problem. I mean, it’s self-evident you shouldn’t, but it happens. People change jobs, the memory of what they did fades, new people repeat mistakes from the past. If this is happening, maybe you need to work with HR on a better employee retention plan. Why doom the company to repeat past failures when retaining an employee and their knowledge can help the company grow?
Less obvious is the downside to repeating past successes. Now I know you’re thinking, “What the heck? Is he nuts? Success is good!”
Well, “measured success” is good, “random success” less so. If you know exactly how to repeat success, it’s helpful. If you’re trying things with variations and getting various degrees of success, you can only call that “testing” for so long before it either evolves into outright repeatable success, or devolves into guessing.
Even then, the approaches taken to that success, repeatable or not, may limit the level of success you reach. Angry Birds is the perfect example here. Yes, you can kill all the pigs and call this success…and score a single star with a low score, using all your Birds. You can kill all the pigs using a single bird and get a high score and three stars. But even that doesn’t mean you’ve maximized success. You can continually refine and often increase that high score.
Like in school, a passing grade is good, but an A+ leads to greater things than just passing.
So many businesses today stand in ruts simply because they fear trying something new or novel. Dare to dream. If you fail, you know not to repeat that approach. Naturally, you need to be thoughtful when and where you apply this, as for many businesses, dollars are at stake.
When a competitor completes a site redesign, do you lament the fact, or use it as a blueprint to step forward? After all, they just spent a bunch of money on usability testing, design work, etc., and that press release they did to try to score some links, where they bragged about the usability testing and how much improved the site is, that’s a way for you to understand where to set your ground level. It signals where you grow from.
To look at their work, scoff and say “We won’t do that…”, well, that’s you in a rut. That’s you making decisions not in the best interest of your business and customers. That’s you falling behind.
· Ruts exist in SEO – failure to invest in quality and depth of content; failure to think your content can be compelling, focus on technical aspects to the exclusion of other areas like usability, social media, etc.
· Ruts exist in PPC – putting your campaigns on “fire-and-forget”; not building and refining landing pages; not doing testing between ads; not creating fresh ads frequently; not testing bidding/page placement against conversions, and so on.
· Ruts exist in social – not participating; ignoring poor online reviews; thinking you should only talk about you; not watching where your audience is located; not testing your voice to determine what engages followers and more.
If you’ve ever uttered or heard the words “…that’s just how we do it…” you might be staring a rut square in the face. People get accustomed to thinking in certain patterns. We get used to doing things in prescribed ways. Its muscle memory and it makes things easier for us. Easier doesn’t always mean efficient and it certainly doesn’t always mean profitable.
So take a look at the work you do and ask yourself if you’re stuck in a rut. If you are, do something different. It’s unlikely anyone will come along to help you graciously out of said rut, and it’ll be uncomfortable for you to do it, but change happens from within first. Don’t expect a parade for making the change. Many will buck your effort, resisting change. In the end, your business success will be all the proof you need that hopping out of that rut was the smart move.
Sr. Product Manager