Recently I’ve been working alongside some very successful people – including a handful of business coaches and other freelancers and marketing professionals. I’ve noticed a common theme running through our conversations: – the value of objective outside advice.
It really doesn’t matter which way you look at it, there is a lot to be gained by having a qualified outsider look over various aspects of your business and give their unvarnished opinion. You may be surprised at what you hear, but you will almost certainly get some important feedback.
5 Reasons to Get Feedback From Outside Your Business
- Originality & Freshness;
Why Could an Outsider Provide Valuable Insights?
The number one value getting outside advice brings is objectivity. We are all so closely connected with our own business that after a while we can’t see the wood for the trees. Over time we know so much about every aspect of it that we stop asking the questions our prospects and clients ask and we make assumptions about their knowledge. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been talking about my services or online authority, when someone will stop me and ask a basic question like, “What is Google+ Authorship and why does it matter?” – a key piece of knowledge that I’ve assumed they have. On the other hand, I have also lost count of the number of times I’ve been in conversation with someone and thought I understood what they were saying, until finally they said something that demonstrated that they were using a term or concept in way I misinterpreted. I suspect you’ve also been on both ends of those conversations.
An outsider will ask those questions about your product or service where someone inside your company probably shares your assumptions and give you the chance to step back and look at everything from a different angle. That’s why most copywriters are engaged with a peer review team to evaluate their own marketing copy, and to review project work as well. We all get so involved in the work we do that we forget how others, who are not part of the process, see the same things.
Why Not Just Get Internal Feedback?
Internal teams face the same problems even when they are assembled to discuss or brainstorm. Yes, there are more people involved, but you always get a certain level of ‘group think’. It doesn’t take long for members to learn ‘the way things are done’ and to adopt the culture. This is good – especially when you have a positive culture – but it suppresses criticism, innovation and alternative viewpoints.
There is a certain pressure to fit in, and sometimes employees don’t feel free to challenge accepted thinking. A new employee might not want to ask a question about the way things are explained – they know the meaning themselves, and they don’t want to sound ignorant – but your prospects really need an answer.
You absolutely need to discuss things within the organisation, but you’ll often find fresh approaches when you call in an outsider to contribute – and when you shrink back from their suggestions, that’s probably a sign that you are becoming rather parochial in your point of view and desperately need to climb out of your comfort zone.
This applies to everything from presenting your marketing message to making decisions on growth, change, advertising, equipment investment … With a business everyone has a vested interest in the success of the undertaking, but they might have conflicting priorities about expenditure. I was recently working on a Workplace Safety intervention campaign. Clearly the CEOs and CFOs would welcome the improvements it delivered, but Return to Work officers might see it as a threat to their job security – in purely internal discussions you face conflicts like this all the time and some external advice helps you put everything in perspective.
Priorities, Decisions, and Momentum
Valuable ideas are also sidelined every day because there is no-one around to look at their priority and take responsibility for moving them forwards. Obviously we all have limitations in our capacity. In fact, most business owners are so busy that they don’t have time to evaluate their own ideas, let alone the ones other people put forward, but that’s where we make a mistake.
We all have our blind spots, assumptions, and habits. A savvy business owner acknowledges this and sets up processes to make sure they don’t hinder business growth.
Experimenting with new approaches and ideas is an important part of business growth. Dan Miller (http://48days.com) sets a target every year of dropping 15% of his projects to make room for new ones. He does that in consultation with himself, his wife, and his coaches and mentors – and he sets specific criteria that apply. His attitude is that he want to keep doing what is essential and productive, while also experimenting and challenging himself.
You may not want to go that far, but if you get external input from an experienced business coach or other specialised expert, you are sure to uncover new opportunities, and to find some practices that it’s time to abandon.
Who Might You Ask to Help?
I’ve mentioned business coaches already, and they’re often the first person someone things of when they’re looking for outside advice. The only thing I’ll add here, is the question you must ask them: “Do you have a business coach?” If the person you are talking to says “No,” then don’t hire them – they have just demonstrated that they don’t value their own service.
External Marketing Companies are another key resource. If you stop marketing your business you’re dooming it. A growing business should be investing around 40% of its resources into marketing. You may already have an internal marketing department, but they need some coaching as well, to generate new ideas and to make sure they don’t abandon old campaigns just because they’re tired of them. This is a big mistake many businesses make – just because you are sick of your offer or campaign doesn’t mean you should dump it while it’s still working. It’s a big world and there are still many people who haven’t seen it yet.
Copywriters are another resource (funnily enough). A quality copywriter can help you focus your message on your prospect, rather than your business, and that will attract more leads and convert them. I talk to many businesses who assume that just because they are quite good writers and know all about their business, they are the best people to write the text. More often than not they aren’t – because they think about everything from their own point of view, rather than their clients perspective.
Graphic Designers face the same issues many copywriters do. The reality is that investing in a great graphic designer can transform your results. I can’t over-emphasise this enough, because so many businesses think that they can take a few images and an editing program and create a fantastic brochure or logo. It’s just not true. It actually hurts to see how much money businesses spend printing brochures when they’ve ‘saved themselves’ the price of professional design. The end result is dramatically different when you use an experienced professional, and so is the response you get.
You may already have the resources you need within your business or company, but external advice can make them even more effective – and after all, why would you let a false sense of security jeopardise your growth?