You Really Need to Get Some Air

This is part two of 13 in the Experience Design 101 series. For links to all the articles in this series click here.

Why do high-powered publishers need editors? Best-selling authors like J. K. Rowling or Maya Angelou, Jakob Nielsen or Keith Ferrazzi, they’re inspired and creative and masters in their fields. Why edit?

Because even an expert needs outside perspective when they’ve been knee-deep in their own thoughts for months or in some cases, years.

My father sometimes read papers for me in high school. My mother used to look at my math. A fresh pair of eyes can catch the easy boo-boos, and that’s great. What fresh eyes are best at, though, is being… fresh.

Call it the duh! factor. [Liz Goodgold does; check out her Duh! Marketing Awards.] If your concepts can’t pass the duh! test you may be headed for trouble. When Dad didn’t think a paragraph made sense, or when Mom couldn’t get the same answer as I did on the math, it was time to go back to work, clarifying and focusing.

You need to step away from your business, on occasion. If you’ve ever held a dinner party at home you probably know how this works: with a half-an-hour to go, you walk the house—What have I forgotten? Any clutter I didn’t spot earlier? Did I chill the wine? Is there a knife for the cheese?

When you step away from your business you perform this same check. Get a little air, gain fresh Perspective on what you offer and how you present it. Is my website too busy? Does it inform enough? Are my ads pulling in the kind of leads I want? Do my staff look pulled-together? Are sales trending up?

All those talented authors step away from their work plenty before they send it off to the publisher. Their magnum opus goes off to an editor, who as gently as possible, hacks it to bits. Or so it feels, because no matter how constructive, criticism can hurt.

Bring it on!

Whether it’s a book or a restaurant or a law firm or a liquor store, your work won’t be its best until it’s made it past the Perspective of an outsider’s eye.

You need an outside eye to watch for nonsense terms and overblown rhetoric like “best in class,” “guru,” and “top-notch” in your materials. [For more, read the uniquely fascinating, top-notch Gobbledygook Manifesto.] You need an outside eye to tell you the colors you’ve chosen for your executive portrait studio scream “hospital,” or the chairs in your reception area are only comfortable to you, or your signage is driving people away. You need an outside eye to tell you the staff you regard as family need to brush up on their manners when you’re not looking, or your prices are upscale but their attire is downscale. You need an outside eye to tell you when your concept needs a little gentle editing.

Get your mom, your dad, a friend who is not afraid to tell the truth, or just stop six new customers today. What strikes them first about your concept, your name, your location, or other aspects of your customer experience? What would bring them to your company? Are they using your offerings in the way you intended? Do they “get it”? Would they recommend you to a friend? Why or why not?

Take your time with this. Don’t wince when you hear their answers, or you’ll hinder the process. Don’t take it personally—this help is literally a gold mine for your business!

Ask for and really learn from this “kick in the pants.” The more Perspective, the better you’ll focus in on creating the Customer Experience that maximizes your growth.

Gather all the information and mine it for the most usable insights right away.

Then, take a break; after all this hacking and mining, you’ll probably need to get some air.

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson


Next up in the series: Part Three: 3 Critical lessons learned from the Big Boys

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