It’s OK if you don’t know what you're asking - you should still ask.
We were recently invited to participate in a proposal for an interior designer. I am intentionally keeping this generic, so the names have been changed to protect the innocent. So … just the facts.
As an interior designer, this prospect wanted a visually rich experience. They didn’t just want visual emphasis; they literally wanted nothing but big beautiful photos. Here’s the challenge: they also wanted powerful SEO, so the site would rank high in Google.
Before you point and snicker at how ridiculous that sounds, we put forward a plan that will achieve both of the prospect’s goals, a website of big, beautiful photos, and a serious marketing tool that would find leads through organic search. Seriously. It CAN be done.
The lesson for us all is that the point-and-snicker-reflex needs to be quashed. Numerous adages apply here, and since I can’t stop myself from taking things apart, just to see what’s inside, I’m going to break down some of these adages and apply them to our business.
You know what you know (for pessimists, the adage reads: you don’t know what you don’t know).
Nobody knows everything. The reason the term know-it-all is negative is because knowing “all” is impossible. If it were possible, “know-it-all” would be a compliment.
If you act like you know everything, it will get you into trouble. I mean act. Talking like you know everything simply makes you socially challenging. If your know-it-all-ness drives your actions, you’re probably making quite a mess of things.
That’s the point to this adage: if you act on things without knowledge, you will make mistakes, and you won’t be aware of your mistakes. People inclined to settle will take this adage as justification for never trying anything new. Setters never venture into unknown territory. Successful people recognize that this adage is not a stop sign, it’s a caution sign.
For many businesses, the internet is unknown territory. Some businesses settle with a website that shows a photo of their front door and displays their phone number. Done. They have a website. They don’t need to think about it again. What they don’t know is killing their business. They don’t know that they have too little content for Google to find them. They don’t know that content that never changes gets moved down in Google’s rankings. They don’t know that a website can attract previously unknown prospects, which means they don’t know that their competitor’s website is reeling in those prospects. They are acting (building a website) without knowing, and it could bring down their business.
The more you know, the more you know you want to know.
This is what drives us to be the best at what we do, to be better than anyone else, to be better today than we were yesterday.
This is one of the most positive adages I have ever encountered. For curious people like me, it’s as close to the meaning of life as I have ever seen.
I know that it also sounds like the basis of the Faust legend, but I dismiss that comparison; I think 16th century Germany must have been a pretty depressing place to hang out.
The world is always changing. We get ahead by knowing all we can. In business today, nothing is changing faster than the internet. It impacts every aspect of your business. You make your first impressions with your website (branding). Your website communicates who you are, what you do, and how you do it (marketing communications). Your products or services can be easily purchased (sales). Your competitor’s websites compete with yours for market share (strategic marketing). Pursuing knowledge is a key to business success.
It doesn’t hurt to ask.
It couldn’t be any simpler. Just ask. If only it were that simple. Sometimes it does hurt. It hurts our ego to openly express our shortcomings. It hurts our status in career-ladder-climbing to reveal that someone else knows something we don’t. If we ask something stupid, someone may point and snicker. If you’re really neurotic, your list of potential hurts is long.
Well, get over it. You truly can’t increase your knowledge without asking questions, and you can’t succeed without knowledge.
The prospect I mentioned earlier didn’t know what they were asking for, but they still asked. They didn’t limit their request to what they already knew. There is a fearlessness to that request that we should all remember.