Your Content Isn’t Nearly As Important As You Think

*This article originally appeared on my LinkedIn blog*


Great content is no substitute for great products.

I’ve worked with companies whose products didn’t fit the markets they were trying to serve.No matter how beautifully I crated an email, the best we could produce in terms of sales opportunity was usually one of two kinds of prospect.

We’d find (and successfully sell to) the occasional straggler who hadn’t yet adopted a well-known technology. Other times we’d engage the unqualified tire kicker who had no intention of purchasing. Stragglers made us money, but not enough to build a sustainable sales process. Tire kickers were a distraction at best and at worst made us consider modifying a product to fit a need they never really wanted to fill.

If you’ve ever seen the BBC show “Sherlock” (or, even more rare, if you’ve read the original texts), you’ll remember that Lestrade is the police inspector who invites Sherlock Holmes to consult on numerous criminal investigations. Particularly in the first episode, everyone on the police force seems to hate Holmes.

That’s because they have to follow rules while Holmes gets to work his magic and never touch a single sheet of proper paperwork.

In short, Sherlock doesn’t follow police best practices.

And yet, Lestrade continues to allow Holmes (and Watson) to consult. Why? In the end, the cases must be solved and he doesn’t care nearly as much how they get solved as he does that they get solved.

Sherlock Holmes is what the police need, no matter how little they want him.


I have worked with clients whose products are so beautifully designed for a specific application that, despite following zero best practices in terms of their sales copy, they have been able to generate tremendous revenue.

Now, that’s not to say they wouldn’t benefit from best practices. In fact I’d wager that their numbers would only improve.

But that’s the exact opposite of the message we are hearing from articles about how “One Change to Our Email Signature Boosted Profits 10378%”. These are the business content equivalent of men who claim there’s “one weird trick to win over any woman” and sell a $10k master class to share it.

Look, there’s no one “trick” to sales that works for everyone, and we do a dangerous thing by leading people to believe that there is. We let them believe that if they JUST do that one thing, they too can have similar results.

There’s no one “trick” to sales that works for everyone.

We need to include a disclaimer that seems obvious, but for some reason we forget: “All other things being equal…” meaning that if all of your market conditions and business value propositions are equal to or better than those of the article’s author, you too should be able to get similar results from their advice.

And so we focus on the “hacks” that can often just cost us time.

If there’s anything I’ve learned running and helping others run startups, it’s that time is our most precious resource. When we focus on minute details, we often lose sight of the fact that we’re trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. And until we fix that, there’s not a hack in the world that can save us.

There are going to be some people out there who misinterpret this as a criticism on articles about hacks or tricks or whatever you call them. Nope – not me. I love that stuff. But I do think it’s important to remember that the best trick of all is offering a product or service that people know they need and are willing to pay for.1-growth-hack


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