I read a lot. Anyone who knows me knows that I always have a book that I am busy reading and a stack of books in the cupboard that I will be reading next. I attend webinars, sign up to newsletters, subscribe to blogs, watch videos, read articles, and generally become engrossed in the conversations making their rounds on social media. As a lifelong learner, I constantly aim to learn new skills, better the ones I have, and learn more about business, marketing, and the world around me.
But, (and anyone who has done even the slightest bit of Googling will tell you this) so much of the information out there contradicts each other. You read an article, watch a video, attend a webinar and the very next day, scroll, or click you find information that directly contradicts what you’ve just learnt.
So, what now? What should you do? What do you believe? For small business owners, this is a particular point of concern. When we don’t know something or need help, we look for advice. We Google, we ask, we sign up for newsletters, attend webinars, scroll, click, and view anything and everything that might help us do what we do better. But with so much contradicting information available, we are faced with more questions than answers, which ultimately leads to us not doing anything.
In this post, I share four tips on how to better navigate content and information in the digital space. Hopefully, this practical piece will help you make the best of the information that you come across in your search. Let’s begin!
Check the dates.
The speed of change that we face in business today means that information shared even as early as last year might not be relevant to your situation anymore. If you consider how quickly technology evolves to help businesses, the most effective solution to your problem might not have existed when the information was initially published. The same can be said for how consumers interact with businesses in your industry. Consider the extreme change in consumer habits and spending due to the pandemic as an example. While tried and tested methods do still offer value, it is important to take these methods and weigh them up against new findings and information.
It’s important to consider how relevant the information is to your business and the industry that you operate in. Sales in a service business differs a great deal from sales in a retail business. Similarly, business processes differ from industry to industry. Look for sources that are specific to the kind of business that you have and the kind of industry in which you operate. What’s more, you need to look for information that is specific to the size of your business as well. Information that is relevant to these three criteria will help focus your efforts on making effective decisions and changes where necessary. You cannot hope to implement a new supply chain or operational process that requires more resources than you have or can realistically acquire.
What does your data tell you?
Just because process X or program Y worked for other businesses in your industry does not necessarily mean that you now need to implement process X or sign up for program Y. What worked for other businesses might not work for you or might not even be necessary for you. Your decision to implement or not implement suggested changes should be driven by your data. Your data will tell you if you need to make changes and also if the changes you made are working or not.
I feel it is important to emphasise that even in a small business, data should drive your decisions. As important as passion and intuition are to the success of your business, your data deserves the same attention. In terms of data, you need to (at the very least) get a clear indication of the following when it comes to implementing change:
What are the industry standards for the metric that is driving the decision and how do you measure up?
Are your existing results good enough for business continuity?
Is your existing situation sustainable given your current resources and limitations?
Is the new suggested change sustainable given your current resources and limitations?
What are the metrics that you need to measure to monitor the success of the change?
This is not an exhaustive list, but answering these five questions should give you a better indication if you should consider making changes or implementing what you are learning, or if you should rather just add the information to your ‘that was interesting’ list.
What were the intentions of the creator?
Is the creator of the content really interested in helping you or are they simply trying to sell you something? This is especially important when analysing information that you find in the digital space and you will be able to spot the intentions of the writer within the first few paragraphs of the piece. Often, blog posts tend to be written to get you to sign up for something, webinars are scheduled to give you just enough to want to subscribe to the company’s services, and articles emphasise your pain points just to tell you that their product is the answer to your problem. Now, don’t get me wrong. These are all tried and tested sales and marketing processes that have shown results. You also never know if the product or service on offer could actually be the best solution for your problem. But, this ties in with another post that I wrote a while ago where we look at how and why you should look at what you are currently doing and optimise rather than simply replace it with something else.
No one knows your business, processes, goals, struggles, resources, and limitations better than you do. While there might be a lot of information available, not everything you come across is relevant to your situation. Knowing what to look out for will help you avoid the content fatigue that so easily comes in the age of information. By checking the date of publication, considering the relevance of the information to your business and the industry that you operate in, being guided by your data, and looking out for the intentions of the creator of the content, you can more purposefully work your way through the information available to find a solution that best works for you.