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Beware the Thing of Beauty – Remember E=QxA

Beware the Thing of Beauty. That’s one thing I have learned the hard way in my years as a B2B marketer.  Like the Sirens, with their beautiful voices, luring sailors to their deaths in the shallow waters and rocky coasts of their islands, the Thing of Beauty can lead the unwary B2B marketer off course.  Oh, you think you haven’t encountered the Thing of Beauty?

Tell the truth. As a B2B marketer, have you ever rolled out a program, or a sales enablement tool, like a presentation or an ROI calculator, that was so incredibly well-thought, detailed, and thorough, only to have it fail in the field, for no apparent reason? I sure have, and I bet you have too. How could that be? Well, I’ll share with you my experience, and the key equation that will arm you against the allures of the Thing of Beauty.

The Enchantment of the Thing of Beauty

The problem we B2B marketers can have is that we get enchanted by complexity. fractal-429034_1280If we’re not careful, we design programs or build presentations and ROI calculators that address any potential sales scenario, or use case. Encouraged to be thoughtful, deep thinkers, we can respond with content, collateral, and programs that ensure any corner case is well-covered. That’s how we avoid pitfalls, isn’t it? We wrestle all of these issues to the ground, and produce a deliverable that addresses any possible scenario. This output can only be described as a Thing of Beauty because of its comprehensiveness.

After spending days or even weeks designing our Thing of Beauty, we roll it out to the field, or to the rest of the organization. Then, like Captain Renault in Casablanca, upon discovering that gambling takes place in the cafe, we’re shocked, shocked, that our Thing of Beauty doesn’t succeed. How could that be? There is no doubt about the quality of our deliverable. What could have happened?

E=QxA – The Equation that Arms You Against the Thing of Beauty

The error we make is that we equate the quality of our deliverable with its effectiveness. We believe that if our deliverable is of high quality, then it will be highly effective. Even further, we believe that the higher the quality of our deliverable, the MORE useful it will be. Putting this understanding into an equation, we can say that we believe that the Effectiveness (E) of any program or deliverable is equal to (or proportional to) the Quality (Q) of that program or deliverable.

In fact, thinking this way is dead wrong, because it fails to account for a key variable.

The Equation that is the Antidote to the Thing of Beauty
The Equation that is the antidote to the Thing of Beauty

Effectiveness (E) is not equal to, or proportional to just Quality (Q).  The Effectiveness of any program or deliverable certainly depends on the Quality, but it also depends on the Acceptance (A) of that program or deliverable by the intended audience.  The equation that will keep you safe from the allures of the Thing of Beauty is E=QxA.

Effectiveness = Quality x Acceptance

Acceptance drives Effectiveness as much as Quality does
Acceptance drives Effectiveness as much as Quality does

Acceptance is as important a factor in determining the effectiveness of a deliverable as is Quality.  The sales team won’t use your presentation if speaking to the slides requires memorizing too many non-intuitive notes.  The pre-sales teams won’t use your ROI calculator if it requires updating an Excel file on the fly, in front of a customer, with the inherent risks of obtaining an incorrect outcome.  Your business plan template, although beautiful in its format and comprehensive coverage of every possible partnership component, won’t be used if it takes your business development team weeks to fill out.  Take it from me. I know. Each of these is a real example of a way I fell under the spell of a Thing of Beauty.

To be effective, you have to produce deliverables that have high Acceptance.  If your teams accept them, they’ll be used, and they’ll help you achieve your goals. If they don’t, they’ll be wonderful Things of Beauty for you to admire alone, as they park on your bookshelf or hang on your wall. Wonderful for you to admire.  Useless for the business.

Remember Acceptance.  Design your deliverables with high quality, but make sure they aren’t so complex that your audience can’t use them. Simplicity may be better if it means higher Acceptance. Sure, maybe you can’t cover ALL of the use cases, but if you can cover the 80% that the field encounters on a regular basis, then you’ll be more effective.

What about you? Have you fallen for the Siren song of the Thing of Beauty? How do you arm yourself against it happening again?  Please let me know what you think.

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