Looking for the right choice? You’ve already found it.

Picture of red and yellow doors

Just recently, a friend asked me for some decorating advice. Should she go for a red front door, or a yellow one?

“I value your input,” she said. “You have good taste.”

I’m not sure she’s right on the latter point, but then who am I to judge? Maybe it’s only others who are in a position to say whether we’ve got good taste. I’m not convinced that mine is anything other than very ordinary, but my friend seemed to think otherwise. 

“So,” she continued, “which one would you go for?”

I learned long ago not to dispense advice, because if you’re wrong, you always get the blame, but if you’re right, you rarely get the credit. And really, who cares whether red or yellow is the right choice? 

Actually, I do. Or did.

A decade ago, I remember agonising about whether my Panasonic digital compact camera should be blue. Or red. Or maybe black. 

So I ordered the blue one. Then, when it was too late to cancel and it was already winging its way to me, I felt a niggling sense of doubt about whether I’d made the right choice. 

And you know what? I had.

Simply because I’d made a choice. Any choice

Think you’re right? You are. 

The thing is, we humans are faced with a staggering number of choices every day. And most simply aren’t worth our brain cycles. Just recently, I’ve struggled with questions that with hindsight seem inconsequential. Yet at the time, they got a lot more attention than they deserved, and spanned the personal and professional: 

  • Do I need a phone with NFC so I can use it to pay at the supermarket? 
  • Should I pay a little more for a better seat on the plane? 
  • Do more expensive noise-cancelling headsets cancel more noise, or just have better sound? 
  • Should every case study in the series have a matching number of bullet points?
  • Where should I go on holiday?
  • Is this quote too long, or are the others too short? 

Recognise the pattern here? Maybe your questions are different (I certainly hope so) but the process is probably much the same.

Find out the possible choices, evaluate them, get a gut feel about which one you think is right, try to justify your choice, look for contrary opinions (aka negative reviews), weigh up the pros and cons. Make a choice, then instantly wonder if you’ve made the right one. 

Rinse and repeat. 

What we’re all blind to is the opportunity cost of agonising over a decision. It almost always outweighs the value to be got from making the right decision. In any case, the right decision is a chimera – it doesn’t exist. 

And going into mental overdrive means you take your eyes of the prize.

Getting to yes

It’s easy to bat away all decisions and say they don’t matter that much. But some do – so the trick is identifying which ones to pay attention to, and which ones to put on the back burner. And the only way to do that is to helicopter out to get an overview.

When it comes to marketing, you should focus on the important decisions, because they’re the ones that will repay your time and effort. I’m thinking of: 

  • High-level marketing strategy
  • Marketing objectives
  • Client segmentation
  • Marketing mix
  • Company targets (by sector, product, service, geography)

Base your decisions on a healthy dose of reality i.e. hard figures. How many visitors do you have on your site? What’s the dwell time? The bounce rate? What’s the uptake on the latest offer? Did landing page A work better than landing page B?

Those high-level details, backed up by hard stats, are worth spending time on. But the key to getting things done (launching that website, pushing that campaign out the door, writing the taglines, polishing the copy) is to quit while you’re ahead. If it’s 80% there, it’s there. Tick it off and move on.

Details, mere details

The thing is, there are no right answers. No decision matters that much. 

We hear a lot nowadays the phrase don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I mentioned that to a friend over coffee the other day. “That old cliché,” she chuckled.

And she’s right – it is a cliché. But then why do clichés become clichés? Because they contain a grain of truth. They’re trotted out again and again because they make sense. So you need to walk the talk, and you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression

But in this case – in all cases – the cliché is spot on. Good enough is good enough.

There is no right length for a piece of copy. The quote is fine as it is. You don’t need the same number of bullet points. You can change the heading later. The blog post is good to go – hit publish and do something else.

With practice, you get faster and faster at making decisions. And miraculously (but not really, of course) you get more done.

It’s all the same to me

My friend went for the red door in the end. I thought that was the right choice, and I told her so. 

“I knew you had good taste, ” she said. “Speaking of which, let’s have dinner at my place. What would you like? Pizza? Pasta? Roast? Paella?”

She’s a bit of a foodie, so I really didn’t want to say that it was much of a muchness. I don’t spend an inordinate time choosing, preparing or eating food – and cutting out all the palaver gives me time to focus on things that are important to me.

So I turned the question around. And back came the answer – pasta. 

“Perfect. That’s exactly what I was thinking, ” I said.  She’s a great cook, so I didn’t need much encouragement to beat a path to her door – her red door.

Great choice.