Paying attention to customer service

The Stories We Tell Ourselves About our Business

Guest Post by Brad Eisenberg, operations consultant and business strategist, BE Lean

Lead magnet.

Depending who you are, you might have had some involuntary emotional response when you read those words. Some of us probably think they’re an oh so important first step in a customer’s buying journey. Others of us might think they’re just a cheap ploy to con people into giving out their precious email address.

So when I tell you this article is about a lead magnet, I don’t want you to jump for joy or run for the hills just yet. Because it’s not really about lead magnets. It’s about the fascinating and unexpected thing I learned from deploying one of my own.

The story my lead magnet uncovered

At the very top of my website, there’s a bright blue button with the call to action “Start with the BE Lean Assessment.” It’s a free 20 question assessment that’s designed to show business owners if their business has the mentality and infrastructure required to scale.

Of course the assessment is designed to be valuable – to give people a perspective about their business that they might not have had before. But over time, the assessment has also been a treasure trove of information for me too. Giving me insights into how people make decisions, what they measure (or don’t), what their planning process is like, and how they prioritize their work.

Recently, I sat down to take a hard look at what the data in people’s responses showed. I was curious if there would be a pattern or story that emerged that would tell me something about how business owners grow and operate their businesses.

There was. And surprisingly enough, the pattern emerged in the first five questions.

Here’s the narrative that appeared…

Question #1: Is your target market clear, and are your sales & marketing efforts focused on it?

Response: Definitely! We’re super clear! [Average score: 72%]

Question #2: Ok, so do you have a proven process for acquiring and retaining customers?

Response: Yeah, for the most part. [Average score: 66%]

Questions #3 & 4: How do you know? Are you measuring your sales performance? Are your key metrics clearly defined?

Response: Well… kind of. [Average score: 53%]

Question #5: Ok, prove it. What’s your customer acquisition cost?

Response: No clue. [Average score: 33%]

The most powerful kind of data is the kind that tells a story. And to me, this story was loud and clear. There’s a big discrepancy between the ideas we as business owners have about our business and the measurement that proves if those ideas are really true.

The Planning and Measurement Gap

I had an honest conversation with a friend recently that really exemplified this gap between planning and measurement in business. My friend Josh is the COO of a financial intelligence education company called Ortus Academy. I was really inspired by his openness and transparency, and he gave me permission to share his thoughts about his experience taking the assessment.

“I’ll be honest, the first time I went through it, I only made it halfway.” Josh told me. “At that point, it was apparent that I had some work I needed to do, and I wasn’t ready to see my score. It scared me.”

I empathized a lot with what Josh was telling me. I saw his fear reflected in the data. It wasn’t just him experiencing a fear of what the numbers might mean about his business.

I told Josh about the “measurement gap” I was seeing in the data, and how similar it was to his experience taking the assessment. He knew exactly what I meant.

“Most entrepreneurs are really good at looking ahead and putting a plan together,” Josh told me. “But we can be really bad about looking backward and measuring what we’ve done because it might mean we were wrong or came up short.”

Josh’s observation was backed up by the assessment data.

When doing my analysis, I looked at all the questions in the assessment that had to do with what I call “The Plan.” These were questions that related to what the business does and what it’s going to do next. Things like how the business gets new customers, how they deliver their products & services, and whether they embrace a culture of continuous improvement.

The average score across “The Plan” questions was 72%

I then looked at all the questions that had to do with measurement. These were questions about defining and measuring metrics like customer acquisition cost and profit margin, but were also about whether decisions were informed by data and whether new ideas were implemented like experiments.

The average score across the measurement questions was 52%

This 20 point gap was larger than any other disparity across the other categories I looked at. And the more I looked into the data, the more I saw the same narrative across other subsets of questions as I saw within the first five that I shared earlier.

Sometimes you have to smell your own feet

If you think about it, the trend isn’t all that surprising. And it’s not only entrepreneurs that think this way either. It’s ingrained in human psychology.

“We see the same pattern with the people we work with in our workshops,” Josh told me during our chat. “When we ask people if they have a budget, they usually say they do. But when you dig deeper and ask them for the specifics, they can’t back it up. And when you boil it down, a lot of people are just scared about what their budget would show them.”

Ultimately, Josh did complete the assessment and got his score. “It originally scared me,” he shared. “But it scared me into action. It gave me the clarity to see what I had to work on, and I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to smell your own feet.”

To Josh’s credit, his assessment results also showed him that there was a lot he was doing right as a COO too. But ultimately, he understood that the assessment isn’t about getting a “good” or “bad” score. It’s about gaining a perspective of where your business is at today and how it can be even better tomorrow.

Pull Out Your Yardstick

If I were an unimaginative data wonk, I might have started out this article by listing off the typical type of statistics you’d expect to see in a summary of survey results.

  • Overall Average Score: 61%
  • Highest Score: 93%
  • Lowest Score: 23%

But let’s be honest, while I may be a wonk, I’m not unimaginative, and those numbers mean absolutely nothing. They’re vanity metrics. They don’t tell a story.

Maybe it’s surprising to you that the average score was so low. After all, if we were in the classroom, 61% would have been a failing grade. But we’re not in the classroom anymore and life isn’t an exam.

That’s what’s wonderful about the world of business. We get to choose our own path and make our own rules. Our success isn’t measured by anybody else’s yardstick but our own.

But let’s also be honest with ourselves. There is a yardstick.

The yardstick is our vision. The yardstick is our dreams. And if we want to achieve what we set out to do, we need to put aside our ego, work through the fear, and actually see how we measure up. Even if it means we have to smell our own feet.