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Digital Business

Protect your small business from extinction

Bad luck can cause a business to go extinct, even if they're doing everything right, so it's important to build up some defences.
Humanity is not a pinnacle of evolution, but an "utterly unpredictable, partly random, and entirely contingent" blip in a distribution pattern - Stephen J Gould

There's a lot of snake oil peddled online, as you're probably aware. There are a lot of strategists and consultants that read the Method in the Madness newsletter and we've probably unwittingly given what we thought was "sound business advice" at some point. A lot of the advice takes the format: if you do x you can expect y. I'm increasingly persuaded that's ill-informed at best and misleading at worst.

Since the pandemic began, I've been staring business extinction in the face. Not just my own business but the small businesses I've been helping too. The environment is tough and has seen a lot of upheavals. The things we thought were predictable simply aren't anymore.

I was listening to a Radiolab episode recently: Life in a Barrel. I learned about some theories of species extinction, challenges to classical evolutionary theory and the impact of randomness on the fossil record. "Survival of the fittest" might actually be a myth given the impact of randomness and totally unpredictable factors on evolution.

These theories are directly relevant to small businesses today. Because random factors and bad luck can cause a business to go extinct, even if they're doing everything right, it's important to build up some defences. The best defence I've come across (so far) is not to put all your eggs in one basket. Daniel Vassallo explains this as making lots of small bets. Coca-Cola talks about this as their 70/20/10 rule - invest 70% in things you know work, 20% in things you're not sure will work, and 10% in the most left-field ideas. As the predictable 70% becomes less predictable, promote promising candidates from the other buckets.

So, to protect your small business from potential extinction, try a set of small bets.



Here are some things you might find interesting…

Find public Slack groups to join. Useful for understanding the people your business serves.

New from Typeform, the online survey people. Videoask replaces the static, written question with a talking-head video of you explaining something and then asking your questions directly. It might improve conversion rates, or it might not, but it certainly humanises the research process at scale.

Google Trends on steroids. This Chrome extension allows you to see much more useful detail when checking out search trends. They add actual search volume numbers, which is useful, but I think the best feature is the set of long-tail, more specific search queries people are actually stuffing into the search engine.

N2D Method PAYG Price Reduction
Forgive the self-promotion but standalone pay-as-you-go N2D Method projects are now £50 GBP (ex VAT). It's not a promotion, it's a permanent price reduction. A single project is enough to manage an entire business or project, so this should make things a lot more accessible for the 90% of N2D Method users that are on the PAYG tariff. Go nuts ;)

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