Why You Should STOP Listening To “Experts”

By in Customer Development

Since January this year, I’ve been helping entrepreneurs, growth hackers and sales people with their growth and lean startup issues through 30-minute calls. There is one particular question that always bothers me:

Ramli, what do you think about my business / marketing tactic / growth hack?

Experts! Experts! Experts! Everywhere!

We live in a world now where certain people are considered “experts.” If you’re looking for Lean Startup tips, listen to Eric Ries, Laura Klein, Kevin Dewalt or Tristan Kromer. If you’re looking for Growth Hacking tips, listen to Sean Ellis, Andrew Chen, Noah Kagan or Ryan Holiday. If you’re looking product management tips, listen to Jackie Bavaro, Rich Mironov, Ken Norton, or Sachin Rethi. Experts are everywhere.

The problem is that a lot of people see these experts like Gods. They can’t do anything wrong. So people follow every word, tips, tricks and voodoo magic from them. And here’s what’s happened:

People have just replaced the hard task of strategy and critical thought with the lazy solution of following someone else’s process.

Blindly following other people’s advice for your business misses the thought process and conversation with your team required to ask the important questions to your customers. You’ve just replaced the hard task of strategy and critical thought with the lazy solution of following someone else’s process. Stop being lazy by just taking other people’s word as gold. Be a skeptic.

Customers Over Experts

The reality is that it’s NOT about what “experts” think about your business, your customers or your strategy. It’s about what your customers think and how they react. “Experts” don’t know your customers like you do. And if they do know more about your customers than you do, you have a serious problem. Get out of the building and talk to your customers, not to “experts”!

That’s why, whenever someone asks me “what do you think?” my answer is, “It’s NOT about what I think. It’s about what your customers. Have you talked to any of your customers about this?”

Here are my tips on how to think critically through issues instead of blindly following other people’s advice:

  1. Have a falsifiable hypothesis statement for each experiment
  2. Choose one metric that will help you determine whether your experiment succeeded or failed
  3. Run the experiment and interpret the results. Don’t come to people for advice without first trying to understand what the results of your experiments means for your business.
  4. Repeat step 1 to 3, taking into account all your lessons learned from the previous experiments.

Where I think experts can add the most value is helping you craft your hypothesis statement and experiment. We’re often too close to our business to be impartial when crafting a falsifiable hypothesis statement and designing an experiment to test that hypothesis. I also think, experts can help you interpret the results of your experiments, especially if the results are ambiguous.

Stop Listening to Experts. Listen To Your Customers Instead.

But, at the end of the day, it’s up to you whether you should listen to “experts.” Just remember, your customers are the true experts of your business. Money and time talks. Users will either spend their time, their money or both in your business if you’re going the right direction.

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Photo credit: Pete Prodoehl via Flickr

Growth Marketing Leader + Educator | VP of Growth and Co-Founder at Idea 51 Agency | Marketing Professor at Centennial College | Digital Marketing instructor at RED Academy | University of Waterloo B.Math and Ivey MBA alum

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