When motivational guru Mastin Kipp mentioned this concept of the danger of ‘Proximity Advice’ at a recent conference, I was hooked. He was speaking about people getting the wrong advice from their friends and family when they want to make a change in their lives. I actually see this happening a lot in business and it’s a very dangerous habit that hurts businesses.
Who Are You Close To?
As I’m sure you know, proximity means being close. Therefore, proximity advice is seeking counsel from people who are in your immediate surroundings. In life, that’s your friends and family. In business, that’s your employees and yourself. Unfortunately for small businesses, it might also mean friends and family! The reason why it doesn’t work is because the people who are counselling you are not experts, they are not your target and they are carrying the bias of their own filters and life experiences.
As a purchaser of services in my Marketing Manager role for 20 years, I watched vendor after vendor take hours to prepare and present recommendations based on nothing but their (wrong) assumptions about what was wrong with our brands. Prior to coming in, they hadn’t bothered to ask us, a vendor, a customer of ours or even to check in with us during the assault (presentation) about their assumptions. Sadly, businesses do this everyday.
A common area where Proximity Advice hurts businesses is when Marketing Messaging is being formulated. Recently, I was speaking to a friend who owns a multimillion Dollar online training company who was revamping his marketing message. His method had been to ask his own team about what that message should be, based on their assumptions of what they thought the client pain was. Promptly, I warned him to check their advice with some market insights. After all in my long marketing career, I’ve seen many an ad campaign completely flop because it came out of the agency creative team’s own imagination and thoughts-not consumer insights.
Beware Mastermind Groups
One concept that I have never been able to understand is where a group of businesses who are at the same level of business gather and try to help each other solve a common strategic problem. This is Proximity Advice at its worst because I often witness business owners give bad/wrong/useless advice around topics that aren’t their core competency. They give their own perspective and solution to the problem at hand based on their limited knowledge and experience with the subject matter. Unfortunately the truth is, if the businesses in the room had solved that huge problem, they wouldn’t be at the same level as the others. I only see value in groups where there’s a leader or a participant who is at a higher level of success than the room who’s giving the advice. So if you’re investing all of your biz dev dollars in getting advice from your peers, beware the advice you’re getting.
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