Why do some books, courses or workshops end up becoming so addictive?
Is it the teacher, the system, the information, or is it all of the above? In this podcast we look at why your business needs a bit of movement through three precise stages. Those stages are information, results and elegance. Elegance is hard to resist, but how do we get there and how long does it take? Is there any guaranteed way to get to elegance? Let's find out in this episode.
I'm fascinated with 2-Minute Noodles.
When I was growing up, Nestle, the Swiss food giant, introduced Maggi 2-Minute Noodles in India. And being India, they started with just a few flavours, but my favourite was “masala”. I'd get home almost every evening, salivating at the thought of ripping open a Maggi noodle packet, tipping it into hot water and enjoying a tasty meal shortly after.
When you hear this story, the concept of elegance doesn't come to mind, does it?
And yet, the entire concept of Maggi's 2-Minute Noodles is incredibly elegant. Don't believe me—try it for yourself. Give it to a ten-year-old and ask them to go through the process of getting themselves a meal.
Even the most reluctant kid instantly works out how to get a plate filled with noodles, without needing a recipe or even any outside help.
So what is elegance and why is it important in any business?
To get to elegance we need three steps, namely:
Step 1: Information
Step 2: Results
Step 3: Elegance
Let's take the example of learning online and work our way through the stages, starting with information.
Information is what everyone gives you. The contents of a book are “information”. A webinar presentation is an information package. The detail in a course—that's “packaged information” as well.
The sad part of today's world is that a lot of content creators don't end up giving you a precise result. You don't get a system created for you. Instead, you have to bring out a massive sheet of butcher paper and work out how to get things done systematically. If and when you figure out a system, you get to the second stage, namely, results.
There are exceptions, of course
Some books, courses, or consulting sessions that walk you through specific points. And instead of being stuck on the information island, you get to the second stage; you get a result. But if the result goes even further, we get the third stage, elegance.
Elegance is like a Maggi Noodle packet. It's fun getting the result.
To understand elegance let's take a real-life situation
You're in a city. You know you could flag a cab while standing on the street. That's just the first stage: That's information, but you don't get a guaranteed result. If it's raining, will you get a cab? It's hard to tell.
However, when you have a phone number to call, the cab company informs you a cab will be with you in the next 20-30 minutes. That's the second stage: a guaranteed result. But what's elegance? The Uber app is elegance.
If you've used Uber to get to a destination, you know exactly how cool it feels to call a cab. The app tells you where the cab is located, how long it will take to get to you, messages you when the cab is right outside your door, gives you a map of your trip, gives you a price (both in advance and on arrival), and it requires no cash or even the need to talk to the driver about the destination. Now that—that is elegance.
But what does all of these stages have to do with your business?
Most of our businesses fall into three core categories:
• Consulting where you meet the client one on one
• Training in the form of webinars, seminars, courses.
• Leverage in the form of books, info-products, courses, etc.
In every one of these situations, we tend to focus largely on information
Look at a blog, for example. What is a blog post? In many cases, it's not designed to give you a result. Instead, it gives you information. However, let's assume you're a different type of writer. You're not the kind to be happy with just doling out information, but you want to get to a result.
At this point, you're squarely getting results. Finally, there's the factor of elegance. How on earth do you want to elegance? You add the cool factor by making the process fun and easy.
We'll take a few examples from the Psychotactics site
Take the headline report when you first get to the home page. Is that information, result or elegance? You may not know it, but at one point that report wasn't a report at all. It was just an article. And not just an article, but an article posted in tiny 8 or 10 point size on the earliest version of our website.
It clearly stated that you could learn how to write three types of headlines in under 10 minutes. We had no elegance, with that tiny font and poor formatting, but two stages were met: it was both informational, and it got a result.
The final stage was elegance
We took the same content and put it into a PDF. The formatting improved, cartoons were inserted, and so were captions. The transformation was akin to eating out of a pot and being served a plated meal at a gourmet restaurant.
To get that cool factor in place, you have to admit that information is just the starting point and that a specific result must follow. Finally, the look is important, but so is the ease. The report could be clunky or vast, stretching over 40 pages.
Instead, in under ten pages or so, it's done, and you're scot-free and happy to have acquired a tiny skill.
Elegance is a combination of both ease and fun—that's what makes it cool.
Let's take a second application like the Psychotactics “Three Month Vacation” podcast
Podcasts can be just information, right? But the “Three Month Vacation” podcast goes slightly beyond. When you listen to it, you're given one thing to work on. A small thing that you can complete, and that's stage two, a result.
But where's the elegance? That's in the structure. You know the format and how it splits itself into three sections; how there are stories that are both entertaining and intrinsically linked to the marketing information; how there's music and sound effects that match the voiceover and how even the announcements at the end (which is really a sales pitch) is so easy going, that you're keen to listen to the very end.
You don't switch off the podcast when the marketing information is done but are happy to listen to the very end.
However, elegance comes at a price
That price is your ego. Take software like Procreate, for example. I use Procreate on the iPad Pro to draw most of my cartoons. The program was already amazing before the new update. Thousands of users of the app swear by the elegance of this nifty software. But Australian, and co-founder of the app, James Cuda spent an endless number of hours with Lloyd Bottomley, a self-taught coder and fellow Tasmanian.
Allana, Cuda's wife, joined as CFO and they toiled over it for 18 months and worked through over a hundred design reviews and three bottom-to-top rebuilds of the program. Ego takes a beating when you realise that 99 of your design reviews are still going to need a fix.
Elegance is the result of asking the client over and over again: how would you fix this?
Every programmer knows that her wonderful code is only wonderful for so long before someone gives feedback and the program needs to be made simpler, easier, more intuitive and yes, possibly fun.
But that's not the only price to pay
The second price is time. No matter how noble your motives, you can't get to elegance overnight. Even the tiniest booklet like the Headline Report—just ten pages of content—that took several iterations as it went through the phases. The Article Writing Course has been a work in progress for well over ten years.
We've received over 250,000 words of feedback (that's because every client is required to give a thousand words of “what can be fixed”. They make suggestions both during the course and give detailed feedback as part of an assignment after the course). The course in 2016 was already one of our bestselling courses, and we rewrote it from the ground up, changing the system completely.
Clients suggested many changes, including a brand new forum. I don't know about you, but getting a new forum in place, and transferring all the information to that forum, that's work in itself. As you can see, it all takes time, and you can't exactly rush it.
Programmers understand this concept of not rushing things
If the software works well and gets results, programmers know there's no fire. They've completed their stages of information and result. But then in comes the feedback and they get to work on creating a new version.
Version 1.0, Version 1.1, Version 1.2 and so on. First, tiny increments, then off to Version 2.0 and so forth. With every iteration, there's a need to create better efficiency without overwhelming the client.
If anything, elegance relies on simplicity and fun.
Where does this leave you and your business?
There's a good chance that you're creating a course, writing a blog post, or creating a consulting program. Is it just information at this stage? Or does the client get a result? What is that result? Can you define that result?
Take for instance the Sales Page course. When creating the course, the result was stated at the very beginning. In fewer than three days, you could write a sales page as well, or better than a seasoned copywriter. That's a result.
Can you state the result? It needn't be super-complicated. With the headline report, we weren't promising clients would be headline superheroes. However, within 10 minutes they could see which headlines worked and why they worked.
And they, in turn, could replicate those headlines for their blog or newsletter. Often the result can be pretty modest and doesn't need to be over the top. That's where you need to start: What can you guarantee the client?
Fill in this blank: When the client finishes with this product/training/consulting he/she will be able to do …………..
If you were a Maggi Noodle packet, you'd say: Two minutes. In two minutes, you'll be eating a tasty meal.