Fooled by Randomness

In 2001 Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote a book called “Fooled by Randomness” that explored how random occurrences (in finances, politics, weather, etc.), that were unpredictable, could have more of an impact on us than all the predictable occurrences.

Examples are 9/11, Katrina and the Mortgage crises of 2008.

Everything is perking along just fine and you’re conducting your life as if nothing could go wrong and – POW! – you’re hit by a random, extreme occurrence that throws everything off course.

But maybe up to that time you were succeeding just by dumb luck or favorable circumstances that you really don’t have much control over, such as native intelligence, education, your parents, and where you were brought up.

I’ve seen this over and over again with Independent Professionals. Their businesses are succeeding despite themselves. Perhaps this is familiar to you:

You’ve worked for some time in your business and it’s grown mostly by word-of-mouth. You focus a lot on doing great work for your current clients and depend mainly on referrals to gain new clients. You haven’t put much time and effort into your marketing because you haven’t seen a need for it.

But then something happens that is unforeseen. A big client leaves, the economy hits another blip, the technology changes, and before you know it, your business is reduced by half and you don’t know where your next client is going to come from.

This is called the “Wake-Up-Call.”

“Ohmygod, what am I going to do? I did well in good times but everything is changing and I’m not getting as many referrals anymore. My clients are disappearing and I have no idea what to do or how to attract more clients.”

It’s often hard to get that it was your fault.

You were succeeding because the circumstances favored success. Remember the famous dot com bubble from 1995 to 2000? If you were investing in technology stocks then, you were making a killing. But on March 10, 2000 the market dropped like a rock and didn’t start to recover until October 2002.

Were you a genius when you were investing during the bubble? No, you were just lucky – for a short time. Same with the mortgage crisis of 2008. Things were on a big upswing for a few years until it all came crashing down.

The equivalent of that for self-employed professionals is called “The Roller Coaster Syndrome.” When you have a lot of business you’re paying no attention to marketing. After all, you’re doing great. But when things crash, as they inevitably do, you scramble around frantically trying to drum up new business.

Repeat this over and over, year-by-year and you have an approximate picture of what your business and marketing look like. And the costs are significant:

– Very little long-term momentum in your business
– Generally unable to consistently meet financial goals
– Frustration with your overall marketing ineffectiveness
– Reliance on “magic strategy” marketing that rarely works

And mind you, this is for Independent Professionals who would generally be considered successful! If this fits you, at least you are doing high quality work and you do generate a certain amount of word-of-mouth business and referrals from satisfied clients.

I won’t even mention the unsuccessful ones (who happen to be the majority). Most of them don’t even earn a living at their chosen profession, or take years to do so.

So now, being aware of this, what do you do?

Understand that up to now ongoing success in your business is largely due to hard work and favorable circumstances. But what can you do to overcome randomness and be successful in your business, good times or bad?

Well, you know what I’m going to say: Work on developing your marketing knowledge, skills and plans and direct your focus, as Tony Robbins says:

“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.”

If you make the decision to put your focus on mastering marketing for your business, you will still work hard, but you’ll be less subject to the ups and downs of the economy and other external events that you have no control over.

Marketing becomes your ultimate success tool.

The More Clients Bottom Line: Don’t be fooled by randomness. If you don’t take on marketing seriously, you will be subject to the ebb and flow of external events you have no control over. Master marketing and you’ll have the skills and the tools to keep attracting the ideal clients year in and year out.

By Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing. Please visit Robert’s web site at for additional marketing articles and resources on marketing for professional service businesses.