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Optimism Bias is Killing Your Business

Or, how to stop giving Google all your money.

Photo by Kazuo ota on Unsplash

So you start a business or a new marketing position at your company. You have a great product that “everybody” needs or wants. You have big dreams of how your business will take off and sales will come pouring in. You will retire early and enjoy the fruits of your labor sipping daiquiris from a coconut on a Tahiti beach.

I hear Tahiti is wonderful this time of year. It’s a magical place!

With big dreams and a budget which will never be large enough, you start SEO-ing your website and buy a bunch of ads on Google Ads platform. And on Meta’s (everyone is there!) and Instagram (because all those rich millennials are there!). You consider TikTok, but that platform is really not “on-brand” for your company, and making videos is too hard.

Ultimately, you are convinced that going all-in on Google is your best path to riches. You get a sale, maybe, and start to believe the Google “Ads Specialist” they assign you that the best option for you to start raking in the cash is to…. give Google a lot more of it.

You reason that it must be true, so you “de-platform” from the other ads networks and put all your ever-decreasing supply of eggs into the Google Basket.

You start to get leads, and maybe some of your website traffic increases. You are excited, because look! These people will surely buy my product or service! How can they resist?

But the “leads” are really just “oops I meant to click something else” or just aren’t panning out. You follow-up on them, but they are just browsing around, and not ready to buy. For those who are, they are too price-sensitive to really be serious about your awesome product.

You do close a couple of leads. Maybe 2–10 a month. So, you reason things are doing great!

Until they’re not.

So, you figure what you really need is a “Click Funnel” because that YouTuber making a million dollars per second has got a great offer to teach you how to do it, for a low, never-seen-before-in-the-history-of-marketing price of three easy payments of $999. Must be awesome!

I mean, just look at the paint job of that dude’s Lambo! It’s all chrome! Shining like the very Shekinah Glory of God!

You realize of course, that YouTube is another platform of Google, but hey — you did get a few sales from your ads; into which you pumped $5K (or more) into last month for your house painting/roofing/real estate/plumbing/coaching/yoga-ing business.

Then you run out of money. Google and the Other Platforms, has it. All.

And your website traffic tanks. You haven’t had the time to work on your Social Media and SEO campaigns because you have other things to do, like running your business.

The Next Great Downturn™ happens (which the nice lady at that Government Department of Broken Dreams said would “never happen in our lifetimes”).

Your business is dead.

Another victim of optimism bias.

What is Optimism Bias?

According to The Decision Lab (, “The optimism bias refers to our tendency to overestimate our likelihood of experiencing positive events and underestimate our likelihood of experiencing negative events.”

Around 80% of the population, according to their research, exhibit an optimistic bias in a wide variety of circumstances. What is going well, will only get better, and this downturn won’t be as bad as I heard at the water-cooler from Joe (the weird “prepper” dude).

You think, if I just do The Thing harder and spend more money, it will turn around. It has to! My product or service is awesome! Everybody wants and needs it!

Don’t get me wrong: Optimism is healthy. It encourages us to press on in spite of difficulty and rejection. It sucks way less than pessimism, or reality.

It also causes us to think we can really do the impossible.

Yes, some folks do the impossible things. It’s a huge part of our American business mythos. The Steve Jobs’, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos’ stories ring through our heads every day as entrepreneurs. What you don’t see amid all the hard work (which is true), is the out-sized impact of what we call “luck.” If you doubt that, I encourage you to read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers. Luck and the lottery of birth is a much more significant factor in those amazing success stories than hard work and/or talent.

Let’s Get Real

You have that awesome product. It is really great, but not everyone really wants or needs it. You have a budget and realize you need to spend it wisely and carefully. You are not cheap, mind you, but you realize that you need to really put that money where it will truly do the most good over time. You realize that the marketing game is a long-term play — a marathon, not a sprint.

You carefully assess the marketplace and what people really want and need. You seek to see your customers as humans, not digits. You begin to understand what they really want, and what problems your awesome product or service really solves for them. Some of those people do not have the problem your business solves, but you are clear on what the problem is — not just what your product does.

You work on the message and content of your website and outbound communications. You make sure they are consistent with your brand promise. You make sure the images and look-and-feel of the website all speak to your customers’ needs. You tone down the features of your product or service and crank up the benefits for your audience.

Once you have done that, you make sure the website is performing well on all the engines, not just on Google. You make sure your social media messages are appropriate and not trying to be all things to all people.

You ignore the Google Ads Specialist pleas for more money, make sure the ads are optimized and have the right message. You slowly begin running ads in order to see if your message is getting through. You measure the stats and seek to understand your website visitors’ behavior. You fine-tune the ads.

You become an educated marketer.

Over time, your brand becomes recognizable, and you don’t have to spend nearly as much. Your customers become fans of your business and spread the word for you. You may not even need to run ads at all. Or, you can afford to hire someone to run these things for you, so that you are able to run your business and do the other million things on your to-do list. But you do so as an educated businessperson who knows what makes your customers happy — ecstatically happy.

Doesn’t it take a lot of work to do all that? Yep.

Don’t you have too many things to do? Check.

It is worth it? Do you really need an answer to that question?

Work With a Partner to Help Educate You

You know the saying, “two heads are better than one” (and three heads make you a freak, so let’s not go there).

You probably need to work with someone who can partner with you to help you do the leg-work to understand your customer. You will spend money on that for sure, but you will also reap the benefits of becoming educated. The costs of doing otherwise is just too high.

Look for a partner who cares about your business and your customers first. Look beyond the sales-pitch and really assess whether they have the background necessary to understand the psychology of your marketplace. This isn’t a Fiverr or UpWork kind of thing.

This is about your businesses survival, after all, so don’t just trust anyone who tells you all about how they “10x your sales on Google” and “guarantee your website will be on page one in a month.” That’s all BS and you know it.

Stop solving the wrong problem and throwing your good money after bad.

Take the time. Make the effort. By doing so, you willpreserve your optimism and not become a victim of it.

Tahiti is calling. It’s a magical place.

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