Seasonal systems, scoping, and incremental improvement

I’ve tried “becoming” a runner for years. The main reason isn’t because I like running. I despise every stride. Exercise, however, feels good and is tremendously beneficial. Not just that, but the hardest thing to get past for me are usually passive barriers. What workout should I do today? Tomorrow? Do I have that equipment? Do I have to drive to the gym? Where are my shorts?

Laying out my shoes and shorts, having a known distance, and a planned route to run makes the easiest and cheapest possible solution to those passive barriers. It’s the easiest workout routine to sort of do. There’s a lot of good wisdom in that for overcoming obstacles and picking say — a market.

Last year a friend of mine challenged me to an actual running goal. A sub-20:00 5k race time. I had an unofficial 19:06 on a semi-accurate flat course in Manhattan in 2008. It was the best overall shape I was ever in and I was surrounded by other people also running that I could mentally compete against. 20:00 was about 9 minutes faster than I could have run the distance when he mentioned it. It was going to take months to prepare and I’d need a real plan to get there. No more random runs on any given day. I needed to lock in to get there.

I found 5k running plans and 10k running plans. I planned 5-6 months of running and pace targets in a spreadsheet and tracked runs 4-6 days a week as I ramped up. I ran sprints, intervals, hills, mountains, trails, and road miles. I ran a 21:40 5k time with severe knee soreness. That was my best time in years and it was the most serious I had ever been about improving my running in my life, but I failed the goal.

I couldn’t run for 4-6 weeks after the race because I had trained running uphill too hard and developed some significant tendonitis in my right knee. It took me 4-5 months to get serious about running again, but I continued doing other workouts.

My next adventure in running started about six months ago and I think this season has come to an end. I’m looking forward to other goals, workouts, and activities. I’ve been learning to snowboard the past two winters and it makes my preferred style of vertical targeted trail running too hard on the knees.

In the past I would’ve felt like this was a failure, but this time around I was running 5k distances easily. I was putting in 20-25 miles a week with 8-10 mile long runs. I was in much better running shape than the season before and with less stress on my knees until snowboarding ramped up.

This is the crux of the seasonal system. It’s okay (it’s great actually) to do something for 6-16 weeks, bank some real improvement and return to it when you’re stoked to do so.

Doing everything whole hog all the time is exhausting and wastes a lot more motion without the return. I feel the same way about budgeting and financial habits. You can budget hard for shorter periods and bank improvement without tracking everything all the time. Hey, if tracking everything all the time is fun and easy for you then it’s great, but if you feel guilt ridden and like a failure for falling off that wagon — just make it a seasonal system plan. Do a 10 week budget sprint.

Another thing you can do is scope the system. Running is a specific activity goal like snowboarding. Those get naturally scoped for me by how much wear and tear I can put on my knees. Scoping budgeting can also be done. You can explicitly manage only discretionary spending categories like shopping, movies, dates, drinks, or restaurants. Most budget templates or budget calculators can help you get started and scoping to maximum efficiency. It’s a lot less work to only track those receipts, and any system you can stick to is better than nothing. Zero based budgeting everything is the granddaddy of the process, but it might be more efficient for you to focus your efforts on your worst financial habits.

Try on some scoped or seasonal systems this year. I bet you wake up next year just a little bit improved.


“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” — Hemingway

Using Monte Carlo methods to make business decisions

Not sure what a Monte Carlo simulation is? Take a look at a great breakdown of what Monte Carlo simulations are.

Monte Carlo simulation methods make it possible to account for uncertainty in the complex and varied decisions you make in your business. I don’t suggest that one man startups with $1,000 a month in revenue start by using Monte Carlo simulations to analyze decisions. It’s a lot of complexity to add all at once and it’s important to really understand the methodology you’re using to make decisions. It’s probably more important that you understand the methods you use than that the method itself is incrementally more accurate.

If you’re familiar with 538 or Nate Silver from the last couple election cycles, you’re probably familiar with models that offer results similar to what you see from a Monte Carlo simulation. Results are in the form of chances a scenario plays out like building this new technology has a 65% chance to be profitable given these assumptions.

There are some big benefits to using this process in my experience. I have used the method for project management, scheduling, revenue projection, traffic projection, and predicting the impact of pricing changes.

Monte Carlo simulation benefits

Durable, reusable models

Once you understand the method and construct a model for a decision, it’s a highly reusable tool. If you take the time to build a decent equation or series of equations for a given decision then your model should stand the test of time. You need not recreate it to analyze future decisions. You will make some minor changes to a series of assumptions that govern the model and see what the impact is.

The durability of these models helps everyone reason about the impact of the inputs and it also lends itself to incremental improvement when you discover that you could model something more accurately or you need to add a variable. Even when you need to make adjustments, doing so tends to be cheap after the initial setup. My experience with high-low models or other discrete estimation sheets is that they are rarely reused.

Impact on team reasoning

Most people don’t reason about the world in a probabilistic way. We may think in terms of binary outcomes, but few people label most events with a likelihood of occurrence much less see all factors in that light.

Most of the time this is fine, but complex decisions and complex situations benefit from clearer thinking. Helping people working in teams see that there are a range of possibilities for completing each milestone and how those uncertainties sum into a project scheduling estimate can really change the way they see the process and even the rest of the world. Probabilistic thinking is a key critical thinking skill in a data driven world.

Improved estimation

Like any model you would choose to use, there is an increase in the accuracy of your projections independent of the impact on thinking. Part of that is the shift to thinking in probabilistic terms, but part of it is due to a better method of combining the numbers to find estimates. The common estimation method of taking an average or looking at a high and a low case come with some classic errors in statistical reasoning. Models based on these methods are quicker to create and may aid speed of decision making (a good thing) but they are inaccurate and will provide you with poor decisions in the end. Only you can decide when the tradeoff is worth the cost for speed relative to accuracy, but I would note that once you understand the method and have a model under your belt you won’t find the difference in time to create a model to be very great. The time cost is upfront in building your first model and understanding the method.

 

 

The psychological triggers behind the 15 most important pricing page features

Great pricing pages use customer psychology to guide people into purchasing the best plans for their needs with high conversion rates and extremely low bounce rates.

We have studied the best pricing pages we could find for small businesses and distilled the dos and don’ts of the trade. These pricing page dos and don’ts will also explain the psychology at work in both the positive and negative cases so you understand how to apply each technique to your pages.

  1. Do use an H1 that speaks to your customer

    Try to speak to benefits your customers care about. “Pricing” isn’t a headline. It’s a placeholder. Read more.


  2. Do use simple plan names

    Try to use easily understood plan names. Avoid potentially confusing jargon or industry terms.
    Read more. 


  3. Do use familiar iconography but be judicious

    Use universal icons where appropriate, but avoid introducing new icons to your audience. Read more.


  4. Do use button copy that connects to user intent

    Aligning button copy with user intentions reduces friction. Read more.


  5. Do focus on the important differences between plans

    Highlight the important differences that you expect customers value most highly. Read more.


  6. Do highlight common features in an “all include” section below the table

    Improve the plan table by factoring out the common features. Read more.


  7. Do feature a plan with color, size, and weight

    Show with color and visual hierarchy what you think is best for customers. Read more.


  8. Do use a unique button style or copy for your featured plan

    Using a unique CTA on your featured plan’s button further highlights it. Read more.


  9. Do include a below the table option to contact us or to reach sales

    Some users will have questions or prefer to speak with a salesperson. Make it easy. Read more.


  10. Do include an FAQ specific to billing

    Answer billing questions succinctly to parry customer objections. Read more.


  11. Do include a testimonial with a picture of a human

    Testimonials with a real person showing are powerful social proof. Read more.


  12. Do show what people, businesses, or segments benefit best from different plans

    Tell people what they should expect for each plan. Make it easy to identify which role they fit. Read more.


  13. Do offer to sell add-on products and services to customers on the pricing page

    One time offers at the moment of sale are the easiest way to do two critical things. Read more.


  14. Do feature trust markers on the page

    Guarantees and authority trust markers can improve page conversion. Read more.


  15. Do have a CTA on the bottom of the page

    The second most important element on your pricing page. Read more.

 

 

 

  1. Don’t use “Pricing” as your H1

    Your headline is the most important copy on the page. Read more.


  2. Don’t use “purchase” as your button copy

    Learn how to use button copy to entice users to click. Read more.


  3. Don’t use non-standard icons for plan features

    Icons can confuse more than explain if they aren’t universal. Read more.


  4. Don’t force customers to scan the table back and forth to see differences

    Clarity often means simplicity. Clarity can drive purchasing behavior. Read more.


  5. Don’t show all plans as equals

    All plans are not created equal. Understand why showing equal plans leads to bad customer decisions. Read more.