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Marketing and First Principles

It's enlightening to understand how experience impacts our decisions.

"Experience colors and influences all of our perceptions by anticipating and predicting everything that we encounter. This preferential set of intuitions, feelings, and ideas—less poetically described as 'bias'—poses a challenge to our ability to weigh evidence accurately to arrive at truth." - Neurologist and playwright Gerald Smallberg.

As humans, imagined possibilities and approaches are hamstrung by our experiences and biases.

I recognize this in myself. There are times when it's easier to rely on my experience. For example, much of the work I've done in the past is in pay-per-click. It's easy for me to assume that since I've seen success in the past using this approach, that success will translate to other situations. It doesn't. And while relying on my existing knowledge is easier, it's not always best. 

As I've started to recognize and understand the reliance on experience, I've started seeking new perspectives and ways to minimize my bias to solve problems. In my search I came across an interview with Elon Musk about First Principles.

"First Principles" are the fundamental concepts or assumptions on which a theory, system, or method is based.

In the interview, Musk states, "I think it's important to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy. [With analogy] we are doing this because it's like something else that was done, or it is like what other people are doing. [With first principles] you boil things down to the most fundamental truths...and then reason up from there."

Reasoning and making decisions from first principles opens up a world of possibility, unconstrained by bias. When I use this method of thought in my approach to marketing, I begin at the basic definition of marketing.

The action or business of promoting and selling products or services.

With this simple starting point, I can begin to explore how it is that I might promote or sell the specific product or service effectively. Expectations or assumptions based on the past are removed and I'm free to create a unique and possibly innovative approach. This line of thinking might require more energy and additional research, but the outcome is significantly better.

Just because I had success selling a product using Facebook Live, doesn't mean that the approach is right for the next product I'm marketing. By reducing my starting point to the simple purpose of promotion and sales, a whole world of options and approaches are available to me.

I've found First Principles to be logical. And, it creates the space for productive questions. Who am I selling to? What drives them? Where are they? How is our product impacting their lives? Is our pricing, packaging, and distribution right for how our buyers buy?

Through the process of answering these questions, from a foundation of first principles, strategic and effective approaches can be surfaced. 

Andrea Steffes-Tuttle