Shaving Inspiration from Queer Eye

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I started shaving in 1979, at the age of 14 (see this photo of my horrendous mustache from my 9th grade graduation). Aside for a couple of years’ flirtation with beards (see this photo from a winter trip to the Florida Keys in 1991), and the "online marketing consultant Fridays" where I couldn’t be bothered, I’ve shaved pretty much every day over the past 30 years. By conservative reckoning, that’s close to 10,000 shaves.

And I still suck at it.

I cut myself. I miss patches of bristle the size of a compact disc. I get astringent aftershave up my nose and in my eyes. I produce ingrowns and razor burn on my neck by scraping too deeply in the wrong direction.

So what’s up with that?

The answer can be found in the following video, taken from the Season 5 Premiere of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. The episode, in which the Fab Five crown "Mr. Straight Guy," included a shaving competition.

Competitive Shaving

The minute I started watching, my entire shaving worldview shifted. For the first time in my life, I saw shaving as an activity at which improvement was not only possible but desirable. My testosterone started pumping, and I felt the old competitive instincts flexing their muscles. "I could be good at this," I thought to myself as I watched the Straight Guys attempting to de-hairify themselves in 90 seconds. "Look at that guy’s brush technique," I excitedly exclaimed inwardly. "Way too much shoulder, not enough wrist."

The details of how to shave, as provided by Queer Eye’s Manscaping Expert Kyan Douglas, have provided valuable guidance as I go from shaving clutz to Olympic chin deforester. But the details are nothing without the twin engines of performance improvement: Intention and Attention.

Intention

As soon as I heard the words "shaving competition," I bought into the concept that I could improve my shaving ability.

Most website owners don’t even think about their landing pages, home pages, and interior pages as improvable. They just are. They just sit there. Just like I shaved without having the intention to shave better for all those years.

So here’s my call to action: you can significantly improve your website!

You can get better results by improving your headlines, header graphics, font and text size, color scheme, form design, and several dozen other elements. And let me be specific here. By better results I mean more leads and sales. More money. For exactly the same AdWords spend. For exactly the same effort.

Once that intention to improve throbs within you, you’re halfway there.

The second half – the second engine of performance improvement – is Attention.

Attention

The world is constantly giving us feedback about every detail of our existence. Most of it gets ignored. Take a second now to prove this to yourself. Pay attention to the way you’re sitting right now. Is there an adjustment you can make to be more comfortable? Notice your breathing. Is it shallow or deep? Wouldn’t a nice deep breath feel really good right now? How are your shoulders? Tense and up around your ears, or relaxed and hanging? Which would feel better?

We get feedback about the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the looks we give others, the perfumes and colognes we put on, the cars we drive, the sounds we make while we eat soup, and all the rest of it. And we pay attention to feedback that’s important to us (like did that joke we told get laughs or cold stares), or that’s so loud we can’t ignore it anymore (like an illness after years of neglecting our health).

But attention is habitual. So just having the intention to improve my shaving, or your website, or anything else, isn’t going to make it happen.

We need to create a new attention habit. To train our brains to notice the feedback that’s relevant to our attempts to improve. As I stroke up around the neck, I need to pay attention to the pressure and the angle and the sensation and the subsequent stream of blood or lack thereof. I can’t be focused on the BOPzine I have to write later today, or the thing I forgot to fax yesterday, or where we’re going on vacation in July. I need to be present with the reality of the shaving.

Website Testing Mechanics

The simplest tool for website testing and improvement is Google’s Website Optimizer. You can find it as a tab in your AdWords account.

Optimizer is Google’s ultra-simple split testing tool. All you need to get started is a control page, a test page, and a "success" page. That is, your original landing page is the control, and some variation of the landing page is the test page. The success page is where your prospect ends up after they do the thing you want them to do.

If you want them to buy something, then the success page says something like, "Thank you for your purchase. If we have any of this item in stock, we’ll probably send one to you in a few days, when we get around to it."

If you collect leads, the success page reads, "Thank you for giving us your email address and other sensitive information, which we will now sell to the highest bidder. We’ll also start bombarding you with obnoxious and irrelevant offers until you die or cancel your email address."

Optimizer will prompt you to enter the URLs of these three pages, and then give you snippets of code to place on each. (A competent webmaster can complete the code-placement process in about 84 seconds, so don’t let them overcharge you. Heck, even I can do it in under 10 minutes, although I do require a mild sedative to complete the task.)

Here’s an embarrrassing look at one of my tests, which has proved inconclusive so far:

The original page has generated two sales out of 170 visits, and the test page has lead to three sales from 176 visits. Gee, maybe neither page is doing its job…

Strategic Pre-Testing Questions

Before you jump into the mechanics of testing, start by setting your intention and marshalling your attention. What are you curious about? What decisions did you make when you built the site that you might want to address again?

Testing expert Richard Mouser puts it this way:

In the frenzy of getting a website built, there are always compromises.  Let’s face it, no one has the time to create the perfect website first time around (if ever).

So think back to that time and remember any time you said or thought:
•    OK, that’s good enough for now
•    Not exactly what I had in mind, but I guess it works
•    We don’t have time to do it over again

Listen, you did the right thing at the time.  It’s better to have an imperfect website than no website at all.  So don’t beat yourself up, just think about that time and write down all the things that you were not 100% satisfied with.

Browse through your website and see if that jogs your memory.  Write down every idea, and carry that paper with you to capture more ideas whenever or whenever they come.

Once you set up your first test, make sure you install attention cues into your work day. Subscribe yourself to an autoresponder that reminds you to check the results every 2 days. Put action items in your calendar system. Start testing with a buddy, and encourage each other.

After you get your results and realize that split testing is the easiest and most elegant way to give yourself a pay raise, you won’t need those structured reminders, any more than I need a reminder that there’s a bar of Gearhart’s Venezuelan Dark Chocolate with Crystallized Australian Ginger in the green drawer where I keep my wallet and keys (in case a thief finds the drawer, I’m hoping the wallet and car keys will distract them from the chocolate).

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go shave for the 9,874th time:

What have you improved after a long plateau by applying Intention and Attention? Post your answer to comments.

 And finally, a faux-AdWords ad from our sponsor:

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12 Comments. Leave a comment or send a Trackback.
  1. #1 • mantic59 said on March 10 2009:
     

    I know you’re using shaving as a springboard for the real meat of your post but I did a bunch of videos on how to get a better shave. Check my youtube channel (at website link). Maybe it’ll help your shave.

  2. #2 • Howie Jacobson said on March 11 2009:
     

    Wow, Mantic59! You’ve got some great videos. I can’t believe I threw out my dad’s shaving brush.

    I love the line, “a razor that vibrates like a marital aid.”

    And I love the zen aspect – I’m a convert!

    If folks want to view the videos, click Mantic59’s name above his comment.

  3. #3 • Alex Newell said on March 11 2009:
     

    Forget shaving Howie – you’ll have more time to enjoy and make more money with Adwords

    :-)

  4. #4 • Howie Jacobson said on March 11 2009:
     

    Alex, my wife doesn’t agree with you. So while I may have extra time, I probably won’t enjoy it all that much… ;)

  5. #5 • Christian Mickelsen said on March 11 2009:
     

    How fun & true. FYI: I only shave 2 times a week (sometimes less).

  6. #6 • Howie Jacobson said on March 11 2009:
     

    Yes, but Christian, you’re a fair-haired guy! I look like Rasputin after about 36 hours away from the blade. (And I can plane wood with my cheeks.)

  7. #7 • mantic59 said on March 11 2009:
     

    Howie- Glad you like the videos! I also have a blog at mantic59.blogspot.com with more helpful resources.

  8. #8 • Sid said on March 12 2009:
     

    Just a practical note here: Easier, cheaper, and better than any lather is a few dabs of Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo over water. Don’t work-up a heavy lather. Because this is transparent, you can see what you are doing. If you think you need thick lather you have been trained incorrectly. There’s no need for fancy after-products, if you need something for dry skin use glycerine, which is super kind to your face – it’s cheap too. Regards, Sid

  9. #9 • Larry said on March 16 2009:
     

    Howie.. Enjoyed your “Dummies” book a lot. It still irks me to buy books that demean the purchaser by calling him/her a DUMMY. Yes, I understand the concept, but it seems there really ought to be a better word. Your shaving example is a great lead-in to the power of your lesson. Intention makes all the difference in EVERYTHING. I might accidentally do something nice for someone, but that same act gains much more power when it is preceded by the intention to do good.

    BTW – I’ve experimented with various shaving substances – even olive oil, baby oil, and sesame oil. They work fairly well – and are excellent in a pinch. I’d guess that practically any fine oil – even butter – would work well enough to get a close shave without doing bloody damage. Yet, there is a shaving oil that does an outstanding job. Use the search feature on my website and look for “shave oil”. I use it and I have a large surface to clear.

  10. #10 • Howie Jacobson said on March 16 2009:
     

    Larry – intention coupled with proper technique and appropriate timing is indeed the magic formula.

    As for the DUMMIES word, it’s clearly a split test winner. The company rebranded the For Dummies line as “Hungry Minds” for a while – ever heard of them? :)

    By the way, I’m also co-creator of “Internet Marketing For Smart Beginners” – which has a different kind of nice ring to it.

  11. #11 • Gabriella Donivan said on April 30 2009:
     

    Just for a little contrast, I want to say two things: one: I am so glad I don’t have to shave my face (yet) but at least I will have a thorough reference point for when I do… and two: I have always loved the Dummie’s series… really brilliant branding… no matter what the topic, we know what to expect… GOOD EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS IN AN EASY TO UNDERSTAND WAY. I also have a growing appreciation for the word ignorant. It seems to be so misunderstood, in a very negative judgmental way… that I like saying to people in authority (that are being a total pain in the arse) “I am totally ignorant about that… can you please educate me?” Talk about an about face in their attitude… suddenly they become a patient, giving educator… kinda like most of the dummie books…. I love it! ;)

  12. #12 • Gabriella Donivan said on April 30 2009:
     

    Just for a little contrast, I want to say two things: one: I am so glad I don’t have to shave my face (yet) but at least I will have a thorough reference point for when I do… and two: I have always loved the Dummie’s series… really brilliant branding… no matter what the topic, we know what to expect… GOOD EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS IN AN EASY TO UNDERSTAND WAY. I also have a growing appreciation for the word ignorant. It seems to be so misunderstood, in a very negative judgmental way… that I like saying to people in authority (that are being a total pain in the arse) “I am totally ignorant about that… can you please educate me?” Talk about an about face in their attitude… suddenly they become a patient, non-judgmental, giving educator… like the dummie books…. ;) PS I also really like “internet marketing for Smart beginners”… my ego immediately tells me to raise my hand and say…”Oh… that’s ME!” ;)

 

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