A Powerful Way to Uncover Contrarian Strategies

Written by Dave Bailey

Filed under psychology

Startup workers embrace contrarian strategies

When it comes to strategy, logic isn’t always your friend. Since most of your competitors have access to similar information, if they all followed the most logical argument, they’d all end up with products so similar customers would find it hard to differentiate between them.

Luckily, as Rory Sutherland points out in his book, Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense, the opposite of a good idea is often another good idea.

Here are a few examples from his book, and a few others I’ve noted over the years.

What’s the right messaging for your product?

  • Not many people have this, so it must be good.
  • Everyone has this, so it must be good.

How can you improve your sales copy?

  • Make it much longer; that way it’s reassuringly detailed.
  • Make it much shorter; that way its brevity proves it’s a no-brainer.

How can you increase sales?

  • Raise the price, so it’s reassuringly expensive.
  • Reduce the price, so it’s an amazing deal.

How do you onboard a new employee?

  • Provide a lot of information to help them settle in.
  • Provide very little information and tell them to go find it for themselves so they can learn as they go.

How do you increase results?

  • Implement practices that everyone’s doing, i.e., best practice.
  • Implement practices that no-one’s doing, i.e., differentiators.

How do you increase sign-ups?

  • Make sign-up quick and easy.
  • Require prospects to apply or enter a waiting list.

If you look closely, there’s a common theme: avoid being somewhere in the middle. Half-measures are almost always a bad strategy.


Originally published Mar 29, 2021, last updated Jun 1, 2021

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