As someone who regularly needs to produce, but doesn’t necessarily glory in the process, I’m always looking for more efficient ways to start, strategize and finish creative projects. Like Occum’s Razor for example – the theory that the simplest solution to a problem is most often the correct one. I love that. And this recent study that showed that people over 40 perform better when they’re only working 3 days a week. My recent discovery of the Lazy User Model (LUM) has me rethinking my entire approach to new business outreach.

The Lazy User Model of solution selection (LUM) is a theory that researchers developed to predict what leads humans to adopt a certain technology when given several options. Their findings were pretty predictable: Humans tend to choose the solution that mostly meets their needs while requiring the least work.

How does this play out in technology? You see it everywhere, from people who refuse to try a new payment app because it would require installation on their phone, whereas “PayPal works just fine” (data breaches be damned). Or, the never-ending resistance to “cutting the cord” even though Amazon and Apple TV can now provide 100 times more options for TV programming, at a lower cost, and convenient to anyone’s schedule. To many, flipping through channels, instead of going in and out of apps, is just easier.

Become the best solution using the Lazy User Model of addressing potential clients’ immediate needs.

We’re not here to talk about how tech marketers apply lazy user theory to increase app downloads, though. We’re here to talk about how it can help you convince potential clients to give you a gig. How can you be the easiest and least worry-free solution to their imminent need? How can you introduce your service, address their imminent need, and position yourself as the easiest solution?

Strategy of applying of the Lazy User Model: Gauge clients' immediate needs first.

Strategy 1: Determine how urgent the potential client’s need is, and adjust your approach accordingly.

According to this 2007 paper, at the precise moment of need, a person will choose from the options that are in front of them, going with the solution that meets their detailed need. Factors will include the type of need, the time-frame to execute it, and of course, how urgent is it that this need be met.

A lot of times, when someone’s need is 3 or 6 months down the road, they’re interested in solutions, but they are not at the moment of selection. If you try to push them into making a selection, you won’t get a yes, or even a response. It doesn’t mean they haven’t categorized you as a potential solution. All it means is, they’re not at that moment where they have to choose.

Many people get discouraged and give up after they follow up with someone who indicated interest and then put them off repeatedly. Don’t give up, though. Instead, ask from the beginning — what kind of time frame are you on to make this decision? And once they’ve told you, provide your information and then circle back when it’s within 30 days of their estimated moment of need.

Strategy for applying the lazy user model to pitching: Collect as many details as you can about the clients' needs.

Strategy 2: Collect as many details as you can about the potential client’s need — and address them directly.

A small company says they need a content writer. You’re a content writer. It’s an auspicious beginning, right? Now, find out as much as possible about:

  • What type of content do they need?
  • For what channels?
  • What is their ETA to publish?
  • What goals are they trying to meet?
  • What launches or products will this content support?

And then, in your introductory letter (and in your capabilities deck or on your CV), address every single element of their detailed need, and let them know you can provide the solution (and ideally have done so before).

Many creative freelancers or agencies answer literally any posted opportunity. For example, yesterday I saw two boutique luxury fashion PR agencies respond to a food startup’s post looking for an SEO agency. I think we can all agree that: 1) luxury fashion and snack food are not the same category; 2) traditional PR and SEO content strategy are not the same service.

By applying the Lazy User Model to this situation, we can assume that the hiring manager at the food startup would probably not look further into these two boutique fashion agencies, because at first glance, there was nothing to indicate they had the solution to her needs. Maybe, if she did dig deeper and have conversations with them, she would learn that they could meet her need. But according to Google algorithms and human logic, if someone asks a question and your answer doesn’t address it, you will not rank high in results.

Strategy for applying the lazy user model to pitching: Don't give the client any reason to think you're not right for the job.

Strategy 3: Don’t give the potential client any reason to think you’re not an ideal solution for the job.

I’ve seen people self-sabotage by ignoring this simple strategy a hundred times. I’ve done it myself, egregiously. I have:

  • Told potential clients that I am actually interested in a different job than the one that was posted (Although I was qualified for the posted opportunity, why would they hire someone who actually wants to do something else?)
  • Told clients that I’m overqualified but would still like to work on their project. (Lots of people do this, and sometimes it even gets you the gig. Usually not though. If you’re overqualified, you’re probably over budget as well, and also you probably think you’re too smart for the project, both of which are not ideal.)
  • Told clients that I can send them the ideal candidate, if I myself am not a fit. (What am I, an unpaid recruiter or a job-seeker? Do I even know?) To be honest, this sort of overly helpful approach is appreciated in small, highly engaged networking groups. But it won’t usually bring you financial gains if you are not the perfect candidate — just extra labor and someone’s gratitude. And if you do it in an intro letter to someone you don’t know, it almost always gets a quick delete.

Other things I’ve often seen/heard candidates say along these lines, when responding to a gig opportunity:

  1. I’m a quick learner
  2. I have so many ideas and questions.
  3. I would love to hop on a call and hear more.
  4. Besides supporting your need, I can also do X, Y, and Z.
  5. I can exceed your needs by so much, you will be blown away.

Obviously, these responses are all over the spectrum in terms of confidence, implied expertise, and proposed next steps. But what they all have in common is, they do not state that they understand the specific need and can meet it within the client’s parameters. Therefore, you can use the Lazy User Model to predict that those responses will likely not be favored if there are other responses that do address the client’s needs succinctly and helpfully.

So even though you may be overqualified, or slightly underqualified, or have a million questions, in your initial inquiry — assess the potential client’s specific need, and communicate: This is why I can meet this need, and here is how I’ve done it before. Skip all the confusing extra context.

In closing: I discussed this with a client who is among the highest-functioning, highest-output people I know. She thinks that many people are not lazy, they’re simply overwhelmed with work. This very well could be the case with potential clients. But really, whether lazy or overwhelmed, people still look for the solution that meets their needs with the minimum of effort/exertion/extra steps on their part; and thus, Lazy User Modeling strategy can still guide you to more efficient, effective pitches in 2019.