Wynn-ing Ways: How Feedback Loops Attract the Right Readers and Drive Your Business

What is a feedback loop?

I’ve told you about the old man, but I have shared little about my mom.

She helped me to be a skilled cook.

I tilt more towards chef than cook.

When I was ten, I got a Betty Crocker cookbook for Christmas. Here’s a picture I still have.

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Imagine the face of a young boy on Christmas when he opens a package and finds a cookbook.

Did I open the wrong package?

Mom told me I was required to pick a recipe each week. She would buy the ingredients, and I would cook the meal.

The first recipe I cooked was beef stroganoff.

Today, I go WAY beyond following a recipe. When I’m passionate about something, I do a deep dive and get obsessed—a progressive degenerative disease like gambling.

My barbecue obsession started when Suze bought me a small electric smoker for Father’s Day.

It was dead simple, and I tinkered with meat preparation to get the perfect barbeque.

That grill died, and of course, I needed more power.

Now, this latest grill is the Masterbuilt 1050. It is a gravity-feed charcoal grill smoker with temperature control.

Like my old electric grill, I can set a temperature, and it holds to that temperature. But this does it differently. Rather than just turning an electric element on and off, a computer-controlled fan blows through the firebox. On the far end of the cooker is a thermocouple that measures temperature.

It’s incredible that while lump charcoal and wood burn, the airflow control can keep the grill plus or minus a few degrees.

That’s a feedback loop, just like the thermostat in your house.

Feedback loops aren’t perfect, just better than human control. On a nice summer day, the Masterbuilt is steady on a smoke. Set it at 280 on an 80-degree day, and it is smooth.

Now try to grill a steak at 500 degrees on a 35-degree day when you’re opening and closing the grill; that poor little fan gets a workout. It is trying its best to control the temperature by not taking too long to heat or overshoot.

While grill temp is essential for a good cook, what you want to control is internal meat temperature.

The problem is that if I put a temperature probe in the meat and controlled grill temperature via that probe, the control loop would need additional information about the time it takes the internal temp to come up. Otherwise, that fan might just keep going until the meat burnt to a crisp.

Another issue is the type of meat. I’ve got the brisket and pork shoulders figured out.

A crucial part of the low and slow cook is called the stall.

The meat gets to an internal temperature and then stalls out.

You must keep cooking because it’s during the stall that the magic happens. Connective tissue is breaking down, and the fat is rendering— yum.

But the grill would need some pretty complex understanding to make sure that the feedback loop worked the right way.

That’s why chefs are indispensable. They put the goal before the process.

The goal is a perfect eating experience—tender, juicy, and flavorful meat with great mouthfeel. The key indicator is not the internal temperature.

This Christmas, I got a fancy Bluetooth internal thermometer. It’s the bomb.

It has changed the game because its feedback loops were designed with data on the type of meat being cooked. My first test was a beef Wellington. It came out perfect.

It told me to pull the meat from the heat. Then, while it sat covered, it continued to cook for another thirty minutes, rising to the desired temperature for a perfect medium-rare tenderloin.

This new thermometer measures internal temperature and external temperature. This allowed confirmation of the oven temperature in the house. It was off by thirty degrees.

Knowing that my oven was off so much allowed me to compensate by increasing the temperature.

Linear versus non-linear

Businesses are systems, and systems are rarely linear. Yes, causality A causes B, but most times, A causes B, and then B causes something else that needs to be dealt with. This causality is hard to discern.

Your business system is a combination of components that interact.

No one subsystem defines it. Your business is more than accounting, marketing, and writing. It is how all the subsystems combine and work together.

Wonder how you got to a point where all of your readers only buy your books when there is a deal?

Look at how you built your business. Was rank used as the goal, and discount deals the primary driver of customer volume?

For many, the idea of visibility, rank, and audience size trumps quality.

It has to be a mix of both quality and quantity.

Here is another way of thinking about your marketing: if your marketing is funnel-based, what is that funnel designed to attract?

What are the initial hook and filters? This system drives the audience you’re building.

If you adopt the idea of your marketing being a feedback loop, then by definition, it will attract more and more of the same.

The powerful tools that Google, Facebook, and Amazon use to find more customers use data to find more of the same.

This is a feedback loop.

We rarely stop to qualify the data we use.

If you build an email list of bargain shoppers and freebie seekers and use that list as a sample for machine learning, what have you taught the machine?

Another scary prospect is a change to the status quo.

The IOS 14 update has everyone wound up as to how it will affect your business.

This change doesn’t influence how your customer shops; it only influences your ability to see the journey along the way. It’s like my oven discrepancy. The meat is still cooking; it’s just not how I perceive it to be cooking that has changed.

Paradigm versus key performance indicators

Feedback loops drive your publishing business.

The biggest one we want to get working for us is cumulative advantage. Cumulative advantage is a positive feedback loop that accumulates a stock of “advantage” to use in future rounds.

What is that stock?

Not just any customers—the right customers. 

The loop must deal with how we maintain our stocks when not in use.

Do you just leave milk out on the counter and expect it to be safe to drink in a week?

Most authors play a limited number of rounds.

When launching, the duration of heightened visibility is around twenty-one days, with a rapid decline over the next three months.

Most of the time, our stock is in storage, yet we don’t think of a high-quality storage system.

Finding and “stocking” quality readers differs from rank.

Using rank to drive cumulative advantage is like using oven temperature to determine when the meat is ready. Rank is an excellent indicator, but it is only one, and it certainly isn’t THE driver of cumulative advantage.

Instead, we must understand how to build positive feedback loops to support reader delight and investor needs regardless of the changing environment. Rank becomes an indicator but not the outcome we seek.

Can I cook an equally good brisket in winter and spring?

Excellent brisket requires a combination of the following:

  • A good cut of meat,
  • proper preparation,
  • good wood,
  • correct cooking temperatures,
  • and time.

Internal temperature is an indicator, not an influencing factor.

All the above align with making a great brisket, but none of it is the criteria that my guests use in deciding I just cooked the best brisket ever.

They determine that by flavor, texture, juiciness, and other factors. I have to use a process, ingredients, and indicators along the way to make sure I’m moving towards success.

Internal temperature is an excellent indicator, but without the other factors, I could hit a temperature of 205 F, and it could be a charred piece of leather or juicy but flavorless if I don’t weigh the different indicators and ingredients properly.

My brisket process is super complex. It takes days to prepare and a day to cook, but my results are repeatable and reliable.

The same process to a cheap cut will yield people claiming it’s the best brisket they’ve ever had. I’ve also cooked with competition grass-fed beef four times the price of what you get at Costco and created mouth orgasms for myself and others.

Outside temperature influences the outcome, but if I design my feedback loops right, I get the desired result.

The grill feedback loop works to hold the cooking temperature, and then the interior meat temperature provides further guidance. I get the desired outcome, but it may take more fuel and more time to maintain the heat in winter.

What does all this mouth-watering digression have to do with books?

Think of the cut of meat as the quality of your book. Our hope is that your books are continually getting better, but that means earlier books are of lower quality.

If the overall business systems produce the best quality stock of readers, then you know with the improvement in your books (meat), you’ll deliver even better results because the process is sound.

Here is the rub, and I don’t mean dry rub (but I make my own).

A critical eye needs to go over the business as a system—the process.

What are the positive and negative feedback loops?

Where do they get feedback from?

Do you have the loops in place to reinforce the right stuff?

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We will explore two essential feedback loops: customer accumulation and capital accumulation.

When designed properly, these loops attract and stock more customers and capital.

Our well gets deeper, and we get more efficient with the water the well produces.

By the end of this series, you’ll have these mapped out and know the moving parts.

The loops for delighting readers and meeting investor goals are at the top of the hierarchy. All subsystems and feedback loops must serve the higher order.

The duopoly is also interrelated and feeds back into each other and down into your subsystems.

Delighting readers and meeting investor goals become that succulent meat you’re trying to achieve.

Other things can be more important than the internal temperature for the perfect roast: how you prepare the cut, if you wrap it, the duration you cook, and the temperature you run the grill all to optimize for succulent meat, not internal temperature. The internal temperature just becomes an indicator.

If your focus is customer delight, is traffic as important?

Is it essential for meeting investor goals?

It certainly is, but it can also pervert it.

I could run a promotion where we use low pricing and ads or stacked promotions to drive traffic through the roof.

But there is nothing to guarantee that these are customers you can delight or that they will pay full price for your books.

You can work hard on the wrong things when you lose focus on those higher-order goals.

If you’re interested, I can show you a different way.

One that doesn’t focus on digital marketing indicators but a way that is about building a sustainable business system.

Now, if you’re not published or just starting, you have the added requirement of determining if your books are worth reading.

If you have already earned a profit from your books but see marketing taking over and chewing up your profits, this series will present a way for you to build a unique system.

Like Lefty, you can clear out the poker room of the riff-raff and scams and take it to new levels of profitability.

In entrepreneurship, you need systems. You need a business system, and you need a decision-making system.

By the end of this series, if you stick through it, you’ll have the knowledge and the framework to build your business and decision-making systems. For the next 37 articles, we will focus on making those systems.

While there will be parts to apply quickly, I hope that one outcome from this season is the inspiration for a system-based approach. Don’t feel that you need to use these ideas or that they must be added to a mounting list of to-dos.

Maybe you use only one of these ideas.

That’s OK because this is about slow and steady progress, not speed and urgency.

Read: Delight Readers with Positive Feedback Loops