When the Thinking Never Begins

Permit me a mini rant. Come along if you’d like, I think you’ll recognize someone you work with.

If you don’t, well, the person I’m talking about might just be you (but you’re one of my readers, so I’m thinking not). 

We’ve all had the misfortune of working with someone(s) who 





Look, EVERYONE has the sometime “duh” moment where it takes longer than anyone would like for things to sink in, the penny to drop, the clue to be found. And everyone has a blind spot or three. 

But, there are some folks who just seem to never change – they refuse to follow processes (and complain about people who attempt to enforce policies), they ask the same questions year after year after year after year, they’ll flippity-flop from position to position in meetings and with a half-twist somersault and a stuck landing, somehow manage to agree with everyone — yet do nothing. 

I created a phrase for this years ago after leaving a sales meeting. The sales team had requested the ability to sell packages based on topics (document management, capture, workflow, etc.) across the Website, print mag, webinars, and . . . something else I’m blanking on. 

Sometimes the horse won’t drink and your co-workers (or clients or consultant) won’t think. Photo by Deglee Degi on Unsplash

I had created an editorial calendar so that a webinar topic in January would be followed by an online focus in February, and then a print mag focus in March. 

Hour-long meeting, no mention of it (remember, THIS WAS SOMETHING THEY REQUESTED). So at the end I pointed it out, “Hey, look, you can sell those topic packages you wanted me to create for you.” 

“Oh, we didn’t notice.”




I think this was the exact meeting I walked out thinking:

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it think. 

Source: Me

I’m not the only cowboy to have thought of the phrase. A quick Google search shows a few other folks have had the same thought and frustration as I had. 

Have spent too much time trying to get the horse to even look at the water, much less drink it. Photo by Bobbie Jackson on Unsplash

I’ve used the phrase for years when you present good arguments and even a fact or three to support a direction and other folks in the business just refuse to take a good, long slurp of the cold, clear water. 

I’ve used it in relation to my two daughters, co-workers, clients (sometimes, . . . sheesh), and, once or twice, directed it at myself. 

One other story, that actually relates to the content marketing theme of this blog. 

Our prez and COO wanted to talk about potential topic areas of focus for something or other for the following year. As part of the prep (and because I did this annually anyway), I went through Web stats to identify most trafficked pages and most-read articles (with good time on site), a few years of reader surveys, and a few years’ worth of webinar attendance. 

Sorted through the information to pull out the most popular topics that readers showed interest in both in action (webinar attendance and Web traffic) and by request (the surveys).

Document management was the top topic (as it had been since I had started), with capture a close second, if I recall correctly. 

Reported what I found and the response was basically, “We find that boring and want to talk about things we’re interested in.”

Firstly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with leading your audience with information they don’t know they need to know. I always considered that one of the most important jobs of an editor, and, now, as a content marketer. 

However, the disdain for addressing what the audience actually wanted was palpable. 

Can’t make ‘em think. Even though these were (are, I suppose) objectively intelligent individuals. 

What’s the Point? 

There are two:

  1. I like a mini-rant to clear my head now and then
  2. Don’t try to outthink your customers

Don’t Outthink Your Audience

I’ve written the same variation of “Document management: Good” article, blog post, and/or ebook about 30 times. 

It’s old to me. Yes, Virginia, there is a way to store and then retrieve documents with a quick search. 

However, for some folks, it’s brand new. It’s hard, but if your audience needs information you assume to be basic, give it to them — especially when they tell you that’s what they’re interested in. Keeping that beginner’s mindset is hard, but will help your marketing.

I’ve mentioned “They Ask, You Answer” in previous blog posts (H Is for Helpful and 3 Common Writing Mistakes).

 Answer your customers’ questions. 

A Mini-Rant to Clear the Cobwebs

Well, other than a mini-rant, which are always kind of fun. Now, I’m working on a more positive outlook these days — moving away from a scarcity mindset I felt too often. That said, I’m increasingly positive that a reroute into negative territory can lead to a positive result; or something like that anyway. Two negatives can make a positive. Learned that in math, so it must be true.

What I learned from horses that didn’t want to think is that it wasn’t about me. 

One other saying I said, A LOT, to keep my sanity was “One of us in this equation is nuts and I’m pretty sure it ain’t me.”

When dealing with folks like this, just realize that you can’t win. How can you work around them? 

If you can’t work around them, can you work with them to get some of what you need? If not, it might be time to look for another herd to work with. 

Need help creating your content marketing strategy and/or content? Drop me a line at duhonius@gmail.com, reply below, or give me a call (or text, text is better, what with all the phone spam) at 301-275-7496.

No idea what this horse is laughing at, but love this pic. Photo by Dan Cook on Unsplash

Starting humming this song about halfway through writing this.

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