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Home » Prompt engineering is BS. Here’s what to do instead.

Prompt engineering is BS. Here’s what to do instead.

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I know, I know, last week I gave you some pretty cool email prompt ideas for ChatGPT. And that was my precise point: prompt ideas > prompts. Here’s what I mean…

As Joel Klettke says:

And I agree, there’s no long-term potential in so called “prompt engineering”. Reason why I unsubscribed to any AI newsletter spouting specific prompts like they are the gospel.

AI models are constantly evolving, at a pace we cannot even fathom.

How do you think you’ll be able to keep up?

And what a waste having to come up with the perfect prompt, only to realize a week after, it doesn’t work anymore!

Instead of breaking out in a nervous sweat trying to come up with the right words, in the right sequence and test everything out 57 times to make sure the result is the same, here’s what I would do:

Learn to ask better questions.

Asking better, deeper questions is hard.

But it’s that kind of work that rewards you in the long-run.

Now more than ever we need to do it.

For example, I’ve been working on my own positioning this week and one thing I have recently started digging deeper into is “culture”.

I recommend the book For the culture if you want to learn more, but in short, I’m trying to solve the problem of “What are good questions that I can ask my audience (SaaS founders and marketers) to dig into their ideologies and beliefs?”

And following the traits of a great question (provides insight, simplifies the problem, expands possibilities) I came up with these:

What’s your biggest bottleneck in scaling right now?

  • Insight: Reveals the most urgent challenge in their growth trajectory.
  • Simplifies: Reduces their complex operational landscape to a single, solvable issue.
  • Expands possibilities: Opens up discussions on various solutions tailored for that bottleneck.

How do you currently measure the success of your conversion strategies?

  • Insight: Shows their reliance on data and what metrics they value.
  • Simplifies: Focuses the conversation on key performance indicators.
  • Expands possibilities: Allows for introducing more comprehensive or innovative metrics

What’s your ideal customer lifecycle?

  • Insight: Provides a snapshot of their customer-centric vision.
  • Simplifies: Breaks down the complex customer journey into stages.
  • Expands possibilities: Opens the door for optimizations at each stage.

How agile is your team when responding to market changes?

  • Insight: Indicates their capability for and value on adaptability.
  • Simplifies: Turns agility into a quantifiable trait.
  • Expands possibilities: Suggests ways to improve agility through tools, training, or methodologies.

Can you tell me about a recent change you made that had a significant ROI?

  • Insight: Shows their focus on ROI and successful strategies.
  • Simplifies: Narrows down to a specific change and its measurable impact.
  • Expands possibilities: Allows for a conversation about scaling or replicating that success.

Who are your top three competitors, and what sets you apart from them?

  • Insight: Gives an understanding of their market positioning and competitive outlook.
  • Simplifies: Condenses competitive landscape to a few key players.
  • Expands possibilities: Offers opportunities to further differentiate.

How are you currently leveraging customer feedback?

  • Insight: Reveals their approach to customer-centricity.
  • Simplifies: Focuses on one aspect—customer feedback—of customer relationship management.
  • Expands possibilities: May lead to ideas for more effectively gathering or using feedback.

What’s the one trend you’re most excited about in your industry?

  • Insight: Helps you gauge their forward-thinking mentality.
  • Simplifies: Limits the scope to a single industry trend.
  • Expands possibilities: Opens dialogue on how to capitalize on this trend.

What percentage of your decisions would you say are data-driven?

  • Insight: Addresses their reliance on data for decision-making.
  • Simplifies: Turns a philosophy into a quantifiable metric.
  • Expands possibilities: Suggests ways to become more data-driven if needed.

What would make this quarter/year a ‘win’ for you?

  • Insight: Highlights their immediate objectives and performance criteria.
  • Simplifies: Asks them to define success in clear, short-term terms.
  • Expands possibilities: Allows for a conversation around how your services could help achieve that win.

I’m probably including all or some of these in my strategy sessions from now on.

You can see the power of good questions in actions: they set the stage for deeper understanding and conversation.

And it’s the same with ChatGPT prompts.

Rather than trying desperately to create the perfect prompt, think in terms of “How can I ask better questions?”.

Just have a conversation.

And if you see any interesting prompts, consider them starting points you can use to explore the potential in that direction.

✅ Don’t miss it

  • Did you know I have a podcast? I’m recording a new episode this week, all about the copywriting of Bill Bernbach, and, spolier alert: about how bad leadership destroyed his agency. Lots of great lessons for copywriters and founders or marketers.
  • If we’re not friends on X yet, let’s do this. I post a lot of my thoughts and ramblings (what basically used to be my daily email).

📚 3 things to get better at copywriting

1. Disciplined imagination

I love how Bill Bernbach used to describe creativity and imagination as “disciplined”. I’s the old saying “clear not clever” except it allows you to actually be creative, not just logical and descriptive. As long as it’s all rooted in your knowledge of the product and in rigorous work.

2. When you can’t start writing, do this

David Perell in a recent podcast goes through his 3 mantras for solving problems:

  1. Increased the tempo
  2. Raise the standards
  3. Narrow the focus

I believe they’re from the book “Amp It Up” by Frank Slootman.

Whenever you feel the struggle of the blank page is about to grip you, try one of these 3. I find it works like magic.

3. A newsletter I love

If there’s one thing great founders know how to do, is asking good questions.

If you want to get better, check out The Founders Pack Wolfcast and learn the tools, strategies, and stories of the world’s best founders. Every week they bring you profiles of Y Combinator’s top startups. Get inside their success secrets, explore major pitch deck teardowns, and boost your startup know-how. Join 3000+ founders, investors, and startup enthusiasts for free!

🤔 Thought of the week

“Whenever you can’t decide which path to take pick the one that produces change.”

– Kevin Kelly, Excellent Advice for Living

Change is inevitable. You either create the conditions for it or reality will create them for you. Make it a forcing function rather than a chance event.

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