Who is your Customer Now?

During a conversation yesterday with one of our networking contacts (not even a prospect, really, just a helpful contact who shared some useful information about his organization and how it’s, well, organized), Megann listened carefully to a map of how the contact’s workplace functions, and with a few well-placed probes like:

  • “Who makes this kind of decision?”
  • “Who uses this sort of information?”
  • “How does your new role compare to your old role?”

…she was able to get a much richer understanding of this fellow’s world. Because we spend the vast majority of our time thinking about prospects and customers (how to find them, get them, talk to them, and keep them), we’ve learned that everyone has customers of some sort. Maybe not the traditional customers who go to a retailer for everything from a quick transaction to a lifestyle experience. And maybe not the kind that write contracts for delivery of goods and services at an enterprise level. But if we think of customers in terms of customer service, each of us, in our business lives, serves someone. That someone is a customer. Just like that, the right question was formulated.

“I know your role has changed and you’re not responsible for customer insights as you once were, but who is your customer now?”

Asking our contact to frame his activities from a specific viewpoint made it possible to get a great understanding of how he relates to his organization’s stakeholders, and what kind of information he might have, or need, at a later time. So the next time you need to understand someone who thinks they don’t have customers, ask them to:

  1. Think about who they serve with what they do.
  2. Describe that individual as their customer.
  3. Tell you about what they do with, and for, that customer.

We’re fairly certain you will gain a richer understanding of how that contact’s world works.

Customer discovery. It’s everywhere.

We’re asking – and listening,

Megann and Steve

Want to hear more? Get in touch via our website, or meet us at an upcoming event, like Invest Atlantic, or ProductCamp Atlantic.

Switch it Up for a Richer Product Story

This week we’ve been using metaphors and serious games to tackle a host of business problems, and we’d like to help your organization to do that, too. We’d love to hear from you.

We were back at Dalhousie University’s Norman Newman Centre’s Starting Lean Initiative yesterday, working with the participants in their special Summ’erUp program. It’s great to see these young entrepreneurs progressing – some getting ready to beta their products, others still in development – but all of them needing to find the best way to tell their stories. We’d like to give a shout out to Peanut, Bootstrap, and Applicable Labs, especially, for the work they put in on their Product Boxes.

Product Box is a great, fun tool created by our friend Luke Hohmann – originally introduced in his book, Innovation Games®, and which has evolved into a whole suite of solutions available from Conteneo®. We’ve adapted it to use in all kinds of situations, from creation of new products, to re-inventing brand stories, to simply getting customers to relax and have fun before engaging in a strategic conversation. Look at some of the great examples from our friends at Bootstrap – the pictures really do tell the story of what they have in mind for helping young Nova Scotians stay here in this beautiful province while re-inventing the economy:

Bootstrap Product Box 4Bootstrap Product Box 1

Bootstrap Product Box 6Bootstrap Product Box 5

Bootstrap Product Box 2Bootstrap Product Box 3

See how the metaphor of Product Box really tells the story? Bootstrap, we’re really proud of you and your colleagues at Summ’rUp. Keep up the great work. 

If you and your team would like to use these and other serious games to solve problems, build strategy, or work more closely with your customers, just let us know.

We’d love to play our games with you,

Megann and Steve

We Weren’t Expecting National Hot Dog Day!

So apparently today is National Hot Dog Day – it really snuck up on us. We didn’t realize until it was already trending on Twitter. So why is this important? Because if we had known, we might have responded differently. We might have had hot dogs on our menu for the casual lunch with one of our business partners. But we didn’t know until it was too late.

In the hurry-up world we work in, this is what can happen to our marketing messages about other important events as well. Timing is critical. Too early, and people will have forgotten your message by the time you need them to take action. Too late, and, well…you get the picture. They will already have made other plans by the time you ask them to click, call, or register for your event. 

A colleague of ours used to say you need to:

1. Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em

2. Tell ‘em, and 

3. Tell ‘em what you told ‘em.

Worthwhile advice no matter what you’re communicating. An organized content calendar and in-depth knowledge of your audience’s preferences, habits, and planning horizons will make sure your message has a better chance of being received. Repetition will help them remember. Decide what to say and deliver it precisely where they are and when you need them to take action. While you’re at it, make sure you explicitly tell them how they can respond to your call.

Frankly yours,

Megann and Steve

Say It, Write It, Live It!

We had a fantastic conversation yesterday with Paul Kent of the Greater Halifax Partnership, about growing our innovation ecosystem in Atlantic Canada. Part of that for us, is taking #myHFXpledge. (Which we did!) Despite plenty of doom and gloom stories, we’re seeing a real change in attitude in Halifax. Here’s the pledge:

I am joining a unified community of people who share a common goal of social and economic prosperity and a belief in a collaborative and innovative culture. I am open to meeting anyone in this community. I will dream, listen, experiment, and persist.

The rules of the innovation ecosystem, according to the Pledge, are as follows:

Be bold
Trust and be trusted
Challenge active pessimism
Experiment together
Be a Champion
Celebrate success

Why pledge? Because there’s value in saying out loud what you want to achieve. And power in writing it down. Success and leadership gurus from Napoleon Hill to Stephen Covey have spread this message – putting pen to paper (or keyboard to internet) makes a difference. It makes your intentions real and visible. It feels like a contract. And it strengthens our commitment. 

We think these are some pretty great rules to live by, wherever you live, and whatever you want to accomplish. So let’s get out there – say it out loud, write it down, and make it happen

Continued success,

Megann and Steve

Customer Discovery – Getting it Right

We spent the afternoon yesterday mentoring and working with students in the Starting Lean Initiative’s “Summ’erUp Program”. They’re putting in eight weeks of intensive work to move their startups to the next level. The theme? Customer Discovery – AKA the Great Barbecue Challenge.

Starting Lean BBQ Day

The objective was to work with the teams and help them find ways of doing customer discovery that were as innovative as the products and services they’re developing. We used some fun barbecue-themed prizes to help keep the conversation going, and we even made a couple of interesting discoveries ourselves:

1. The greatest pain experienced by the students raised in North American with respect to “barbecue” was running out of gas in the propane tank.
2. Students from India had a whole different frame of reference for barbecue – they shared that for them, true barbecue starts with a wood fire, cooked down to coals. (And we agree there is something to be said for not taking shortcuts when it comes to cooking!)

Most importantly, the teams shared what they had learned with one another. The collaborative nature of these bright young people is something we could all emulate. Here are some ideas for getting customer discover right in your business:

1. Make sure you’re trying to get answers from the right person.
2. Using your network to get you an introduction to the right person (or someone who knows the right person) can be like an endorsement to get you in the door.
3. …But don’t be afraid to ask everyone if they’ve experienced the pain you’re trying to solve – you might even find the right respondent in the dog park!
4. Ask the right question – remember the focus should be on the customer’s pain or problem, not your product.
5. Right timing will ensure the person is ready to listen, and to speak freely with you.
6. The right technique can help break down barriers and defenses – and ensure you’re asking, not selling.
7. Storytelling, metaphors, diagrams, and other methods (like Innovation Games(r)!) can help you get to the right answers and a richer understanding.

We love helping our clients understand their customers and build meaningful conversations. We’re excited to see that these young innovators are committed to that as well.

Always asking questions,

Megann and Steve

What would Mom Say?

We’re curious questioners. We like to help our clients solve tricky problems, and figure out new and interesting approaches. But this week, we’re turning our attention to Mothers. Although we have experienced advice such as, “If you break your legs, don’t come running to me”, here are three of our favourite quotes from our Moms that you might find useful in your work:

1. Nobody said that life was fair. It’s easy, when faced with a challenge, to simply decide “it’s not fair!” What is more difficult is to do something about it. So when your entrepreneurial idea meets with a lukewarm response, instead of telling yourself that life isn’t fair, or that your customer just doesn’t “get it”, figure out what they do need, and pivot!

2. Perfect housekeepers lead dull lives. Do you want your new concept or prototype to be absolutely perfect before showing it to the world? Be careful you don’t spend so much time refining and polishing your idea that time and opportunity pass you by. By all means, make sure the most glaring rough edges are made smooth – but then show it around and enlist others to help you develop it.

3. One cuts, the other chooses. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Whether that entails having a deep-listening session with an individual, reading and researching what makes them tick, or creating an Empathy Map, thinking about consequences for yourself and others will help you make better, less ego-centric decisions.

If you’re a Mom, a Mum, a Mother, or a Mompreneur, we salute you.

Happy Mother’s Day,

Megann and Steve

 

Do your Customers Know the Whole You?

Last night we were fortunate to spend the evening with several hundred close friends, colleagues, and contacts at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce‘s Spring Dinner. Peter Mansbridge was the keynote speaker, and he told a host of interesting, amusing and intriguing stories. But two of them, at least, had a common element. In one, he was mistaken for another famous somebody – the President of Poland. In another, an individual who took Mansbridge’s seat on an aircraft was bestowed a perk because the staff thought he was the well-known news anchor and chief correspondent.

In each case, the person making the mistake did so because he or she only had part of the story. If they had known more about who Mansbridge was, as well as what he looked like, these mix-ups would likely never have happened. So what might your contacts be mixing up about you or your company, because they only have part of your story?

The moral here is to let them get to know you. Reveal the layers. Show who you really are. And take time to be sure they have connected the dots correctly. Do that, and hopefully you won’t be mistaken for the President of Poland (unless, of course, that’s who you really are).

Peeling back the layers,

Megann and Steve