A Gentleman Made us Think: RIP Jean Béliveau

Full disclosure: the she-partner is not a hockey fan of any kind. In fact, other than knowing the hockey score on her wedding day, and that there is a long-held hockey team rivalry between the he-partner and our number one son, she gives the same level of attention to hockey as that girl in the Tragically Hip song. But today a Canadian icon passed away and it occurs to us that it’s worth giving a nod to Jean Béliveau. Not because he was a hockey player, but because reputation has it that he was a gentleman. It seems in our modern times that showing a soft side to others may be seen as a sign of weakness. Or of not having the “stuff” of business. But when you’re thinking about your customers and trying to figure out what they want, where they’re going, what their pain is all about, or how to solve it for them, a little empathy goes a long way. So in addition to just being polite and kind as Béliveau was reputed to have been, put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Not sure how? Let us know. We can help.

Listening for your “why”,

Megann and Steve

Lalalalalalalala! I Can’t Hear You!

This week has been an interesting study in concept validation for us. We’ve observed several teams in action, and their reactions in the face of customer and stakeholder advice are reminiscent of your average four year old, covering her ears and chanting “Lalalalalalalala” when confronted with an unpopular topic such as bedtime.

One team had the advantage of meeting with a roomful of advisors and mentors. They were convinced that their new concept was sound. How? Well, they had validated it with a handful of potential customers. That was a step in the right direction, most certainly. However their customer discovery pool was incredibly shallow. The number of business advisors in the room was greater than the number of prospects the team had approached with their idea, and they didn’t think the concept would hold water. The collective wisdom was that more validation was required, but this idea was met with resistance.

Organization two gathered their A team together to fine-tune their latest development product. Constraints and challenges were clearly identified at the outset, the team came up with a prototype that met all the user requirements. It seemed to be “just right”. Yet their presentation to their CEO was rejected – he had his own idea as to what the solution should be, and sent them back to the drawing board.

In the last case, the product developer took an idea out to the customers, and was greeted with a positive response. But an advisor with deep domain knowledge suggested the customers’ stated intent might not play out in reality. In other words, that what they said they would do, and what they would actually do, might be different, based on her experience. Presenting the customers with a prototype seemed like the only way forward. But that could be costly. Was there another way?

In each case, changing the research may have given a better outcome. Team one needed to expand the pool of respondents – rejection from no one (or everyone) usually signals that something is amiss. Group two needed to insist their CEO be at the table, if he was determined to have the last word, so his concerns or constraints could be considered at the time, not after the fact. And in case three, observed behaviour, or asking about what the customers actually do currently to solve the problem, might be a less costly approach. Making sure the research approach is right can keep us from looking like we’re just not willing to hear the answer.

Always listening,

Megann and Steve

 

Oh, The Stories We Could Tell!

We love that more and more of you are coming to understand the value of storytelling. It is such a great way to get information about your product into the hearts and minds of your customers. Some of the best ads of all time are story-centred ones. Stories break down barriers, and help establish an emotional connection, and help us access shared values. But stories aren’t just good for selling – they’re also powerful tools when you are trying to understand customers and their relationships with products and services.

  • Why do your customers love your product?
  • What are the underlying fears or misconceptions that are keeping prospects from moving forward?
  • How did your client communicate their positive experience so well that it gained you another customer?

Storytelling is a tremendous research tool for understanding emotion. Metaphor allows respondents (prospects, customers, or colleagues) to reveal key details that might be uncomfortable to say out loud. Sometimes they don’t even make cause-and-effect connections themselves, until they’re invited to tell us a story. It helps us take a deep dive into the “why”. Stories can also be used to figure out sequencing (what do we tell you first, so you’ll be convinced?) and semantics (how do we tell the story, exactly, to make it most impactful?)

So the next time you’re asking customers to share their opinions or ideas, ask them to tell you a story. We’re sure you’ll be glad you did.

Looking for the happily ever after,

Megann and Steve

Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim…?

Logic and experience tell us that decisions can never be made on perfect information. Just like buying the latest technological gadget, what has impacted your customers’ behaviour continues to change, even as you are analyzing the latest research into their actions. There will always be one more question you could have asked, or one more angle you could have considered. So what should you do? And how do you know when enough is enough?

The key is to plan, then act. Start with clear objectives about what you’re trying to find out. (READY) That will allow you to put together a strong list of key questions and determine the targets and the methodology. (AIM) As soon as that’s done, execute. (FIRE!) Well-planned questions of any sort will yield better information than adjusting and refining to the point where you’ve long-since forgotten why you wanted to know what you wanted to know, in the first place. And timely information will help you make decisions, and take action, while there’s still an opportunity to have an impact. That’s as close to perfection as you’re ever going to get.

We’ve got customers in our sights,

Megann and Steve