26 Jun

Your customers are hypocrites


My kids have the annoying quality of calling out my hypocrisy with remarkable consistency.  They notice when I say one thing and do another.

I tell them to not yell at me from another room but to come and talk to me.  However, when it’s convenient for me, I yell at them from the bottom of the stairs to come down and get ready for school.  I also tell them that it is important to take care of the environment, but then they point out that we have a swimming pool and two cars,  which I don’t hesitate to drive 3 blocks to get milk (only one at a time mind you).

I feel badly about this.  I wish I could be more consistent.  But after all, I’m only human.

Your customers are human too.  They will tell you one thing, and then behave another way.

If you ask them “What would you like this product to do?” they will tell you that they want it to be blue, and that they want to be able to customize it more, and that they want it to feature dancing hamsters prominently.  So you put on your customer-focused glasses and you build exactly what they asked for.  But then they don’t buy it. 

Stupid customers.  Who decided it would be a good idea to listen to them anyways?  Sound familiar?

It is important to remember that just like me (and you), your customers are not totally consistent and are not entirely rational.

Just like me, your customers will say one thing and do another.

That’s why, when you listen to them, you need to take a dual strategy.  You need to ask them directly what they think, feel, and want.  But you also need to quietly observe what they actually do.  What they will say out loud represents their rational thinking process. What they actually do gives insight into other issues that might be going on.  You need to know both in order to give them the experiences they need.

Social media gives us a powerful way to quietly observe our customers.  The conversations that they have online gives you a way to listen to your customers and your community at a scale that is unprecedented.  It’s like being able to listen to all the conversations at all the cocktail parties in the world at once.

Last week, I gave a talk at the World Conference for International Association of Business Communicators in San Francisco.  I talked about ways that we can listen to our customers at scale using social media, and how we can get some deep insights about our customers this way. Listening is the first step to effective communication so it is important to get that part right.

For example, in one case study, we found out that when our customers talk about our product, they do not talk about our competitors in the same conversation.  Or that people use different kinds of words when describing our product vs. our competition, which can give us insights into the words that WE can use for better market positioning.  We also discovered that people were voicing security concerns about one of our competitors, which can give us an edge in talking about our product.

I you want to see more about how this works, take a look at this.

lexical map

Here’s the point.  Sometimes, asking your customers what they want is not enough.  You need to also quietly observe them.  Social media allows us to observe our customers at a larger scale than ever before.

 Photo credit: James Cridland (Creative Commons Commercial license)

10 Jun

How do you make your customers badass?


I don’t care about your product.

I mean, I’m sure it’s lovely, and I know your team worked really hard on it.  But frankly, I don’t care about your product.  I don’t care about the terrific features you’ve developed.  I don’t care that it has triple layer wotzercracker encryption.  I don’t care that it’s “Like Uber, but for people with ferrets”.

Here’s what I do care about.  What problem you are solving?  And who you are solving it for?

Because here’s the thing.  No matter how awesome your product is, your customer’s goal is never to be badass at your product.  They want to be great at something else that they actually care about (it’s not your product. Sorry).  Find out what it is and make your product help them do that.   (Check out Kathy Sierra’s talk to learn about more software badassery)

Here’s one way I like to think about this problem.

Your product should solve a problem that is both very important to your customers, and also very poorly satisfied with current solutions.   I like to think of products as falling into a 2 x 2 grid.

Not Important and Very Satisfied: If the problem you are solving falls here, you will be competing for customer’s attention with cat videos.  Seriously, there is nothing they need from you.  Please stop now, and find a real problem to solve.

Not Important and Unsatisfied: You will find that customers will respond with answers like:  “I might do that… someday.”  It might be a frustration for them, but they will have developed work-arounds that they can live with.

Important and Very Satisfied:  You will have a hard time convincing people to change their behavior from the status quo.  Their habits are already ingrained andthe opportunity cost of switching is high for what they will likely see as only a marginally better solution.

Important and Unsatisfied: Now you’re in business.  This is when customers say things like “Shut up and take my money”.  This is where you want to be.  It means  that you are solving a problem that they feel viscerally.

DropBox did this. They helped people be badass at just getting on with their jobs. Canva does this by helping people be badass at designing stuff.  Contactually does this by helping people be badass at managing relationships.

So here’s what I really want to know.  How does YOUR product make your customers badass?

Photo Credits:

Walter White: Cara Thayer and Louie Van Patten

Darth Vader: http://celebritiesgivingthumbsups.tumblr.com/page/6

To Do: https://basisbugle.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/funniest-things-to-do/