23 Feb

What are you afraid of?

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You know that gnawing in the pit of your stomach when you have to face a difficult conversation, or a difficult truth?

You know the one I mean.

It’s the one that you felt in high school when you asked your friend to “find out if he likes me”, or when you were waiting for your acceptance letter from college and you asked your mom: “you open it for me.  I can’t look”.

It’s that feeling you get when you didn’t hear back after that interview for your dream job, but you can’t quite bring yourself to call them up and ask about it.

Ever notice how that how that feeling accompanies stuff that you care deeply about?  It comes up when there is a possibility of rejection.

Here’s something else about that feeling.

There is an overwhelming compulsion to avoid doing it.  Not only that, when we do address it, we often look to secondary sources of information.

You want your friend to find out if someone likes you.  You want your mom to open your college letter.  You call someone else to ask if your interviewer was dazzled or unimpressed.

But why?  Why would we want to outsource those most important conversations?

The answer of course, is fear.  It is human nature to avoid things that may result in unpleasant feelings: like rejection, or having to tell your boss that maybe this project isn’t such a great idea after all.

Anyone who cares deeply about their product feels this way about their customers.

When many companies want to do customer research,  they start by suggesting a survey, or looking at social media, or reading analyst reports.  Anything it seems, to avoid actually talking to living, breathing customers. 

But here’s what I have learned.  The thing that you are most afraid of is exactly what  you should be doing.  If you are afraid of it, that means it’s important.  If it’s important, you should be addressing it.

Of course, it is much easier to argue about features, or licensing models, or whether the brand color should be blue or magenta.  But those things don’t give you those nasty stomach flip flops do they?   That’s not what’s keeping you up at night is it?  It’s the big questions that do that.

“Does my product solve an actual problem?”

“Are people just buying from us because were are the lesser of two evils?”

“Are we doing this just because it’s the CEO’s pet project?”

“Are our customers really happy with us?”

These are the questions you need answers to.

So if you ever wonder where you should be spending your research dollars, close your eyes and ask yourself: 

What are you most afraid of? 

Photo Credit:  ShutterStock | Dmitry Koksharov