IDEAS: YOUR COMPETITIVE CURRENCY
OBJECTIVE FOR TODAY
The objective for this session is to learn and apply two highly effective idea generation and development techniques for coming up with entrepreneurial ideas. You can do these techniques individually or with your team.
In the Crucial Core you will learn how to create entrepreneurial ideas from customer dissatisfaction.
Your customers can be external, i.e. people who pay for business for your products or services – or internal, i.e. colleagues for whom you provide expertise and support at work.
In the Idea Time section, you will have the opportunity to apply 2 different creative techniques to help you use your target customers’ pain points as a springboard for innovation. You will learn how to use each technique, why it works and apply it to
your own role and organisation to begin generating ideas for new opportunities right away.
The 2 techniques that we will focus on are bug listing and customer journey experience mapping. You might want to gather some resources such as sticky notes, used newspapers and magazines, a glue stick, paper, pens and scissors before you begin.
1. Spotting causes of dissatisfaction is a potentially rich area for entrepreneurial ideas.
2. Ideas come from identifying your target customers’ pain points, and by co-creating solutions with customers.
3. Knowing your customers’ pain points can also help with your sales and marketing approach, as well as with your new product and service development.
Market disrupting entrepreneurs have a talent for identifying what is wrong with an industry, finding a solution and then turning that into a commercial opportunity.
Many entrepreneurs are successful because, amongst their wider skills, they are able to turn dissatisfaction into opportunity.
INDUSTRY WEAKNESS AS GAME CHANGING ENTREPRENEURIAL OPPORTUNITY
Market disrupting entrepreneurs have a talent for identifying what is wrong with an industry, finding a solution and then turning that into a commercial opportunity. They have developed the skill of seeing the industry with fresh eyes, often because they come from a different sector, working out what customers want and how to deliver a new, more compelling proposition that can often out compete the traditional business model. These entrepreneurs sometimes see this opportunities through serendipity, which means fortunate discovery by chance, or by intention and design.
Some case study examples , which are included on the Forbes Global Gamechangers list, are:
John and Patrick Collison: Cofounders, Stripe
These brothers made it effortless for merchants to accept online and mobile payments. Stripe processes billions in transactions every year in 25 countries. Its new business-in-a-box product, Atlas, will help countries like Cuba leap into e- commerce.
“Stripe’s mission is to accelerate the internet economy as a whole, to increase the GDP of the internet,” says Patrick.
Taavet Hinrikus, Kristo Käärmann: Cofounders, TransferWise
TransferWise uses peer-to-peer technology to challenge the world’s largest banks and giants like Western Union in the $3 trillion consumer moneytransfer business. “We realized there is actually no need to move the money. No need to make an international transfer because the money already exists where it needs to,” says Hinrikus.
Jeff Lawson: Founder, Twilio
Twilio has enabled around 40,000 customers, including big brands such as Airbnb and Salesforce, to enhance their apps with voice, text and video messaging. Its usage-based pricing system has saved businesses millions, obviating the need for hardware or costly pre-packaged solutions.
“The future of communications will be written in software by the developers of the world,” says Lawson.
Adeem Younis: Founder, SingleMuslim.com
One of the businesses I have worked with, SingleMuslim.com. is one of the biggest dating matrimonial sites in the world and after 18 years, it has led to over 50,000 marriages. Founder and Managing Director Adeem Younis came up with the idea for SingleMuslim.com when he was just 19 and at university in the UK. Many of his male friends had already completed their education, had professional qualifications, and came from good families, but were unable to meet suitable marriage partners. Adeem recognised that Muslim males and females tended to stay in their separate groups, so opportunities to get to know each other socially were limited.
Adeem said: “As a web designer, I found myself becoming increasingly preoccupied with trying to develop a modern solution for that age-old problem: how to find a way for Muslims to meet potential partners in an Islamically safe environment?
“Marriage is extremely important in Islam – it completes our faith – so I started to wonder whether there were any unexplored avenues that might provide a solution. And that’s when I had the idea for SingleMuslim. com.”
On 1st August 2000, Adeem launched the website from his small office, above a fast food shop in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, and has grown the business into the international success that it is today.
EVERYDAY CUSTOMER-FOCUSSED INNOVATION FROM DISSATISFACTION
Exploring the givens means questioning what might seem to be obvious
Exploring the givens means questioning what might seem to be obvious, and breaking down your challenge or opportunity to better understand it, asking questions about it such as ‘Why?’ and ‘How?’.
This is important because many challenges seem problematic due to the assumptions we have made about them. Our assumptions are not always correct or up-to-date due to our relevance bias, which our brains evolved to filter our information that we think will be less useful for us. Our relevance bias prevents us from becoming overwhelmed, but the downside is that sometimes we do not recognize important or helpful information. Thoroughly exploring the challenge that you have set yourself, and challenging your own assumptions about it, will undoubtedly lead to a better quality solution and outcome.
The Tangle Teezer
The Tangle Teezer. After years of working in salons and realising the need for a quick and easy hairbrush which detangled hair without tugging and pulling, hairdresser Shaun Pulfrey had a ‘lightbulb moment’ in 2003 which kickstarted his research and development for the first professional detangling hair tool. In 2017 the business turned over £28.6 million.
Not for the faint-hearted, but lots of fun and hugely pragmatic, the Bridechilla brand, founded by Australian Aleisha McCormack, has successfully identified a gap in the wedding market for a truly inclusive, often feisty, irreverent and unconventional approach to wedding planning. Have a look at her site at www.thebridechilla.com to see what I mean!
IDENTIFYING YOUR TARGET CUSTOMERS’ PAIN POINTS
Using dissatisfaction to drive commercially focused idea generation is something that we can all learn to do. The key is to identify your target customers’ ‘pain points’.
Pain points are those things that your target customer frequently worries about, or is frustrated by. They make tasks difficult for customers and get in the way of what they want. By taking time to learn about what your customers’ pain points are, you can develop solutions in the form of products and services to offer them.
This works for both product and service businesses. The Tangle Teezer example above solves the (very literal!) customer pain point of the discomfort of having to brush tangled hair. The Bridechilla business solves the customer pain point for people who don’t want traditional wedding advice, but who still feel they need support, knowledge and ideas that are appropriate to them, offering products (the Wedding Planner books), and services (the associated advice and recommendations through the website, blogs, and podcasts).
USING PAIN POINTS IN MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS
If you have existing products and services that you want to promote, you can also use your insight into customers’ pain points to create your marketing content, e.g. blog posts, videos, advertisements, website copy and so on. I am working with a specialist engine manufacturer at the moment who is about to launch a new, high-value product. The traditional method would be to market the product based on its functionality, technical specification and price. The company will retain all of those elements, and to differentiate and reach more potential customers, it is also going to create content and campaigns based on the pain points of their customers, which are ensuring resilience, keeping maintenance costs low and assurance of excellent after-sales service.
CUSTOMER FEEDBACK AND CO-CREATION AS A RICH SOURCE OF INNOVATION POTENTIAL
Constructive feedback and complaints from customers can be a gold mine for the growth of your business because it provides direct insight into how you can improve your offer to retain customers, and help to attract new ones. You’ll gain even more valuable insight if you make it a point to engage with customers on an ongoing basis to truly understand their needs and ‘co-create’ the solutions with them.
Co-creation is the process where companies and consumers work together to create better ideas, products and services. Making the time to understand your customers’ challenges, perspectives, goals and thoughts can bring you significant benefits, and also reassure you that your efforts and investments are going into the right activities.
Co-creation example – Inclusivity at Northumbrian Water Group
A wonderful example of customer co-creation that I have been really proud to be part of is the Inclusivity Strategy 2018-2030 for Northumbrian Water Group. In developing this strategy we involved customers who face financial, mobility and communication barriers,
among others. We heard first-hand from them what they would want from a company that gave them unrivalled customer service. We held workshops with customers to design our services together, asking:
- Wouldn’t it be great if…?
- How can we find you?
- How do we help and hinder?
We asked customers to highlight what excellent service looks and feels like to them. They gave us examples of where they have received this, from both within and outside the water industry.
The key messages were very clear. To deliver against Northumbrian Water Group’s vision for inclusivity, the customers said that the business needs to:
- Make sure that their services are inclusive and affordable for all.
- Listen, and think beyond the obvious. Own the customer’s problem.
- Proactively offer extra support when customers need it.
- Design customer policies with sensitivity to the needs of customers who may benefit from extra help and support.
- Engage the experts and promote Northumbrian Water Group’s great work locally. Spread the word to customers by partnering with trusted local organisations and charities.
Northumbrian Water Group has put plans in place to deliver each of these. You can view the strategy here.
Are you ready with your pens, paper, sticky notes, and perhaps a glue stick, scissors and a few old magazines and newspapers?
The 2 idea generation techniques that you will experience in this session are:
1. Bug listing
2. Customer experience mapping
Many great entrepreneurial ideas come about because of something that ‘bugs’ the entrepreneur, that they then take action to do something about.
This technique is significantly adapted from the original bug list approach by Adams, in Conceptual Blockbusting: A Guide to Better Ideas.
A bug list is a list of things that ‘bug’ – i.e. frustrate, worry, or irritate – your customers. You can focus specifically on the products and services that your business offers, or go wider and include their bugs in the context of your industry and competitors.
HERE ARE THE STEPS
- First, spend five to ten minutes getting as many customer bugs onto your sticky notes as you can, writing one bug per sticky note.
- Identify which ones, even at a stretch, you could do something about, and which ones are exceptionally difficult to change. For example, Trump’s trade tariffs may be customer pain points that you would find it really, really hard to do anything about (unless you’re Donald Trump and you’ve decided to do this programme. In which case, Donald, you can keep this in your ‘can do’ category!).
- Attach the sticky notes for the bugs that you could potentially resolve to a big piece of paper. For each sticky note, write at least 3 potential solutions that you could do. Don’t judge, critique, overthink or discount your ideas at this stage, just get them out and keep going until you’ve got 3 for every doable bug on your sticky notes.
- Now step back, review your work and create a final shortlist of your best ideas for further consideration and development.
CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE MAPPING
1. Customer experience mapping is a powerful way of visualizing the customer journey. You can do this activity alone, with a wider team, or even better, with some of your customers.
Begin by identifying the key stages a customer passes through in their interaction with your company.
That often involves steps such as:
- After sales
You might want to adapt these stages to suit your
products or services.
2. For each stage of the journey, add in your notes for each of these prompts:
- Tasks. What is the customer trying to achieve at this stage?
- Questions. What does the customer want to know at this stage?
- Touchpoints. How does the customer interact with the business at this point?
- Emotions. What is the customer feeling at this stage in the process?
- Weaknesses. How does the company let the customer down at this stage?
- Influences. Who or what is helping to influence the customer’s decision-making process at this stage?
3. Now begin to create the ‘story’ of what you want your customer to experience from your company at each stage, taking into account resolving any pain points on the way. Add these onto your page. You can use images and headlines cut out from your old newspapers and magazines to help with your creativity and inspire some different ideas.
4. Now summarize the actions you would need to take to achieve the customer experience that you’re aiming for.
BUMPER BONUS BITS
In most sectors we can see differentiated eras when it comes to how businesses and their customers relate to each other.
- Customer 1.0: This is the era in which product was king, illustrated by Henry Ford’s ‘any colour as long as it’s black’ attitude. In times when companies held the manufacturing and distribution power, customers had limited influence, and were just pleased to have access to buy the product.
- Customer 2.0: In the following era, branding and advertising started to create more differentiation between products, and claims for what the products could do through slogans and aspirational marketing became common. A good example is Carlsberg’s ‘Probably the best lager in the world’.
- Customer 3.0: This is the space that many would say most companies operate in today. In Customer 3.0, the marketing focus is on providing an experience as well as a product. The purpose of providing the experience is to draw customers into the business’ brand, delighting the customer and creating high engagement and loyalty. Starbucks’ slogan ‘The best coffee for the best you’ and instore experience is a classic example of this.
- Customer 4.0: We’re moving more and more into an era that’s led by customers who are becoming increasingly outcome-driven. Companies who are successfully meeting customer demand are making themselves highly relevant and valuable to their target customers, positioning themselves into customers’ daily lives, being there when customers need them, and getting out of the way when they don’t. The Amazon logo, which says, ‘And you’re done’, is a good example.
When you reflect on each of the 4, where would you place your business, and why? Jot down your thoughts.