Grow your business (but never lose the startup mentality)

Here’s what we know for sure. As any business starts to have success, it grows. And the bigger it gets, the more people are brought in. More people = more bureaucracy, more meetings, more layers, more rules, a slowdown in movement and, well, a marked increase in B.S. If you’re not careful, this all drives you further away from the passion and kick ass mentality that was fueling your success in the first place. So how to avoid this?

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Avoid the complacency that comes with growth with a DISTINCT (NOT EMPTY) COMMITMENT to preserving a start up mentality (even if you are not a startup). What does this mean?
This means committing to (and expecting) a push for innovation in areas beyond just your core product or service. As you grow, your organization’s DNA needs to push to find innovation and efficiencies in every facet…day to day operations, logistics, processes, accounting, IT, sales, etc., etc. This is just as important as core product innovation. So push for it. Expect it. In every nook and cranny of the organization.
This means genuinely encouraging people to question the status quo. Allow people to question processes if…but only if…they have a take on how to make things better…or a passion to find a solution.
This means making sure everyone (not just key people) has a constant touch with the outside world…with customers, constituents and what’s actually going on in the world. An out of touch team leads to an out of touch business.
This means eliminating unnecessary meetings (but keeping key collaboration and communication)
This means keeping teams small and nimble and then staying out of their way.

In support of the above, this ultimately means carving out time for people to actually think and learn and act. As in a startup, people must be allowed uninterrupted blocks of time to formulate new ideas and approaches that make the organization better and more efficient. This increases individual job satisfaction, drives collective morale and ultimately helps the business continue to thrive. In other words, you can grow the entity out of startup mode, but never, ever take the startup mentality out of the entity.

About the author: Eric Greene is a principal at Elevation (it’s different up here). Elevation is an innovation firm that specializes in A-Z new product/service/growth strategy development (including guerrilla research, opportunity I.D., brainstorming, concept development, industrial design, prototyping and engineering). To learn more, go to: http://elevationid.com/

Which comes first – the target or the product?

Should you come up with your new technology, product or service first and then retrofit it to a target? Or vice versa? Like the chicken and the egg, that is the question. So what’s the answer?

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While the answer may seem fuzzy (sorry – baby chick pun), this much we know for sure:
• All too often, organizations and entrepreneurs come up with something…a seed…a concept…a technology…a business…whatever. It seems cool, so they launch it and then try to find an audience for it, banking on the notion that the proper customer set will emerge. But way too often this doesn’t fly (come to think of it, chickens aren’t real good flyers either).
• And then there’s targets themselves. Each target flock (okay, enough with the bird references) has different needs, different problems, talks in different lingo, has a different set of urgency, different emotional needs and a different time frame. Not to mention a different amount of money they’re willing to spend.

So, here’s an idea to incubate: given the above, the smart play is to pick and understand your target first and then create your product SPECIFICALLY FOR THOSE PEOPLE. Catering to exact needs, speaking in just the right language, etc. will create more spark, resonate more strongly and ultimately increase your odds of success.

About the author: Eric Greene is a principal at Elevation (it’s different up here). Elevation is an innovation firm that specializes in A-Z new product/service/growth strategy development (including guerrilla research, opportunity I.D., brainstorming, concept development, industrial design, prototyping and engineering). To learn more, go to: http://elevationid.com/

 

Want better research? Get your hands dirty.

Want more out of your research? Get your hands dirty.  Go guerrilla.  Go to where your customers and prospects are are.  Hang out where your target does real things in real-time under real conditions.  This is where you can have casual, comfortable, genuine conversations.  This is where you can walk in the shoes.  This is where your consumers are their absolute selves and act accordingly.  And where you can make observations and gather subtle insights that consumers would never even think to articulate, let alone be comfortable enough to mention in a more sterile or artificial research setting.

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By way of example, on a client assignment awhile back, we spent a couple of weeks with dog owners.  We hung out in dog parks, backyards and trails.  We tried products and lived life alongside people and their pets.  We learned a TON by experiencing what consumers experience…and by simply chatting people up.  We also learned by observing subtleties and taking note of the occasional frustrated look on a dog owner’s face…a cringe…a change in body language – things that people never think to say, even when you ask, but that are real.

The result: deeper insights that drove several new product innovations, with incremental national shelf space to match (and competitors who never saw any of it coming).  This can, and has worked with a variety of products, services, technology and start ups in all kinds of settings.  Just show up. Get your hands dirty.  And see what happens.

About the authors: Eric Greene & Keith Poulson are principals at Elevation (it’s different up here).  We are an innovation firm that specializes in A-Z new product/service/growth strategy development (including guerrilla research, opportunity I.D., brainstorming, concept development, industrial design, prototyping and engineering).  To learn more, go to: http://elevationid.com/

Lessons from a lone goose

You know how geese tend to run (and fly and gather and poop) in flocks? Well there’s one goose in the field along the road by my house that does things differently.  While the other geese have been hanging out nearby in groups of 10, 20, 30 or more, “Gandolph Goose” (as I’ve named him) just wants to stand alone.  And in doing so, Gandolph the lone goose has taught me some unexpected lessons about innovation and marketing.

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Gandolph has been hanging out solo in the field for a couple of weeks now.  Rest assured, he’s healthy, no hurt.  He can fully fly, function and take care of himself.  Yet still he chooses to stand apart from the nearby flock.  And in doing so, the damnedest thing has happened.  I notice him.  Everyone notices him.  People stop in their cars to notice him.  They snap off pictures.  Somebody fed him bread crumbs.  I saw someone else roll down a window to say hi.  There was a little kid who tried to chase him.  even other geese from further down the field stop by to visit. Gandolph lets them hang out for a few minutes, but then moves several yards away to be solo again.

The punch line here? The mere act of separating from the flock…and staying separate…has resulted in our lone goose GETTING NOTICED AND GAINING OUTSIZED ATTENTION while nobody looks twice at the geese in the larger flocks. Doesn’t this same insight apply to your products, services, strategy, marketing, sales efforts, communications, website, user interface, app, promotions, whatever? The mere act of standing apart and staying apart makes you much harder to ignore. And what’s good for the goose is good for your business.

 

 

 

 

8 things Sochi teaches us about innovation and marketing

So what do the Sochi Olympics teach us?

1. If you build it poorly, your customers will do anything to break free of you.  And  then they will complain.  Loudly.  On social media.

12. Beware of scope creep.  The larger and more elaborate the plan, the bigger the over-runs (and the more hands that come out grabbing for money)

3. Don’t make things so complicated that you forget the simple, important stuff
2 4. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver.  For example, don’t promise “an Olympic experience that exceeds China” and then fail to provide clean running water or enough pillows.

5. Bureaucracy, committees and too many meetings are killers of productivity.  If you want to get more done, involve less people.

6. Create positive advanced buzz (and a lot of it).  In the absence of such positive buzz, negative buzz takes over, infests everything and grows out of control.  Next thing you know, everyone is paranoid and nobody wants to visit, pay or watch.

7. Big egos tend to get exposed in ways that turn off your prospective audience

38. The product can speak volumes for itself…if you avoid the above and simply let it shine.

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Here’s To The Crazy Ones

Way back in the stone age days of 1997, Apple Computer came out with a kick ass ad campaign during the launch of the Macintosh. This “Think Differently” campaign rang true then, and it’s still equally powerful today.  Here’s how it went:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

think differentSo while everyone else is telling you why not, nay-saying, resisting, saying “we can’t” or “we won’t” or just being a general all around pain in the you-know-what, just keep telling yourself:STAY CRAZY That is, if you really want to make a difference.

Attention-grabbing vs. wow factor (there’s a big difference)

A lot of celebs seek to grab attention (see Cyrus, Miley or “Kardashian – Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, Kendall, Kylie or Kris).  They make outsized noise doing over the top things involving nudity, wrecking balls, giant teddy bears, costumed little people, farm animals and meat suits to get on our radar.  And it works.  For about 15 minutes.  A lot of new products seek to do the same thing. But there is a HUGE difference between attention-grabbing “Whoa” and true “Wow” factor.  And if you want to succeed for more than 15 minutes, you need lasting WOW factor.  What is it and how do you know if you have it?

bikeLook just above.  WOW, right?  Just WOW.  Not made you look, 15 minutes of fame “whoa”, but WOW.  Lasting cool.  “It” factor.  It’s a bitch to develop but not hard to define.  Lasting Wow is deliberately built to reinforce brand, send the right message, with just the right design queues and touches that deliver lasting cool. You know you have it when most anyone in your intended target looks at your new innovation and simply utters the word, ”Wow.”  Not “whoa” like a Miley Cyrus stunt.  But “Wow”.  Whoa is Miley Cyrus, WOW is Adele.

When developing new products, you should research, brainstorm, design and engineer with “WOW”, not “Whoa” in mind. At least if you want your new product to have more than 15 minutes of fame.