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Patterns & Insights

Innovation: Customer Perspective

by | Oct 1, 2018 | business model, innovation, marketing, strategy

Remember that lovable donkey in Shrek?  Even though my kids are now beyond their college years, we still play the ‘guess the movie game,’  when we are all together. Someone blurts out a movie line in response to an event or statement and waits to see who first identities the source movie.

Some of our favorite lines still come from the oldie, but goodie, the original Shrek.  “Blue flower, red thorn…” was the mantra that Donkey repeated when looking for a plant with healing powers to help his buddy Shrek.  But as he struggles with the tasks, at some point he claims, “this would be so much easier if I was not color blind!”  Are you extolling attributes to your customers that are not meaningful to them?

This post is part of the series on five key areas to explore in order to find innovation opportunities that will accelerate your business growth.  When exploring the attributes of your current or potential value proposition, it is important to remember that the only important ones are those relevant in the eyes (or ears) of the beholder.  We all know this intellectually of course, but it is easy at times to get so wrapped up in our businesses and so enthralled with whatever we are producing, that we shift our focus to what we can “sell” the customer that we think is so great about our stuff without consideration of how it addresses customer pains and gains.

A great resource for ways to approach the exploration of opportunities for innovation or even just clarity on who your customers are and why they may care about what you are peddline is Osterwalder and Pigneur’s book  on Business Model Generation.  It has been around awhile, but for customers large and small, I find it still provide an excellent framework for any business to get clearer on who they serve and what customer centric value proposition is at the core of what the business delivers.  The authors share my own passion for a customer centric focus.  In fact, they highlight that it is critical to “adopt a customer perspective as a building principal for the entire business model design process.”

One way to challenge your team in a planning session that has worked for many of our clients follows.  Get your team to brainstorm as many attributes as they can think of that describe the value proposition of your offer to the market place.  Use the rules of brainstorming initially (no judgement on what is offered up).  Then, organize those attributes into quantitative and qualitative.  Quantitative being things like  dimensions, speed, number of ports, etc., and qualitative being things like customer experience, accessibility, or convenience.    As earlier posts have suggested, for a B2B context, don’t forget the role that multiple humans <link to other post> take in a complex buying scenario.  Do you have a feature that addresses the need of an influencer in that decision making process?

Now, once that brainstorming is complete, I like to guide teams to shift perspectives by using a visual tool that Osterwalder and Pigneur share on page 130 that they credit to XPLANE – “The Empathy Map.” Here is a snap shot, but if you really want to put this tool to work check out the book or engage me for facilitating a Strategic Innovation Workshop with your team!

After part one and part two are completed, find the intersections – where do the attributes of your offer address the new appreciation you have for the client’s perspective?  What are you missing?  Where were you assuming something that was not really there?  This exercise almost always surfaces opportunities for innovation of your value proposition and can lead to identifying new ways to bring the additional value to life in any one or more of the following ways:

  • Maybe you change the delivery or distribution model;
  • Maybe you add features or take some away (remember the complexity example from the last post?);
  • Maybe you enhance your value through forging a new partnership for go-to-market that deliver greater value than your company alone can deliver.

The point of course is to keep challenging your team with “So What?” from the new found perspective of your Empathy Map exercise.  Make sure you are not metaphorically extolling the benefits of “blue flowers and red thorns,” on a customer that is color blind!

These exploration efforts take time for sure, but Lumen Strategies, has helped many clients clarify opportunities for growing their business through innovations discovered in Strategic Innovation Workshops.  We know that you are very busy running your business, and bring a concise and experienced framework to facilitate these workshops coupled with customization of the research and background relevant to your industry.  Give us a call, we would love to help.

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