The Edge of Change

The world we live in is a funny place. Conversations, styles and even perceived needs are cyclical. What is old is new and new, well, that’s so this morning. Every thing changes. Everything. Those things, people, businesses that don’t, well, that’s so in the past. Change is the only constant they say and I find it to be true. Change up, change back, change around, change out, change into, etc… We have so many perceptions of change that the adaptations seem endless.

Change comes in various sizes and increments. Some changes are dramatic while others are subtle. No matter what, change happens to us all each day. The real goal is to try to guide change as best we can, because change never happens as we expect. It always has hidden surprises or consequences.

But what is change? When does something or someone change? I guess that answer lies in the eye of the observer. Only those closely watching can see the change happening, but for most, we see the event after the change. But what if you could plan change in some fashion. This I have asked for some time and here is what I have created.

Based on the idea that yesterday and today are unchangeable, if you avoid any theoretical ideas of time travel, that only leaves the future for change. And, if change only happens in the future, than you can guide the outcome given you can determine all the factors affected by change. And so, here is my model for change.

Change Deltasm

This is my Delta model for change. Even if you stand at the very edge, change will occur. Time always moves forward and you must move with it. But you can decide how you want the change to happen and what you want the change to create once you understand why you want or need the change to happen.

As the model indicates, change should be an improvement and performed of a duration of time through some given process. Also, you must determine any and all pitfalls and obstacles that may hinder you crossing the gap of change.

So the steps:

  1. Why is there a need for change? “Why”
  2. How will this change occur? “How”
  3. Who can help you achieve this change? “Who”
  4. What improvement will change create? “What”
  5. How long will the change take? “When”
  6. And where do you want to be when the change is complete? “Where”

Map the change before you act. Take you intangible idea and make it a tangible plan.

Not All Customer Experiences Are True Experiences

As the old adage goes, “All ponies are horses, but not all horses are ponies.” This is the same for ‘Customer Experiences.’ Not all customer experiences are truly an experience that creates economic value. Making the distinction between an Experience and a customer experience can be confusing if you assume both are the same. Let me make it simple, they’re not. Most customer experiences are merely good or great customer service labeled with an over used buzzword. Calling customer service a customer experience does not elevate it to a true experience.

The term “Customer experience” has become the catchall phrase for anything above an expected customer relationship performance by a provider. Consumers expect good, if not, great customer service, but it’s not unique enough to be called a Customer Experience. If a retailer adds extras like a coffee station or creates a good aesthetic environment through sound and trimmings to entice customers to buy, this does not guarantee that have created, or more precisely, staged an experience. All that has been accomplished is an improvement to the environment of a service or goods provider. There is no real economic value created from the experience itself only the application of dressing to increase sales.

How can you determine if your ‘Customer Experience’ is actually a true experience or packaging for promoting sales? Look at it this way; an experience is an offering where-as the consumer is willing to pay for the time spent and not the goods or services purchased. An experience is focused on creating memories and not selling things. This is not to say that an experience does not provide goods or services as part of an offering, only that it is not the focus of the offering.

Simple rule of thumb; if the focus of your offering is simply on the selling of goods or services provided and not the time spent interacting with the customer, than you are, by definition, in the Goods or Service business creating only good or great customer service to sell stuff and not a true Experience stager helping to create memories for consumers.

There is greater value in memories than in merchandise.

To learn more about the value of Experiences read; Science Daily’s:http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090207150518.htm, Fast Company’s post: http://www.fastcoexist.com/3043858/world-changing-ideas/the-science-of-why-you-should-spend-your-money-on-experiences-not-thing or, I would suggest reading B. Joseph Pine II & James H. Gilmore’s book“The Experience Economy” Update version.

Energize the Spark: Part 8

Okay, we’re almost completed our journey around the Empathetic Business Model. The next part is stage 8, Updating and Energizing. This step is usually the most overlooked step along any model as well as exclude on most business models. Step 8 in the journey addresses the need for incorporating a plan for keeping your offering current and exciting in the eyes of those your serve.

journey path stops 8

Stagnation is the silent killer in any offering. Though your offering may remain as effective as the day your developed it, consumers may see your offering as being outdated, non-current or tired if you don’t update. Imagine if you never updated your computer or the software on it. Chances are you would probably still be using first generation Windows environment and clunky, limited software applications or maybe you would still be using a Macintosh to perform your graphic and publishing needs. Upgrading is a critical element of keeping your offering relevant to current needs of your consumers.

How do you determine when and how much upgrading you need to do to your offering? That answer comes from two sources; those you serve and the competition. First; stay in constant communication with your customers so that your offering remains relevant to their needs and wants.

Second; keep your eyes on your competition. Be sure your aware of how they are updating their offering and what are they doing to re-energize interest in the offering. Most providers I have observed avoid changing an offering unless something in the market changes forcing a response. Be vigilant in this quest to update and energize your offering when needed, not forced.

Summary; Keep your offering relevant by updating as needed by communicating with your customers as well as keeping aware of what your competition is doing to keep their offering relevant as well. Never duplicate, always improve.

This is the not the last step even-though we have come full circle. Next I want to share how this all comes together to create a cohesive and holistic Empathetic Business Model that will help as you move forward with next step of creating a business model and plan.

Step 9: Closing the Loop

See the original Post: Apathy to Empathy

Start the Journey: Step 1

Learning Business from Mother Goose

Many childhood nursery rhymes have been used as analogy and metaphors for business for years. These have been proven effective methods for getting a new perspective on an old idea or basic concept. Let’s take a classic 1659 nursery rhyme from Mother Goose and see how it could apply visually to business.

“Jack be nimble, Jack be quick. Jack jump over the candlestick.”

Jack B NimbleTo understand this power that this rhyme has as an analogy for business, we must first understand the origin of the rhyme for its true meaning.

Over the span of several centuries, jumping over a candle was both a sport and method in England of foretelling one’s future. With a lit candle placed upon the floor, a person would jump over the candle without putting out the flame. In sports, the candle would be raised, much like that of a high jumpers crossbar. In foretelling ones future, being successful, would signify great fortune for the coming year.

Time To Get Creative

For this use of the analogy the rhyme and illustration will be used for various aspects of business. In this application, Jack represents the small business owner or start-up operator. The first line, ‘Jack be nimble’ can be used to express the need or ability of a small business to be agile or nimble when approaching a business venture. ‘Jack be quick,’ speaks clearly. One must move quickly to gain a competitive advantage over the competition. ‘Jack jump over the candlestick.’ could represent the need to have a strong strategy and alternative plan to overcome obstacles along the way.

Final, what Jack is jumping over is the candlestick attempting not to disturb the flame. This could be used to represent opportunities and the need to avoid disrupting that opportunity by being hasty or trying to carry out the task unprepared. To be successful, be it jumping over flames of a candlestick like Jack or entering into a business venture, proper preparation and strategy are the keys to success.

So remember those childhood stories and rhymes and realize they were created to teach lessons through storytelling. Use these stories again and teach with analogies.

Last word of creative insight, act like Jack and you can be successful the whole year-long.

Stop Being All Things!

“Stop Being All Things to All People!”

That’s the comment shared at a past business conference. As reported, small businesses battle with being competitive with larger providers, a battle that they can rarely win. The issues of limited funding, time management and even market penetration can be overwhelming for most, unless you change directions in your focus. Stop competing at their game. Stop trying to be all things to all people, because larger companies can out price you, offer more and have the funding to marketed deeper.

What’s the answer then if small businesses are to become successful?

Mass vs Niche

Become a specific thing to specific people. Find a niche market with a need or want that can be customized for them specifically  This act of customization per customer offers greater value than competing at being the lowest price or having the widest selection.

It appears that the idea of quantity serving a mass market over quality serving a niche market has been the mainstay of business operators for a long time, but that time is passing quickly. Too many providers with massive offerings overlap their competition and resulting in a price war where the smaller provider can’t compete. To increase your success, driving quality to a smaller market can actually bring higher returns in the long run. This allows the niche provider to be nimble and cut the funding from being tied up in quantity products and apply it to marketing.

Today’s start-up and entrepreneurs must be smarter and play in areas the large providers cannot. Make this your mantra: “Be Specific for Someone Specific.”

A to A Thru B

As I sat watching some of year’s NASCAR race at the airport, I am reminded of a discussion a good friend and I had about a better visual to represent the course businesses take to achieve success. We debated of what a journey should look like for a business as it moves along the path to success. We each agreed that the journey is complex and requires some flexibility as well as constant monitoring to ensure your business is following the general course established. but we differ on the visual that best represents a modern business strategy.

His view-point is a more traditional business thinking that a journey is a series of smaller increments of travel from point A to Point B. I, however, had a view the journey in a much different visual. Yes, I agree that there is a point of origin and a directionality to the journey, but I see it more as being similar to a figure eight race. In my idea, there is a starting point along a defined course, but instead of rushing to the end and then resetting, I see it as a looping path which returns to the point of origin while the driver is still moving along vying for position while always in constant check of his status, the competition, his surrounding and the vehicle’s condition. Business is continuous, not contiguous. (see diagram below)

Journey Pathsm

Like stock car racing, it’s not about going as fast as you can in a short run, instead, its careful planning and timing along the whole of the event. It’s about having a strategy for success that utilizes constant reviews and observations along the way towards the established goal.

As I see it, the goal is not simply getting from point A to Point B the fastest. To achieve success and constant growth, it’s about knowing your ability and how to use the equipment and knowledge you have to improve along the way to win the race. Achieving success in business is not about reaching the destination, rather embracing the journey that constantly builds upon itself.

Price of Admission

In a past post I wrote about setting the stage for your business offering. I would like to step a bit further back into the customer journey, back to the front door shall we say.

A few years ago I was challenged by two authors to consider my business differently. They asked each of us to consider how we do business with our customers currently. Study the process throughout the complete selling cycle. Then a bomb was dropped  into the heart of the discussion.

“What would you do differently if your customers had to pay admission to do business with you?”

What would I do differently if people had to pay before doing business? This was an incredible thought and one that will need a little clarification. If we consider an up front fee to do business, how would we change our business approach? How could you make it so people wanted inside? Theatres, sporting events, rides, etc… do this every day. You must buy your ticket before you enter the event. Even Sam’s Club, Costco or Deep Discount Groups charge a fee for admission, A.K.A. the club cards. At one time Sam’s Club wouldn’t even let you look unless you were with a guest. This created enchantment to prospective customers, so much so that you would buy a one day pass that was almost half the price of the yearly membership.

What would your business look like if you could charge for admission? Could you create special passes or tickets to get in on certain days? Would you change how you perform to ensure return business and drive word of mouth marketing? Would your deliverable be well branded and your collateral materials more like invitations and playbills? How would you act and what would be your stage?

Creating interest and excitement for your customers is about creating theatre and performing a part. If you want to know more about the evolution in business delivery, my suggestion is to read a wonderful book by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore called “The Experience Economy; Work is Theatre and Every Business a Stage.”  You will never look at your business the same again.