Based on a completely unreliable, unscientific set of observational data gleaned from #socialmedia, we've noticed (and heard during phone calls) that many people who are suddenly forced to work from home (or who are used to working from home, and have had partners or offspring thrust into the mix) are having trouble with focus.
Steve and I have been working with clients for nearly twenty years, helping them focus on what's important when they are surrounded by irrelevant data and daily distractions. Here are a few tips that will help you get some real work done:
Stay safe out there, people. Keep your distance. Don't touch me, and I won't touch you. If you need help with your business, or planning a new one, let me know. You can also find us on Twitter: Steve or Megann. We're also on LinkedIn or Facebook. Under the Products tab, you can join a MasterMind group or explore coaching with us. Or you can just wait for news to arrive in your inbox, on Friday afternoons. (Just in case you've lost track of what day it is).
A little over a week ago, I was at a GATE (Gender and the Economy) event at Rotman. Here's a clip of Abigail Moriah talking about her experience. (If you can't see it, you can't be it).
Later in the event, Shirley Hoy talked about the importance of being able to zoom in, and zoom out, when approaching any issue. The next day, we were involved in a really spirited discussion with clients about something similar. Whether it's design thinking, or understanding customers, or working through a business challenge, the ability to take multiple perspectives is invaluable. It's where that old adage about not being able to see the forest for the trees comes from.
Why is this important to you? If you want to make #better decisions, by all means, look at the big picture. That's critical. Then take time to focus on a few details. And lastly, zoom back out again to see if what you saw at the beginning looks the same as it did when you first considered it.
My name is Megann Willson, and I'm one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. With my partner, Steve Willson, we work with our clients to find practical, usable solutions to their customer challenges. We can help you cut through complexity and ambiguity and zoom in on what's important. Find more insights on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Then click below to sign up for weekly news that will help you make better decisions for your business.
Groundhog Day has a reputation for being a day when the same inane scenario repeats itself, well, repeatedly. And Albert Einstein is widely credited with defining insanity as, “Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. There’s one situation where we at PANOPTIKA think Einstein was wrong, and you might want to be a bit more like the groundhog.
Most of the research we do for our clients is custom research, so naturally, it can be adapted to be different every time. Questions and lines of discovery, methodologies, and even target audiences, can be switched out or massaged to meet their varying objectives. But there’s still one kind of research that we recommend you do over, and over again with few changes – at least for three years running. Tracking studies, or longitudinal studies, or wave studies, involve taking measures of your key performance indicators. Those, you want to keep as static as you can.
Let me explain. Some of you may be fortunate enough to be in an industry that there is market data regularly released in syndicated reports, so you can check those numbers on an annual, or even quarterly, basis. Do that, if you’re able. Many of our clients are in highly sensitive industries, or very specialized verticals, and that means they need to source this kind of data by using primary research. In this case, we recommend they (and you, if this is your kind of company), undertake a standalone tracking study with as many levers as possible controlled, at least once annually.
This isn’t because we don’t want you to ask new questions or learn new things. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. This study should reveal if there are changes occurring over time. It will let you see whether the target audience (your core clients) are having an attitude shift. Or whether patterns are emerging that might present you with a new opportunity, or reveal an unanticipated risk. You’ll also be able to be more confident that you’re not getting different answers, just because you changed how you’re asking the questions.
Tracking studies can be helpful for your budget, as well. With custom studies, a big piece of your cost is developing the research methodology, working with you to determine the target, and so on – basically, setting the foundation. Just like marketing tactics or online education of your clients, if you then go to “rinse and repeat”, your costs should diminish somewhat. Partners like us will often provide you pricing in advance for additional waves of the study, so you can make a better estimate of next year’s costs.
So, while we won’t advise you approach insanity (by Einstein’s definition), as we approach this year’s Groundhog Day, call us to talk about whether a tracking study is right for you.
My name is Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with you to see everything that will help you make better decisions for your business or career. You can also find us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. And if you sign up before Friday, you’ll get this week’s issue of news you can use delivered straight to your inbox. Just click the button below to register. (We don't need to ask you twice, right?)
Sometimes a phone call with a new market research client begins like this:
Client: "Do you do focus groups?"
Us: "It depends. What do you need to understand?"
It might also include some of this:
Client: "I've got a deadline to meet. How fast can you get this project finished?"
Us: "How fast can you do your part in framing your needs and doing your prep work?"
When we're asking these questions, we're doing two things. The first is to narrow down as precisely as possible, what the client really needs to see in order to take an action or make a decision. (That's why we say we help you see everything you need to know to make better decisions. You don't need to know everything. Just all of the relevant things. Secondly, we need to do the most important thing, and it's this: we need to make your customer's experience with market research as comfortable, even delightful, as possible. That means not pushing them so hard that the process is frustrating or annoying for them. It means working to timelines that work for them, not only for you. It means having them say (to us, if they're a live interview or group, or in comments, if it's a survey), "Wow, that was really interesting!", or "The time went by way faster than I thought, that was fun!"
Why does that matter? It matters because your reputation depends on it. Even in double-blinded research (much of what we do keeps the client anonymous to the respondent, as well as the other way around), the person doing the answering will speculate about who's doing the asking. And they'll make assumptions about the organization they believe is doing the asking. So if we have them take time in the middle of their workday, or in their busiest week, or we nag them incessantly to participate, it reflects badly on us, and very possibly, on you. If, at the end, they feel like they're being treated like some sort of lab rat, it's not happiness-making. Reputation management and customer relationships are as important in research as in everything else you do.
So the next time you're planning to do customer research, we're happy to use a variety of methods to get the answers you need. (Often we will recommend that you combine one or two, for precision and richness in what you learn). And we hope you'll take our advice when we also recommend ways to make it as pleasant as possible for the most important customer of all - yours.
I'm Megann Willson, and along with my partner, Steve Willson, we're PANOPTIKA. We've spent decades getting to know our customers, and yours, and we're always happy to help you find more ways to excite them, delight them, and keep them coming back for more. You can find more content from us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or even Facebook. And if you'd like ideas, offers, and opportunities delivered straight to your inbox, the button below is where you can sign up.
I know, we're a day early. But since many of you are already eating the candy, and I thought I could use one more pumpkin-and-costume graphic, with puppies, we're posting a day early. This week I had a lovely time with connections and colleagues from the Toronto Product Management Association, where I was sharing a facilitator's-eye view of meetings and how to make them work for you. My first rule: treat your colleagues like you would treat your customers - give them and their ideas the same level of respect and consideration. No one likes meetings, for sure, but there are some key things that make them run more smoothly:
*The Ivory Taboo Tower is a "secret parking lot" out of the room, or on a discreet wall, where people can note topics that are taboo to talk about, and yet are having an impact on getting things done, agreeing, or moving forward.
I'm Megann Willson and I'm one of the partners here at PANOPTIKA, along with Steve Willson. We help you and your company to see everything you need to know to make better decisions, so you can find, understand, and keep customers. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook, and if you'd like more news you can use, delivered straight to your inbox, click the handy button below to sign up.
"Make a u-turn as soon as possible!"
Was she really shrieking at us, the GPS woman? It started to sound that way when we toured Lyon, in the middle of a city-wide tram-track upgrade. Every direction was the wrong direction. Or was it? One day out of a magical vacation a few years ago, we found ourselves in GPS hell. The GPS was not helping, since every one of her directions led us to another detour, or blocked road, or "no exit" sign. Finally, Steve suggested we just shut her off and stop listening. (Perhaps not as gently as that sounds).
We did it. And what happened? Nothing. We took a few twists and turns, saw parts of the old city, Vieux-Lyon, not meant to be on our route, and eventually, we took a beautiful waterside walk. Then we went on our way. Drove to Beaune. Bought some wine. Went back to our rented maison. Made dinner.
What's the point of all this? It's that few things are as urgent as they seem. It is rarely too late. Any direction can end up being the right direction. So the next time someone is barking directions and contradicting them in short order, switch it off. Step back. Think about the outcome you are really trying to achieve, and head in the direction that experience, understanding, instinct and any material fact (like a compass heading, the sun, or data) tells you is right.
I'm Megann Willson and I'm one of the partners here at PANOPTIKA. Steve Willson and I work every day with clients to help them get answers and to see everything they need to know to make better decisions. And sometimes our advice is to stop asking for more answers, and trust what you've already learned, including the data that's right in front of you. You can also find us on Twitter, on LinkedIn, and occasionally on Facebook.
"Plans don't work out."
"No business plan survives first contact with the customer."
"If you want to hear God laugh, tell her your plans."
Have you heard these? We know we have. Usually from people who don't want to invest the time in putting their plans to paper. Here's what we also know: committing to a direction in writing, clarifies and solidifies your thinking. It lets you get clarity on:
1. Where you want your business or product to go
2. What actions you believe it will take to get there
3. How you want your customers or stakeholders to react
4. A set of benchmarks you can use to measure, adapt, and adjust as you implement
That last part is usually the part that gets forgotten. The plan isn't a stone tablet. Just like the blueprint for a new house is only the beginning of what that place will need to become a home, the plan is a starting place. When you have a bias for action (as I do), it can feel slow, cumbersome, and frustrating sometimes. But it can also provide great clarity as you work through it. Used right, it lets you document your learning as you go. It becomes a body of evidence of your experiments, hypotheses, and assumptions, and it can help build critical thinking and the ability to "see around corners" - keeping you in business for a long time.
I'm Megann Willson and I'm one of the partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with clients to help them see everything they need to do to make better decisions for their business, so they can find, understand, and keep their best customers. Since 2001 we've helped hundreds of companies with thousands of business challenges, and we can help you, too. What are we seeing? Follow us on Twitter, on LinkedIn, or set an appointment for a no-obligation conversation about what you're trying to solve in your business.
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You've got a great team of mentors who have helped you get this far, there's no way they could be holding you back, is there?
If you have ever taken lessons in a sport, or music, or some other area of your life where you did really well and it seemed to come naturally, you may have also experienced a time when you had to move on to a different teacher, at a higher level. You can have a certain need for support and interaction, and someone can be exactly the right teacher or confidante for that time and place. But as you grow, your needs may change. The good teacher will recognize this, and encourage you to move on. Someone who wants you to stay at the same level, may have their own challenges to work on – and you will need to work on gaining the wisdom to know the difference. This is your job to manage.
As you become faster, fitter, stronger, or whatever goal you have set for yourself, you also need to be looking for those around you who will help you keep up the challenge. At the gym, when the set of weights become easy to lift, experts at fitness know that it’s time to try something heavier or harder. The same is true with your career. Otherwise you are possibly just playing it safe, and coasting. You don’t have to be constantly dissatisfied with your progress, that’s not the point. It’s that by pushing to the next stage, you will begin to build your confidence in just how far you have come - and how far you can go in the future. People who have lost significant amounts of weight say things like, “I can’t believe how much I used to eat”, or “Wow, I would never drink so much on the weekends now, it seems so unhealthy”. Each new challenge is an opportunity for you to build your confidence, and knowing when or whether you need a new teacher is also part of your growth.
If you feel like you're not progressing, it may be time to look for the next teacher to appear. If you believe you're ready, you are.
We're Megann and Steve Willson, the Partners behind PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to build better businesses and have better relationships with customers and peers, by helping them see everything they need to know to make better decisions. If you've got big decisions to make, we'd like to hear from you. You can also get more free advice on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or by clicking the orange button, below.
There's something we've observed as we work with business owners - whether they're startups or seasoned entrepreneurs, growing and scaling. Especially if the product is technical, or if it is solving something that hasn't really been solved before, the story of what it is, can quickly get derailed.
Entrepreneurship programs have done a great job of explaining and exploring the minimum viable product. But when it comes to talking about that product (or service, for that matter), there's a real tendency to default to describing the features. It's easier to answer "What does it do?" with "Here's how it works", or "Let me describe the features that are different from X", than to talk about the benefits.
Just yesterday we had a chance to sit in with a great startup group in K-W, called Startup Tech Unleashed. There was a seasoned entrepreneur, talking about his business, and giving some really helpful, useful guidance to his peers. But we couldn't help but notice that he started his story with the features. When he got to the benefits, POW! The story came alive. We could really understand why users were interested in the product, and why the founders created it. There was another entrepreneur, who described himself as "not even a startup yet", who described what his product would do, but went into lots of detail about the code, how it would work, essentially, "what would go on inside". Again, benefits were missing from the story, and the story was weaker for it.
We love to coach businesses to do a better job of understanding their customers, their products, their services, and their story. If your team is struggling with the difference between features and benefits, we can help. Get in touch, and let's build a customized workshop that fits your question, and your budget.
By the way, the startup that did get to the benefit story was Coosha - a cool calendar solution - why don't you check them out and see if they can keep YOU from double buying the refrigerator staples that your partner already picked up this afternoon. (That sounds like a benefit to us!)
We're Megann and Steve Willson, the Partners and Founders of PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients so they can see everything they need to know to find new customers, and gain a richer understanding of the ones they already have. You can find more insights from us on Twitter, on Facebook, or LinkedIn. We also send weekly news you can use to our subscribers. Join our inner circle by clicking the button below.
Megann and Steve, Partners in PANOPTIKA, are working for our clients every day to help them see everything they need to know to make better decisions in their complex business environment.
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