Can’t You Always Get What You Want?

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Courtesy of Gerd Altmann via Pixabay
One of the most challenging things you may face with your customers or buyers, is when they push back and say they want to pay a different price, or have different delivery terms, or change what you were hoping to receive. In a business-to-business or account-based-selling environment, this can be a frequent occurrence, so it’s useful to learn how to deal with it. 

The difficulty, or risk, is that if you counter with another option, they may walk away. You might damage the relationship. So the first thing to consider, is the lifetime value of that customer. Are they likely to purchase again and again over time? If so, you need figure out how to be more accommodating, without “giving away the store”. How can you do that?

If you’re familiar with “how-might-we” thinking, you’ll know that it is most often used in idea generation. But at its heart, the ideas you are trying to generate are solutions to problems. That means when you encounter other types of problems, you can use the same approach to excellent effect. Instead of thinking, “that customer is so demanding!”, consider thinking, what can I offer them so they get some of what they want, and I get some of what I want? 

Over time, if you exercise the how-might-we muscle to deal with challenging customer requests, you’ll find it becomes easier, and you get better at preserving customer relationships while still feeling like there was plenty of pie for everyone (and there is).  What can this help you tackle today? 

I’m Megann Willson and I’m Partners with Steve Willson here at PANOPTIKA. We help our clients see everything they need to know (and realize what they don’t need to know) to make #betterdecisions. You can find us here on our blog, and also on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Or you can sign up for weekly updates delivered direct to your inbox, by clicking the orange button below.

Five things you must do to save your business

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What a week! It seems like we’re saying that every week. The challenge is, the longer we allow ourselves to be distracted by the shiny novelty of the news, the less runway we will have to save our businesses and do what we need to do to be sure there’s something left when we “get back to normal”. With that in mind, I’m going to launch right in on some steps for surviving, and perhaps even thriving.
  1. First, face facts. This is not ending any time soon. If you’re trying to hang on by your fingernails, understand that even when it’s “over”, the business environment has been irrevocably impacted. Your business and your customers will not (and dare I say, should not) be the same when this is over. Like any other crisis, this can be a time of clinging to the past, or a time for seeking a new opportunity. Realize this, and commit to finding a new way forward.
  2. Next, decide what you need to stop doing. Whether that’s spending money on non-essentials, or reaching out in your marketing efforts in ways that are ineffective, insensitive, or pointless, look at everything you do, and stop everything that isn’t adding value for you, your employees, or your customers.
  3. After that, evaluate what you must absolutely continue. What are the non-negotiables? Not the “nice to have”, but the essentials without which, your business would die. Is it internet service? (For most modern businesses, yes. It’s not like you can pop round to the corner coffee shop and poach their wifi any more). Paying your rent? Maybe, if you can’t negotiate a freeze or a deferral. Paying for food or medicine? Yes. Preserving your mental and physicial health? Absolutely.
  4. Next, make a list of what you can change, that will make you ready for the future, or stronger in the here and now. Perhaps it’s listening a little less to the news. Or putting on “real pants” instead of working in your pyjamas. Or taking less money out of your business than usual, until you find your sea legs in this ocean of change. Or doing one of your “continue” items, but in a less expensive, safer, or more efficient way.
  5. Those four things will give you stability. They’ll let you get into “ready position”. If you’ve ever played a sport or taken a gym class, you might recognize that expression. In case you don’t, it’s where you know you’ve got your feet firmly under you. The challenge is that you can’t hold the ready position forever. It’s designed for movement. It’s meant to help you launch. So the fifth, and final action, is to decide what you can start doing. Where are the opportunities? Is there something new in you, that you’ve been too busy to start? If it is something you’re uniquely or especially good at (the what), and people need it now (the who and the when), and they’re willing to pay for it and you can get it to them in this low-touch environment (the where and the why), it’s a business opportunity worth exploring. You’ve got this. Start now. Figure out the how.

These five steps are mission critical. Now’s the time. You’ll never have another opportunity like it.

I’m Megann Willson and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA, along with Steve Willson. For nearly twenty years we’ve been helping companies and individuals make better decisions for their businesses and careers. If we can help you, hit the contact tab and find out how to reach us. No obligation. We’ll listen, and if we can’t help, we’ll do our best to point you to someone who can. We’ll continue putting out content like this via LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. And if you’d like some good news in your inbox each week, join our subscriber list. A new issue drops on Fridays at 3pm Eastern. 

 

The number one tool to build freedom into your job or business

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Thanks for the photo from JillWellington via Pixabay
A recent Quora question got me thinking about this topic. Then, as often happens, the Baader Meinhof phenomenon kicked in. Suddenly opportunities to talk about the importance of this tool were everywhere. 

So what is it, you ask? It’s this: have a system. Whether you want more time for travel when you’re a business owner, or you’d like more reliable sales results, or you want to be sure your research about customers is a reliable guide to your decisions, a systematic approach makes the difference. Systems are the reason franchises improve many business owners’ success rate. Systems free you up to concentrate on your most important tasks. And systems let you see whether it’s your research approach, or a change in your customers attitudes, that has resulted in a different response than usual. 

Let me give you a couple of examples. The first has to do with the freedom to be working on your business, and not just in it. This is the freedom to travel more, to sell more, to do high-level thinking. The best system I know for doing this has two parts. Part A is to prioritize your work focus regularly, and don’t take on anything that doesn’t move you toward your over-arching goals for your life and business (those goals should be aligned, by the way). Part B is to invest in help if there is work that is important but can be done by others, more effectively or efficiently than by you. I learned Part B as the $10, $100 and $1000 tasks rule. 

Every day, make a list of all the tasks you must take on, and then prioritize them. If they do not contribute to your goals at all, find someone else to help, or eliminate them altogether. (Reading random posts on Facebook when you’re not a social media manager, or even when you are…gone). Secondly, figure out which tasks are both urgent and important. They should be at the top of your list. Which of these can be done only by you? (Selling to your best customers? Check. Making strategic decisions for the future of your business or career? Check.) Which of the jobs can be done by someone else, if you pay them? Look at those jobs, and as your first step, pay to get rid of any $10 tasks. Those are the tasks distract you from your most important, or $1000, jobs, like finding your next customer or finishing a project that will make your boss realize how valuable you are. You’d spend $10 (or even $100) to save or make $1000, wouldn’t you? I knew you would. 

Every business problem that seems like there isn’t enough of something (cash flow, customers, sales, ideas, insights) can benefit from putting a system in place. Buy yourself some freedom. Establish a system today.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m the CEO and one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. You can also find insights from us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And for News you can Use directed right to your inbox, sign up using the orange button. Are you stuck and looking to make a career turnaround or start a business? Let’s talk!

Three Marketers Walked Into a SWOT…

Does that sound like an interesting discussion to you? Trust me, it was! Early this morning, I got into a conversation with two marketers I know only from social media (and that we have connections in common). It started with someone poking fun (nay, mocking) a marketing plan template. One aspect of that template was the SWOT analysis, and there was a lot of talk as to whether the SWOT was no longer relevant. 

Now Steve and I are both fans of frameworks. They give teams a common language to approach an analysis, so you can stop disagreeing about how to look at what’s going on, and simply look at what’s going on. They also provide constraints: don’t bother finding data that doesn’t answer the questions required for that framework. (You can always use that data for a different framework. Just don’t force-fit stuff where it doesn’t belong).

On that note, we also had a sidebar on templates that are created by head office, your boss, or some other wise guy, that (a) requires data that isn’t available in your branch-plant country, or (b) solves a problem that isn’t relevant to your context, but rolls up to a bigger template that serves someone else, somewhere else. Don’t do this to people. But if it’s been done to you, the best way to come up with numbers for the missing links is to triangulate.

Anyway, I digress. I stood up in defense of the SWOT, not because I think it is always the best framework, but because I believe it is a mis-maligned framework, and that often what doesn’t work about it are two things: (a) teams try to stog too much into their SWOT, and (b) they’ve been mis-taught how to use it best. So here goes:

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It’s meant to help you think about where you are now, and where you might go (and what could happen to you along the way). The first error teams make, is to mix up Strengths and Opportunities. Or Weaknesses and Threats. It’s about looking through the right lens.

Strengths and Weaknesses are about you (and by that I mean your business, your product, your team). What strengths does your product have? What weaknesses? Are you with me so far? These are internal factors. Opportunities and Threats exist once you leave the safe harbour for open water (or open your front door and go outside). Opportunities are things you can achieve or places you can go. And threats don’t come from inside, they come from the outside factors. Yes, if your culture is broken, you’ve got an issue. But that’s something you need to fix within your own house, not something that’s outside of your control or might impact you whether you want it to, or not. Got it? Excellent. I knew you would.

All this is to say, frameworks are one of the best ways to get people on the same page, fast, to make better decisions. They also can be one of the worst kind of hammers to wield when you’ve convinced yourself that everything is a nail. So proceed with caution. (And if you’d like to talk about which frameworks to use to answer your burning questions, let’s talk).

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We help our clients make #betterdecisions, sometimes using frameworks. You can find us on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. And for insights delivered direct to your inbox on Fridays, you can sign up using the orange button, below. 

If You Really Love Your Customers, Do This

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Image from Ron van den Berg via Pixabay
Every day, we hear companies saying they love their customers. And how do they show it? They push them tons and tons of irrelevant content. They flood their inboxes. They try to sell them things they don’t want or need. And here’s what many of them don’t do:

Try to find out what will really make them happy. 

If you’ve been fortunate enough to be in a long-lasting relationship (like we have), you’ll know that you’re always looking for ways to delight the other person. To show them that you want to help them get what they want and need to feel like they are their best. Saying sorry when you’re wrong. Asking their closest friends if there’s something they’ve been dreaming of that they haven’t told you. Not taking, taking, taking. 

So today, on Valentine’s Day, and every day, if you really love your customer:

  1. If you’ve messed up in any way, apologize. Sincerely.
  2. Find out what they’ve really been dreaming about without asking them to spell it out for you (watch, observe, pay attention, or ask others who know them as well or better as you do) and then help them get it.
  3. Do an unasked kindness for them that doesn’t have an immediate payoff for you (A referral? An endorsement? A sincere note of thanks that isn’t a sales pitch?

To you: thanks for reading. We appreciate it. And thank you to all of you who refer others, endorse us on social media, and engage in conversations about how to find, understand, and engage customers. I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. (The other is Steve Willson – Happy Valentine’s Day!) You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, or through our weekly email news.  

 

Zoom in, zoom out!

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Image courtesy of David Mark via Pixabay
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.

For Groundhog Day, Repeat this.

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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?) 

 

Are your resolutions slipping?

Do you ever have one of those days where it seems like you’re being sent the same message again and again? I’ve had one of those already today.

If you’re like many business people, you may have started the year off with not only some personal resolutions, but some business ones, as well. We all have great plans when we’re sitting on a comfy couch and the phone isn’t ringing, our email isn’t pinging, and we’re not being bombarded by social media messages. Slowly, surely, though, we can slip. Even if we’ve been doing a great job, we can lose our vigilance and let distractions and habits creep in, that will move us away from where we intended to go. Unexpected events can break our concentration and mess up our plans.

You may find that you’ve been able to stick with your plan really closely (congratulations, well done!), or you might have something happen that has happened with a few of our connections this week. I took a fall this morning, shortly after crowing about how well my exercise plan has been going. (No worries, pride aside, I’m all good). The first thing I thought was, I need to remind people to get back up! You may have a personal event knock you for a loop, like one of our friends and colleagues, who had an unhappy loss completely break her usually unflappable stride. Or you might be like our friend Debbie Adams of PeopleCan consulting, who spent longer than planned in Halifax, with recent weather events in Newfoundland throwing a wrench in her travel arrangements, and her travel schedule skew her personal success practice just a little.

All of these things have something in common. Not one of us decided that because we’d had a slip or a slide, we should sit down and stop. Nope. We’ve all got enough experience that we knew what to do. Get up. Get up right away, and get going. (In fact Debbie had a great video teaching session this morning about falling off the wagon – and how the right response is to chase the wagon!) 

Whether it’s “great minds think alike”, or as my father-in-law would say, “fools seldom differ”, all of us have learned this lesson that I’m sharing with you today. As a quote I read on social media yesterday said, you’re not starting over, you’re starting from experience. Go get ’em.

I’m Megann Willson and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to know, to make better decisions for their career or their business. You can also find us on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, and if you sign up, we’ll send news you can use (but not too much), direct to your inbox every Friday afternoon. We love to watch you grow. 

How to Piece Together Your Customer’s Story

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How well do you know your customers? Have you undertaken a big research project recently, to gain some in-depth insights? Or have you fallen prey to the not-really-correct school of thought that “Steve Jobs didn’t believe in market research, and that’s good enough for me?” The truth is, neither of these approaches is right. There, I’ve said it. Could it be that famous marketer Steve Jobs was wrong? Yes, sort of. (And about a few things, I might add). 

The truth is, getting to know your customers is an ongoing process. As you launch your business, you need to build an understanding of your targets or prospects. It’s a green field. All you will have to rely on is research. From that point forward, though, you need to constantly be piecing together different layers of intelligence to understand who they are, how they work, what they want, and why they do what they do. Asking them to connect the dots won’t work. It’s not their job to do your work for you. (That’s the kind of research Jobs was right to reject). Instead, give them an opportunity to have free-flowing conversations with you. Let them talk about their aspirations, whether they are directly related to what you want to sell them, or not. Then have some conversations with constraints. Give them things to compare, and try to understand how they select, sort, and prioritize. Look at what you can learn from “unresearch” – sales data, notes from interactions they may have had with your service workers, or your product team. See what they do with other people who sell them things. Find out what delights them when they’re not at work. 

Customer understanding or user experience research is more than simply testing a product or website and seeing how it goes, as a one-off. It’s about building a rich mosaic from many tiny fragments of information. If you throw it all into a database, or a central file, or don’t try to sort it at all, you’re wasting an opportunity to create something beautiful. But if you categorize it, move it around, and look for connections, you may start to see forms and patterns that make something out of what seemed to be nothing. Find ways to sort all your customer data, and you’ll usually find you have a rich mosaic of understanding, sitting right on your shelf, in your hard drive, or floating around in the cloud. And like a mosaic, look at it up close, then stand back, and observe it from a distance. I’m sure you’ll discover things you never expected, that will help you create whole new customer focus, and grow your business, whatever it is that you make or do.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. A customer insight audit can help you and your team to use what you already know to build a solid foundation for this year’s business strategy. If you’d like more insights, follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook, or sign up for weekly ideas, tips, and offers using the orange button below. 

Our client asked us for less!

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A week or so ago, we had the most refreshing experience. It made us feel amazing. Serene, even. 

One of our clients asked us for less. Now, we always try to go the extra mile with our clients, and if they are new to us, and we’re working on a project, we try to show them all the possible lines of inquiry we might explore, to learn more about their customers or prospects. We prefer a very open journey, but if someone doesn’t know us, they might have trouble seeing how that will work out. So imagine our relief when the client called and said, “I like where we’re going, but don’t you think we will get a richer result if we ask very broad questions and then probe as the respondent takes it in their direction, not ours? 

Yes, yes we do. Thanks for asking us that. Constraints can be useful. But questions that will take the discussion in the direction you want, rather than where the respondent wants to go, are likely to end up with you feeling like you didn’t learn anything new, and simply confirm what you already belief. The lesson? Open yourself up to simplicity, if you want a richer, more meaningful result. 

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the partners here at PANOPTIKA. If you’d like us to help you see everything that’s really important to your prospects or customers, let’s talk. You can find all our contact information here on the website. And if you’d like regular insights that will spark ideas you might not have been thinking about already, you can also find us on LinkedIn, on Twitter, or on Facebook