Pull The Emergency Brake. Or Don’t.

Photo thanks to Gerd Altmann via Pixabay
“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

Price Your Product So that What They Pay is What It’s Worth



What you believe your product is worth, isn’t always what the customer wants to pay, and especially if they’re a multinational corporation, and you’re…not. 


It’s often tempting for service businesses to think of their pricing as simple units of money by time, for example, and that’s what the purchasing people would like to believe. It makes it easy for them. And to be sure, someone will always price their services that way. But in a knowledge-based business, clients are also paying for your experience – your ability to understand the situation from a specific perspective, or as Steve Pulver, the speaker at last night’s #Medventions session at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre described it, your ability to “see around corners”. That’s why you need to build a value story that they can understand. You need to avoid the price spiral. It’s the same thing if you are building a complex new technology, or a medication. “Cost plus” is not the right model for either of those things.

So how do you decide how to set your price? There are a few simple rules of thumb. You do still need to start with costs. What does it cost to produce the product or service (raw materials, manufacturing, time researching, meeting, writing reports)? What are your overheads or fixed costs (rent, salaries, keeping the lights on)? Beyond that, you will need to look at competitors. Their pricing will give you a good idea of what the market will bear, unless your aim is to be much cheaper (because you’ve found a way to do that) or faster (there should be a premium for that) or higher quality (maybe, just maybe the customer will pay for that). Those are all good places to start, if there’s a known benchmark. What if there’s not? What if you’re doing (or you’ve invented or discovered) something completely new? 

Then you need to start with the costs, above, and begin to think more abstractly about your value proposition, what the product is worth, and what levers you can work with. If you have a medical device, for example, start by thinking about other similar medical problems that are addressed in terms of the incidence and prevalence of the issue, the number of patients impacted, the cost of not treating (the “opportunity cost”). You’ll need to use some triangulation if there isn’t readily available data. Then the real work begins.

Consider these questions when you’re setting your price, and thinking about what customers will pay…

How serious is the pain? Is it more like an annoying itch, or is it a raging migraine? Thinking about how serious the pain is, will allow you to think about how much the customer will pay to solve it. 


What is the consequence of not solving the problem? (How big is the risk to the customer? If it’s a medical problem, can it be fatal, or permanently disabling?)

How far in the future will the consequence occur? (It’s really hard to get someone young to understand why they might want to pay for life insurance)

And lastly, how often do they have the pain? If it’s episodic, occurring at regular intervals, but never really going away, they may not pay as much (in between, they can live with it). If it’s chronic and severe at the same time, they’ll keep paying and paying for relief (in which case, maybe a subscription model is a good idea). And if it might only occur once – but the risks of not solving it are extreme, you need to make all your money at once, and they just may be willing to pay a premium. 

It’s not always dollars by time. Pricing is a much more complex story than that. But it’s worth spending time to figure out. In fact, your business depends on it. 

I’m Megann Willson and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We help our customers in complex businesses to see everything they need to know to make better decisions, so they can build and grow. You can also find us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Or you can sign up for regular news you can use, with the handy button below. 

Three Must-Have Steps for Your Next Big Change

Busy escalator and tube
Over the decades we’ve been in the management consulting business, we’ve been part of many change and transformation exercises. We’ve also been incredibly fortunate to have benefited from that old “your network is your net worth” adage. Once again this week, a friend’s post begat another post. Here’s what happened:

Our longtime friend, mentor, and collaborator Luke Hohmann (SAFe® Fellow and Principal Consultant) reposted a post from Em Campbell-Pretty, about making sure you have baseline metrics before you start an Agile Transformation. Now we don’t know Em personally, but if she’s in Luke’s trusted circle, she’s in ours. While some of our clients are Agile, some are not (although most are reasonably flexible). So this got me thinking about what metrics are needed for any kind of change or transformation. Steve and I have helped many organizations do that – ensuring that their teams were all on the same page, and running toward the same goals, if not always in the same direction. We also try to avoid having them run with scissors. 

The fact of the matter is this: no matter what type of change or transformation you are trying to make, whether it’s in your organizational structure, your product process, or your own personal career, there are three key questions you need to ask. If you don’t, you might never get to your destination – or worse, you might arrive at “destination unknown”. These are the questions: 

  1. Where are you now?
  2. Where do you plan to go?
  3. How will you know you’ve arrived?

No matter what system you’re using, or how you measure, if you can find a way to measure each of these things, before you begin, it’s much more likely you’ll have a pleasant journey. 

I’m Megann Willson and I’m one of the Partners at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to make better decisions – using better data, a better approach, or better metrics. If you need help deciding which metrics will work best for you and your team, so that you can find, serve, and keep more customers, we can help. You can also follow us on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.  For more news you can use to help you or your team to make better decisions, click the handy button, below.

Kindness is a gift that gives back

Image by skeeze from Pixabay
A very short post today as it’s been a long week with simultaneous projects, deadlines, meetings and family.  The stress of all these converging commitments can have a negative impact on you, so it’s nice to get a little reminder of the important things.

We’ve been attending the Medventions program run by the Sunnybrook Research Institute.  It’s a multi-session program for those interested in creating MedTech start-ups, particularly medical devices.  As we support those people and companies, we like to go and learn along side and help focus the discussions on the importance of finding a real problem to solve and developing customer understanding.

The topic of the evening was Medtech Entrepreneurship & Clinical Needs Finding, and it featured two speakers sharing their experience, Chris O’Connor from Think Research and Kieran Murphy, a UHN physician and serial inventor.

There were great stories and insightful questions but it was the wrap-up that hit me.  When asked what was the most valuable lesson he has learned during his many years as an inventor and entrepreneur, Dr Murphy’s reply was: kindness.  No-one saw that coming in the cut-throat world of medical invention!

His experience in both giving and receiving kindness has made up for all the failures, long nights, lost capital and all the risks inherent in making change happen.

So just remember, it doesn’t take any additional effort to treat those around you with respect and kindness.  But it does pay dividends in how you and others will evaluate your legacy.

I’m Steve Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with clients to help them use customer-centricity to focus their efforts and their strategy where they can make the most difference. You can also find us on Twitter and on Facebook, and for ongoing news about topics like this one, click the button below.

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Image by Birgl from Pixabay
It’s the Friday before a long weekend. A deadline is looming. You only have today to make a decision about your big launch. And goodness only knows no one wants to be working on Labour Day. Fortunately, the usual naysayers didn’t make the meeting – they’ve already headed to the cottage. Everyone at the table has been carefully selected because they’re committed to getting the work done. You’ve set the end time for 3pm so you can submit the recommendations and all be on your way. What could possibly go wrong? Here are some last-minute checks to make sure you get finished on time.

First, congratulations on the time constraint, maybe. Time constraints do signal that this is not the time for endless discussion. But they can also mean that people who need a lot of time to express themselves, may simply shut down or acquiesce, instead of giving valuable feedback. 

Does everyone know the purpose of the meeting? If you haven’t set a clear agenda stating that this is a decision-making meeting (as opposed to an information/status update meeting or an idea-generating meeting, even the best people can arrive with the wrong idea, dragging out the conversation because they feel like they weren’t heard at the last meeting. 

Do you have as much information as possible, readily at hand? Save time by running around looking for data or feedback you’ve already gathered in advance. Make sure it is already assembled in one place, and that a copy has been forwarded to the attendees in advance of the meeting, in case they need more time to process.

Did you gather that information collaboratively? In the video on Mind the Product’s blog, Tricia Wang points out that you are not the voice of the customer. None of you. And while we try not to use never, always, all, none, and everyone in a collaborative environment, we’re with her on this one. 

Did you appoint a decider? The thing about urgent decisions, is that they must be made. Sometimes, even in the face of indecision. There may also be someone who can ultimately overrule whatever you decide. They need to be in the room. If they can’t (sound of screeching brakes), you may just have to push out the deadline. 

If you’ve done all this, and someone is still arguing, filibustering, or sulking in the corner because they’re not being heard, it’s time to step back and start over. And if the team can’t agree that this is a decision-making meeting, that decision may just have to wait for Tuesday, because you’ve got bigger problems to solve. 

I’m Megann Willson and I’m a Partner and CEO here at PANOPTIKA. I’m also a researcher, strategist and facilitator who works with clients to help them hear the voice of their customer, figure out how to use what they’ve learned, and make better decisions. You can also find me, and my partner Steve Willson, on Twitter or LinkedIn. Want more News You Can Use delivered right to your inbox? Click the handy button, below. 

Down with Puppies!

Photo courtesy of kevsphotos on Pixabay.
This was one of our most popular posts of 2019, updated just for you.

Earlier this week, one of our LinkedIn connections posted about a video from SAP about experience management. Agency folks were all over it, how moving and motivating it was, how it should be nominated for a Cannes Lion (puppy?), and so on. This reminded me about how I learned when I first studied copy-writing, that desperate marketers who couldn’t find anything distinctive to say about their product just had to use a photo with girls in bikinis, or a puppy. Yes, sorry, that’s what we learned, and yes, they called us girls, and, well, none of that really matters so much as the fact that these tired tactics still persist, and I got annoyed. Sigh. Stay with me. There’s more to the story. 

On the advice of someone I know, I have been re-reading Ann Handley & C.C. Chapman’s Content Rules. So here I am at lunchtime, reading along, and I come to a part where the book talks about Eloqua’s “The Conversation” series, and how the video begins after a visitor indicates that she works in marketing. “Obviously I’m not going to be able to use any of the typical marketing tricks on you (sex!), so allow me to just be direct (puppies!).” The version of “The Conversation” that’s online now isn’t quite the same, but it is still a great example of interactively drawing someone into a conversation about your product with engaging humour, even if you have a serious B2B product. 

That’s a useful thing to learn, for sure. But the lesson is not, “use a puppy”. 

There’s a bigger and more useful lesson here. And here it is: when we see something that excites us, makes us laugh, or riles us up (have you guessed which one applies to me, when I see a puppy ad that isn’t actually selling something directly related to puppies?), the emotion sticks with us. And then, we may start seeing that thing that excited, amused, or enraged us, wherever we look. It’s a bit like the “frequency illusion” – our heightened awareness of that thing means that the frequency with which we see it seems to go up, even though in reality, this type of confirmation bias may be causing our brains to just confirm what we want to believe – that we are seeing those puppies everywhere. We unconsciously start looking for them, so we can prove to our brain that our theory is right. 

So the next time your team gets a great idea about what your customers want, and you start seeing evidence everywhere, take a step back. Try using one or all of these tools to check your bias:

1. Ask the customers directly how they feel about your platform (or puppies).
2. Look at the data – have they ever shown an interest in puppies before? 
3. Run a test to validate (or invalidate) your hypothesis. 

I’m Megann Willson and I’m one of the Partners at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to make better decisions – using better data, a better approach, or better metrics. If you need help deciding which metrics will work best for you and your team, so that you can find, serve, and keep more customers, we can help. You can also follow us on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.  For more news you can use to help you or your team to make better decisions, click the handy button, below.

Imagine Your Customers Forgot Everything They Knew About You…

…even the best parts!

Last night I saw the movie “Yesterday” with Himesh Patel, Lily James (oh, and a couple of other small names like Ed Sheeran and James Corden). If you like rom-coms, it’s a must-see. Do bring some tissues. It got me thinking, though, about how often clients make assumptions about what their customers know about them. If you have a B2B relationship, you may have a long sales cycle. What do you do in between? How will they remember? Could someone slip in and broadcast your entire catalogue of hits without anyone realizing it was actually created by you? (I’m giving away a lot of the plot here, but trust me, there’s more to the story).

If you have a product with a long cycle, you need to think carefully about how to keep those big-ticket customers engaged. One way, of course, is to send them emails or connect using social media or other types of communication. It’s also worth engaging anyone they interact with in between purchases, like customer success, service and support, shipping, or even (yes, I’m going to say it) the billing department. As an aside, we once worked with a partner of ours on a win-loss project, and the billing department was responsible for a number of lost accounts, because they were more concerned about maintaining their process, than developing one that was easy for customers. 

There’s a lot of push marketing in all of those activities, of course. Plenty of KPIs and other dashboard inputs. But what if you really engaged them in a conversation that wasn’t focused on selling? What if you let them talk about their objectives, what they want and need, their struggles, what’s important to them? Two ways to do this are to

  1. create a customer community, or
  2. build a customer advisory board.

What’s the difference? 

A Customer Community is a place where your customers can come together and engage in conversations with each other. And it had better be interesting, because no one, especially not your customer, wants another long, boring meeting, virtual or otherwise. Really, do you even want to invest in something where your customer puts the phone or laptop on mute and pays more attention to their cheese sandwich? The best communities let them contribute something, learn something, see that you trust them to talk to each other and engage with one another without you trying to drive the conversation.

In a Customer Advisory Board, they know that the goal is for them to help you sell more product and do a better job of delivery. It’s more focused, and may even involve their strategic advice about how and where to recruit more customers just like they are. They might provide insights into buying cycles, responses to changing industry regulations, and more. They may even introduce you to someone else who should become a member. 

Every business wants to find more customers, and to use research to understand customers – but keep customers? It’s surprising how little time and effort they invest beyond good old push marketing tactics. That might just be the thing that can sets you apart.

I’m Megann Willson and I’m one of the Partners at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to make better decisions – using better data, a better approach, or a better frame of reference. You can also follow us on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.  For more news you can use to help you or your team to make better decisions, click the handy button, below.

5 Essential Steps When Your Team Just Can’t Decide

5 Kittens looking Curious
​“Ugh, management by committee. I just couldn’t get them to make a decision. It was like herding cats!” Even if you think of yourself as a decisive person, working with a team can make choosing seem much harder. There are so many more opinions to hear, and so many more options that may be put on the table. Add to that, money, impact on people, fuzzy objectives or incomplete information, and you can end up with a real headache on your hands. We’ve discovered five essential steps to keep every decision-making process on the straight and narrow.


  1. Know the Context
  2. Identify the Decision
  3. See the Possibilities
  4. Validate Options
  5. Make a Plan

Still not sure you’re ready to herd all the cats? Sign up for weekly news that will help you get there.

Not everything goes as planned. Deal with it.

Women making decisions

How do you feel when something doesn’t go as planned? Disappointed? Frustrated? Annoyed?

What about energized, excited, or enthusiastic?

Last summer, I spent several weeks working with a client to get ready for an important strategy session. They know there are big shifts looming on the horizon, and they want to be ready. They’ve done the right thing by taking a proactive approach, and they’ve been looking at data, exploring potential outcomes, and discussing “how might we” scenarios. Yet suddenly, in the midst of a session with outside partners, key team members, and even an advisor from head office, they weren’t making headway. Someone said, “Let’s change the focus entirely!”

Now there are times when this might just be a tactic to avoid hard conversations, but in this case, it was because they realized they were looking at the problem through the wrong lens. Their problem definition was out of whack, and they got clarity on this because they had everyone in the room, and because they weren’t so married to the facilitation method they had chosen, that they kept trying to force-fit solutions to the wrong problem. Once they stepped back and framed the challenge in a new way, they were able to very quickly devine the realm of possible scenarios, determine how they could respond to these in their own favour, and what proactive steps they could take right now, to get ready for the most likely eventualities.

The change in energy in the room at the end of the day was palpable. And as a facilitator, it was a pretty spectacular ending for me, as well.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to see everything they need to know to make better decisions, so they can find, understand, and keep their customers. You can find Partner Steve Willson and I on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. If you’d like more insights delivered to your inbox, or help facilitating your upcoming strategy session, click the button below and sign up for our insiders’ circle. You’ll be glad you did. 

What to do if you don’t know what you don’t know.

Gears and wheels turning
This post from February 2019 was revised and re-posted in January 2020.

Learning about the technical specs of a scientific innovation. Exploring country data from the CIA. Studying environmental protection regulations. Investigating commitments to climate-change agreements in multiple countries. Researching trade data on purchasing patterns in five different verticals. Interviewing key stakeholders in the three most promising industrial sectors.

What do these things have in common? They were all part of an “unknown unknowns” exploration we did for a client of ours. If you’re in an established business, with multiple competitors, chances are, there’s data out there to help you make key market decisions. If you sell soup, soap, or shampoo, there are often standard reports than can be purchased quickly, and many case studies to help guide your thinking. But if you’ve invented a new scientific/industrial/biotech/pharma type thing, that theoretically has multiple applications, in several verticals, how do you make an argument that it’s possible to commercialize? When we set out to do a market landscape for a product that’s almost ready to market, there isn’t usually a simple answer ready and waiting. Instead, we do a deep dive with you about your product. Then we use our expertise at multi-modal research to decide the best way to narrow down your options, as cost-effectively as possible. Finally, we find experts on the ground who have similar or related expertise, to help us get the answers you need to make critical decisions about your business. That’s what we did with the exploration at the start of this story.

The good news? At the end of it all, our client got an innovation grant that helped him and his team to scale their operations, and a few years later, they’re running a thriving business with operations in multiple countries and for several industrial verticals. We’re proud to have played a small part in that. All because we like to help our customers see everything, and make better decisions.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with all our clients to see everything they need to know to make better decisions. That means following a lot of different threads, sometimes, and then weaving together a story that makes sense no matter how complex or ambiguious their decision seems at the beginning of the journey. We can help your team, too. For more insights, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, and sign up for weekly news you can use with the orange button, below.