Jumpstart your insights

When we try to figure out what the jobs, pains and gains of our future customers are, it is tempting to do all the research from scratch.

But maybe you don’t have to. Maybe there are forums where you can get a pretty good feeling, before you spend a lot of time doing surveys, interviews and observe the behaviour of your customers.

One place to look is in competing products. Especially the ones that seem to do rather well.

Get your hands on them, try them out and reverse engineer the problem statements that lies behind the form and feature(s) of the product.

What is the core feature of the product? Does it cater to a specific target audience? Which? And why? And what is the core assumption behind how it’s done?

If you spend a bit of time reverse engineering the competition for jobs, pains and gains, you will probably get a pretty good idea about what the real jobs are that determines whether a customer buys and uses said product or not.

And then it becomes a question of your future product doing it better, cheaper or whatever. But preferably better since that will serve you well, when you start to focus on retention.

After all you shouldn’t make it as easy for another competitor to snatch away your customers from you, as it (perhaps) was for you, should you?

Another place where you can look for insights into the jobs, pains and gains of your future customers is social media. I know for a fact it can be a pure gold mine for insights into what needs, your product could serve.

The great thing about social media – and especially more niche oriented groups – is that people are unfiltered. They will be looking for advice and guidance, and the more they look for it, the bigger a felt need it is for them.

That is not to say that you should do everything, a community tells you to do. Of course you shouldn’t, and often the conversation ventures in a lot of different directions.

But if you take the time to look for signals – tone of voice, mentions of a specific problem again and again etc. – there is actually a ton of things, you can take away with you.

That should set you off to a good start before you start doing a lot of classic user and market research too.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Learn from Poor Charlie

Every once in a while I look to recommend a great book, if you’re looking to expand your horizon a bit.

This is such a time. But the book isn’t new. Far from it. I have had it for more than 10 years, but I have only gotten around to reading it now.

The book in question is “Poor Charlie’s Almanack”, a whopping coffee table book about legendary investor Warren Buffets sidekick and second-in-command, Charlie Munger, at Berkshire Hathaway.

In the book he spills the beans on his wisdom. And let me say it straight away: Much of it is common sense. But still you have got to give the man credit that when you live and act by a core belief system of common sense, you can do rather well for yourself.

Furthermore there is an incredible wit about Charlie, who turned 97 as we moved into 2021. While Warren Buffett has always been the one in the spotlight, Charlies wry comments and crystal clear ways of calling them like he sees them is amazing.

For that reason I highly recommend you look up Berkshire Hathaway AGM’s on YouTube and feast yourself in the two investors asking questions from their audience of shareholders. It’s priceless.

But Charlie Munger is also the story about something else that I personally hold very dear; the (wo)man behind the (wo)man.

While aspirational leaders and entrepreneurs have always fascinated me, I have tended to be more fascinated by their enablers; those who actually get the wheels into motion, do the nitty gritty stuff, aka work the engine room so the captain can be on the bridge setting the course.

I have a great personal liking for those. Most probably because it fits my own comfort zone best; being the one a step being doing the heavy lifting, making things gel and gently apply my contribution to things.

One thing is for sure: Charlie Munger has been exceptionally great at doing precisely that. And few people are more deserving of a coffee table-sized book than him.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Roadmap of experiments

When trying to understand a problem, it’s potential solutions and what you should build in the end, it is so easy to loose the big picture of what you’re doing and how that translates down to experiment by experiment that moves your product closer to something desirable.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

One of the things I have found extremely useful is to build out an Experiment Roadmap; a sequence of experiments I think I am going to run in a particular order to get to the insights I need, before I feel confident in what our MVP should include.

The roadmap is important to have in order not to loose track. But it is not necessarily the actual roadmap. Because as we go about experimenting and being open to digesting our learnings and move on from them in the best possible manner, our roadmap changes.

So in fact we end up with the theoretical roadmap and the real one.

Why not just have the real one then and forget about trying to outline it in the first place?

Because outlining your thought process and your path towards anticipated learning and validation is an excellent catalyst for my own thought process. It ensures that I think about how NOT to fall into the abyss of just building what I feel, we should be building, without any prior experimentation.

In order words: Laying it out in front ensures that we follow the path of generating insights and validated learnings, before we build. And the actual roadmap of experiments is how the journey to get to the MVP actually forms.

By doing it this way we also get a chance of comparing notes and learn from our approach as we go along. What was the difference between ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’ and why do we think that was the case.

Those answers may be able to serve us very well and make us sharper, better and more efficient going forward. At least that is what I am betting on.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

A roadmap of experiments

Currently, one of the things I am trying to do on our new MedTech venture is to build a roadmap of experiments to run before we get to the MVP itself.

Why am I doing that, you may want to ask?

Because I think it is super important to do whatever it takes to make sure that we can deliver some sort of tangible value from day 1 with our MVP. Nonetheless so because we’re in MedTech and because we’re dealing with a serious medical issue. We simply need to get it right.

But also because I think it makes overall sense as an approach. In fact I think it might even make better sense than to work on a more regular product roadmap at this stage.

Why?

Simply because at the stage we’re currently at there are so many unknowns and associated assumptions about where we might take this that the most robust roadmap, we can have, is the one articulating what we don’t know and thus need to find out more about.

But does that make it easier to do a roadmap of experiments than a more normal product roadmap?

Definitely not.

After all there are a ton of different experiments, you can run at any given point in time, and the trick is to figure out – or at the very least have an idea – which ones are going to give you most bang for the buck at any given moment in time. And where you take it from there – depending on how the experiment goes.

It’s a super interesting exercise in doing a blueprint for your activities while trying to make sure that you get to that ultimate goal of the experiment series; feeling pretty confident – on a data based basis – what should go into the MVP and hopefully set you off on a good trajectory for startup success.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Insight is value

People inside and outside the media industry are starting to take notice of the value of quality content; content that people are actually willing to pay for.

Hooray! Better late than never, I guess. And yes, this goes out to you late bloomers in the media industry, who are finally getting around to the idea of getting your income – your livelihood – from other sources than an advertising market going towards a CPM of 0.

Yes, zero!

Anyways, it’s great that the focus is now on how to create content people are willing to pay for. But at the same time, I think it’s valid to mark a point of concern:

I see a lot – especially media people – looking towards popularity numbers to decide, which content is worth paying for, ie looking at page views and different engagement metrics to determine what they need more of in terms of increasing their ability to drive payment direct from users.

I think this concept is flawed. And let me back it up with a couple of examples:

I pay a monthly subscription to Stratechery by Ben Thompson and have done so for years. I pay a monthly subscription to Exponential View by Azeem Azhar. And the only magazine in print, I subscribe to is the Danish magazine on current political affairs, Raeson.

What do all these have in common for me as a paying user:

(1) I can never guess what they are going to put out based on prior history, and it’s perfectly fine, because…

(2) I subscribe for the insights and outcome. Nothing else. And I am willing to pay for that – and continue to do so.

The last point is important. I strongly – STRONGLY – believe that the key to a great content business – streaming services apart which is a totally different ballgame – is knowledge and insight. That you actually know and have a deep, DEEP expertise in whatever it is, you’re writing or even podcasting about.

And this is where the problem risks returning for the regular newsroom. Because in the effort of doing more with less, be fast and always be breaking, newsrooms have lost a lot of that knowledge and insight that was worth something.

At the same time the internet has enabled the sources to have their own voices and charge for that. They have effectively cut out the middle man.

Which is why – despite promising numbers for digital subscriptions – legacy media will find it just as hard to build a sustainable digital subscription business with what they have got than it was with advertising.

Of course I hope, I will be proven wrong.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Do the Prof G Strategy Sprint

Last night at 1.40 AM I wrapped up my participation in the Prof G Strategy Sprint with Professor Scott Galloway, NYU Stern School of Business. The course ended – fittingly – with a session on Life Strategy by the man himself that is some of the most insightful I have heard in a while.

The sprint I participated in was the 2nd cohort by Section4, the company founded by Scott which is the home of his activities within the field of bringing higher education to more people at a fraction of the US cost. And judged from participating, I have no doubt that they are onto something:

The sprint is based on short modules each accompanied by a case study and an opportunity to reflect based on a number of questions that you can then answer and debate in the 600 people strong Slack community that comes with participating.

For me that part was one of the real wow!-moments as the discussion really had an intense level and so many contributions that it is going to take weeks to go through and properly digest it all. It is a great example of how real learning happens; sharing and discussing things with your peers, and based on this experience there is no reason to believe it can’t happen in a much more nimble and cheaper online setting that at some fancy, costly campus.

Everything we did was based around learning the T-Algorithm, a framework Prof G has developed to analyze what sets trillion dollar companies apart. The method is pretty straight forward but does require you to do some competitive analysis the good old fashioned way. But once you have done that the model – and the Excel format you get it in – really kicks in on stereoids.

I am going to use the model going further. Not only to analyze potential opportunities for new projects or ideas, we look at at inQvation but also for building out strategy and recommendations for the projects, we’re already running. Why? Because it helps dealing with a lot of the moving parts of trying to build and succeed with something, and it puts them into context, prioritizes them and basically help you keep a cool, focused head.

The course ended with a class where Scott highlighted some student projects. While mine was not among them – and that’s perfectly fine – I did thoroughly enjoy being back to school again and actually doing and handing in a project for the first time in 20 years.

Awesome, AWESOME experience that I highly recommend if you’re interested in strategy and marketing and building stuff that has real value.

Photo: Screenshot

Doing interviews

When I conduct interviews with potential customers I like to do it in two rounds.

The first round is an online questionaire that establishes the base and provides context for the interview. Customers agree to filling it out and are usually very good at it. What it does is that it helps me understand them and where they are coming from a little bit more before the actual interview, so we can make the most of our time together.

When I then sit with them for the interview itself, we don’t have to waste time establishing the baseline. We can go directly into talking about the stuff that matters to the customer, and I can use the info from the questionaire as background and context and thus get the best possible outcome of the interview.

It always give the best results.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The greatest learning opportunity

There is no way around it: The greatest learning opportunity is when things don’t go according to plan. When you envisioned X and Y or Z happens, and you have very little idea about why that is.

When that happens – and it will happen – it is an open invitation to learn. It is an invitation to go back, investigate and walk through everything you have done in order to try and find the spot(s), where you missed something important.

It is by no means certain that you will be able to find it at the first time of asking. But if you adapt an experimental approach and try to adjust here and there in a controlled way, chances are that you will finally understand what happened, and what you could have done and should be doing forward to make it right. And voilá; you will actually have learned something.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)