Are Your Customers receiving a “Luke Warm” buying experience? …if so it’s costing you more than you know…

 

The climate for business is difficult with consumer confidence low, the access to cash tight and record unemployment. However some organizations are thriving while others know something is wrong, and they are just blaming the economy. The economy is a factor; however it may be the main “why” behind your organizations’ struggles to make numbers if your clients are receiving a “Luke Warm” buying experience. Luke warm employees create a “just enough to get by “buying experience and that simply is not cutting it in this highly competitive environment. I discussed how the buying process has changed over the last year in my post: Are you Enabling your Sales Force or Emasculating them?  With these added pressures, the last thing you want is for your clients to have a poor buying experience and seek out your competitors.

I just finished a book by Francis Chan titled; Crazy Love. It’s a book about growing your spiritual life.. In chapter four he discusses “the profile of Luke warm” and I thought how the wisdom he shares with regards to our faith life also applies in the business world. Chan describes how a Luke warm faith life is worst than being hot or cold and I feel this is also true for businesses and their employees. Specifically this is most evident in the buying experience.

What is it like to buy from your company? Are your salespeople trained and knowledgeable? Do they know how to find buyer problems and set out as if on a quest to solve them?

Or are you like most organizations who have built inside out service models and you hear executives challenged by “how our clients just are not smart enough to see the value in what we provide.” Or maybe you have downsized your sales and customer service teams and you are wondering why your business is declining and your customer satisfaction is at an all time low?

Luke warm team members produce Luke warm service levels.

The Bible discusses how being Luke warm is worst than being hot or cold and this rule also applies to your team members. I would much prefer a team member who tells me: “I just don’t get our plan and I am having a hard time getting motivated to execute my indicators” than someone who says they are on board and is just going through the motions to just get by.

As I discussed in my post: Third Part of truth …Motivation; Are You willing to go the extra mile like Chick-fil-A?  As a consumer we instantly recognize good service and an organization that has clearly set an expectation for how customers should feel in the buying process.

I need to ask…How you want your customers to feel in the process of buying your goods and or services.

Once you intentionally create this vision, you will need to identify team members who will need to be trained, and in some cases replaced.

14 warning signs a team member may be Luke warm and negatively impacting their service to internal and external customers

1.)    They do what they believe is expected of them and only what they believe is expected of them

2.)    They choose to follow Hippos, they do what is politically correct but may not be right

3.)    They are striving to survive not win

4.)    They rarely share their knowledge and experience as they use knowledge as power and not a gift

5.)    They focus on comparing their results to that of other team members versus their key performance indicators

6.)    Their actions serve themselves more than others ( customers both internal and external)

7.)    Their service is conditional, selective, and often comes with strings attached

8.)    They are focused on today and what’s in it for them today, they lack a future vision

9.)    They spend more time with their bosses than their subordinates and customers

10)    They do the bare minimum , and their goal is to be “good enough”

11)    They play it safe, they know the rules better than anyone in the organization and often site them

12)    They are visually busy, but not necessarily adding value

13)    When things go wrong they quickly blame others

14)    They seek the safety of their silo’s, and lack a “one company-one team” mentality

A half hearted commitment to the organization’s plan; mission and vision can be felt by customers. A Luke warm commitment to service disrupts your team from within and in the market if left unchecked.

If you read the above and could apply at least four of them to specific team members; employees, managers, supervisors, you now have to ask yourself a tough question;

Will I be a Luke warm leader and look the other way? Or will I take the market leader position and address poor service resulting in a bad buying experience?

 

 

 

What about your organization?

 

When you read the above did specific employees come to mind?

 

How about you, did you personally identify with any of the above?

 

How have you helped Luke warm employees become energized value adding producers again?

 

Have you experienced a loss due to not addressing a Luke warm employee and you would like to share?

 

What should you do if your boss is Luke warm?

 

 

Thank you to Francis Chan for his book; Crazy Love, as it challenged me on many levels.

Rip Off the Band Aide(s) and Position Your Business For Growth in 2010

What are you aware of that is broken in your business? You know that area, person, process, perhaps website that is not producing? It’s that area that you know you need to address, but you have tabled for now as you focus on bigger fish to fry. If you can’t admit perhaps it’s” broke”,(like a number of those who ask for my help)  let me ask you another way: What is that area that you know is just not right, but you slapped a band aide on to “get through until the business comes back to normal again”?

The reality is you will never see your business like it was unless you identify the areas that are roadblocks or worst yet broken ,and fix them.

I remember when my children were very young and when the would fall down playing and scrape a knee or elbow they did not want me to clean the minor scratch or put some medicine on it….they wanted a band aide. Band aides are magical in that once the problem is out of site they were miraculously healed. Tear filled faces became filled with smiles and the desire to get back to the play that resulted in the injury in the first place.

The difficulty came at night, before their bath when we had to remove that band aide. Back in the day, in an effort insure they did not fall off,…band aides were once glued   your skin and the removal of them caused some pain and or irritation. So what do you do? Do you slowly pull the band aide off? No, what you learned to do was to rip the band aide off quickly. Yes there is a momentary pain, but not nearly as long as trying to slowly remove it. Once the band aide is removed you can assess the true nature of the injury, clean it, and apply medicine to insure it heals and does not become infected.

As I work with a variety of companies in a number of industries I uncover band aides in a variety of areas; broken processes, people who are not adding value and should have been dealt with long ago, people in the wrong roles, websites that scare customers away instead of begin a discussion, antiquated costing systems, poor marketing, the use of old selling practices, …and the list goes on.

What I find is most leaders are aware of the problems, but quickly mentally ranked them, they performed a triage and determined what needed to be addressed immediately, soon, or something we can slap a band aide on and deal with it when the business gets back to normal. There is also some who seem to hope and pray they just go away.

The reality is you may never see the days you consider normal again.
If today is the new normal , what would you do differently moving forward?

The recommendation I give to my clients is to; reset their understanding of the market and their business. In that process we will identify band aides that were slapped on areas that needed repaired and now have become infected. The only way to determine if those broken areas miraculously healed themselves, or if they became infected and may be costing you business, is to rip them off quickly, and rip them off now.

Over the next series of posts I plan to share the process I have used to help businesses; launch new products, launch into new markets, grow in existing marketing, and rebound when they were faced with rapidly decreasing sales, profits, and market share. My commit to you is they are practical and you may even scratch your head and say “well it can’t be that easy”…the reality is; yes, it is.

I am not sure what caused it, or when it occurred , but leaders at some point decided problems were complex and therefore required complex solutions that none of us could execute if we had to … if the truth be told. The reality is when you boil problems down to their true essence there are no new problems. The problem may on the surface look or feel new, but in reality it has existed before. Identifying problems and the road blocks standing in the way of your team’s success and solving them is what we are paid to do.

How about your business…when I ask the question; what is broke and you know you need to fix it but it will be painful? …do you think about?
Are you sure the band aide you slapped on it long ago is working? How can you be sure?
Are you sure underneath that band aide you don’t have a festering infection that may spread throughout the body of your business? ( and worst spread to your customers)
Did you just address an area by “Ripping off the Band Aide”? If so please share what your learned.

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #6 Learn To Cut Bait …early

fishing 1 

Not all customers are good customers, and not all new business is good new business. Entrepreneurs are often faced with a dilemma; do I compromise my price, and or my service to make the cash register sing?…in these economic times I probably should right?

 

The answer is a definitive: NO.

Market leaders provide value and realize a fair value exchange from their customers.

 

Market losers chase every sale, and often learn to regret those they should have passed by.

 

 

 

When you land an account, a customer you should have “thrown back” they often bring a new set of problems;

 

They are often “time vampires”…sucking the life out of you

 

They do not value your work and will always be working you to discount what your do

 

They become service nightmares

 

They often short pay you

 

They often become a collections problem

 

Sometimes you do the work and they never pay you (I particularly hate this one)

 

 

 

…that is why we must learn how to “cut bait” and get back to fishing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I enjoy fishing. I can spend hours out fishing enjoying nature and the quiet. It’s one of the few things I do that helps quiet my busy mind like church. Often times when I fish in a new fishing hole I am not familiar with… I get snags. You know …you have your bait in the water, and something takes the bait. It could be a fish, (and you hope based on how your fishing rod is bending a BIG fish) but more often than not you have a snag.

 cat fish

 

On rare occasions it actually is a large fish. One time I was convinced I must have snagged my bait on an underwater log and much to my surprise found a large cat fish on the other end of my line.

 

More often than not though whatever has my bait is a distraction, a snag and it is something that is taking me away from doing what I love to do…fishing and catching fish.

 

 

What we must build as entrepreneurs is the discipline to “cut bait” early and get back to fishing.

 

 

cut bait

We often waste too much time “hoping” we have a large fish on the other end of the line when there is a high probability you have a YAFO snag.

 

For example, ever since my eBook about the 50 ugly truths of being an entrepreneur came out and the pod cast with the struggling entrepreneur, I have been receiving email and phone calls.

 

I received a call from a local financial planner whose business revenue from fees has dropped over 40% in the last year and wanted to know if my 10 step process would work for a financial planner. The answer was quickly yes as I used this process in the financial industry serving a 401k third party administrator and we quickly grew his business. Keeping with my fishing analogy, I had a nibble.

 

After answering his questions he asked if he could take me to lunch to learn more…I have one on the line…(I think) As we enjoyed some great Chinese food, he wanted to know my 10 steps and how it works. I explained that that is what people pay me for, however I will be happy to share some success stories I have had using this process. As we closed lunch he asked I send him a proposal and he said …”but remember I am a financial advisor and not one of those big companies you help.”

 

To a fault I love helping people, so I wrestled with a price model that would drive the growth he needed and compensate me fairly for the time I would be giving his project. I developed a program that had a modest upfront cost, a monthly retainer and an aggressive compensation for me on every new account my work landed for him.

 

I compromised my standard price model to help him. We went back and forth for days with emails and eventually he asked for only the small upfront fee and no compensation on the business my work would bring him or monthly retainer….and I almost took it, bur instead…

 

I quickly cut bait.

 

I should have cut bait even sooner as in the flurry of emails I quickly learned he was more attached to the “cost” and not the “outcome “of my work. He has been paying a coach a modest amount per month for years and thought I should match or beat this price. I asked him to read all the nice comments people I have helped in the past put on my web site, linked in, and so on. I even gave him some past customers to call….but his attachment was on cost not benefits, and he definitely did not have a strong enough desire (yet) to have his problem ( pain) solved.

 

Where I blew it was not cutting bait sooner. As I have shared, I just love helping people, particularly leaders with an “entrepreneurial spirit”. However after I shared my compensation model and I modified it to meet his needs that we discussed, and he “snagged” I should have cut bait earlier.

 

 

While you wrestle with snags other fish are swimming by…often big hungry ones.

 

Market leaders know the value of cutting bait early and getting back to fishing.

 

Market losers chase every deal and compromise their business models, products and or services and are always disappointed in the end.

 

Having reeled in my share of tree limbs in my days on the lake, you spend time that could be out casting into better waters only to reel in something that at the end of the day does not put food on your table.

 

 

The opportunity cost of chasing bad business is too great.

 

 

How about your company….

 

 

 

Do you chase every deal …compromise your model to accommodate every snag?

 

 

 

How’s that working for you?

 

 

 

Have you trained your salespeople in the value of qualifying new business early, and the power in cutting bait?

 

 

 

Are you currently struggling with what you hope is a big fish….but you know has a probability of not putting food on your table?

 

 

 

 

 

CUT BAIT NOW…you will thank me…

 

 

Entrepreneur best practice #3; If Sales are Scary, You Can NOT Afford to NOT get Creative..

blog pics, tyler apt,kecia riely 123

Market leaders act different. They understand it’s about more than taking your customer’s money. They go out of their way to teach their clients about their products and they show their clients creative new ways to use their products or services .

 

Market leaders focus on the buying experience.

 

 

The net result is they deepen the bond, the trust, with their clients and their sales increase.

 

I needed some chlorine tablets for my pool floater so I went to Paddock Pools. I have tried a number of pool supply stores over the last eight years, but I always come back to Paddock. I could buy my tablets at Home Depot, or even Big Lots if I time running out correctly, but I prefer to pay a little more and buy my chemicals from someone who knows pools.

 

blog pics, tyler apt,kecia riely 117

 

 

As I entered the store I could not help but notice a mini Haunted house to my right. I thought how cool…just like they create amazing Christmas tree displays to offset their down season sales, they also have Halloween decorations.

How smart…they created a merchandising customer experience.

As I checked out with my new bucket of chorine tablets I was asked …” Did you go inside?” I admitted the young boy still inside me wanted to, and she encouraged me to go inside and check it out. So I ducked my head and went through the cray paper streamers and went inside.

 

blog pics, tyler apt,kecia riely 118

Inside there where all kinds of products merchandised to illustrate how to use them, even a spooky fireplace in the back of the room. Everything in this mini Haunted house were product’s the store sells and they showed how to use them with a little creativity.

blog pics, tyler apt,kecia riely 122

I just had to ask the cashier how long this took to build and the cost. She said with a smile…” well we argues about how to do it for an hour, …we planned it for another, then it took two hours do when the store was slow.” I asked; “was it expensive?” …she said “no, not really.. I think we spent about $75”, (and my gut said they spent their own money and did not expense it.) I asked if I could take pictures of their handiwork and their faces just lit up with smiles.

blog pics, tyler apt,kecia riely 120

When business is tough you must be creative. As I discussed in my post about leveraging what you have, you must assess what you have instead of doing what most struggling entrepreneurs do and that is make a list of what they need to be successful…”if we only had….we could hit our revenue numbers”.

This store, this organization, did a number of things right…

 

They leveraged what they had.

 

They stuck to their “flight plan

 

Created an experience and not just a floor display

 

They “showed” their clients how to use their products

 

They “taught”their clients

 

They empowered their associates to be a part of the solution

 

They recommended I check it out

 

Once inside they had a create Halloween Christmas tree, reinforcing their other seasonal products

 

If I had young children, I promise you this display would spread in their network of friends and parents would be visiting this store, or junior would make their lives miserable until they did.

 

Market leaders act differently.

 

They understand it’s about more than taking your customer’s money. They go out of their way to teach and show ( versus tell and sell) their clients creative new ways to use their products or services and they focus on the buying experience. The net result is they deepen the bond, the trust, with their clients and their sales increase.

 

 

How about your business….

What can you do today that is creative, but is not expensive?

How can you create a customer experience instead?

 

 

When sales are scary you must leverage what you have and get creative to; “create sales velocity”.

 

 

I plan to circle back with this Paddock store and hopefully their manager will share with me the sales this year compared to last year as a % as my guess is their seasonal Halloween merchandise sales will see an increase AND their other products will as well.

 

Great Job to those at Paddock Pools who built this display in the store on Shea near the 101 freeway,… if you live nearby , bring the kids and check it out!

 

12 Lessons All Leaders Can Learn About Launching New Products and Services …From the 2009 Health Care Reform

health care mast head

 

 

Watching the current 2009 Health Care Reform Initiative has valuable lessons for all leaders throughout the world if we take time to pay attention. I think it was Einstein who said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. The current 2009 Health Care Reform Initiative has strong emotional attachments regardless of which side of the debate you reside.

It is often the life lessons with emotional attachments we remember most.

 

The goal of my last series of blog posts was to share business lessons leaders can learn from watching and living the 2009 Health Care Reform Initiative. I tried to focus on the business principles and not take a partisan view. If you have read any of my posts you will not be surprised to learn I am a Christian, American, and Republican….in that order. I am proud to be an American and I admit we can always improve as a nation, however having traveled the world I can say first hand how blessed I feel to live in the United States.

pres obama

As for our President, I follow what our Lord taught us in the Bible and I pray for him. I pray the Lord gives him and all our leaders wisdom, discernment, and the courage to act upon what the Lord instructs him to do.( and not those of this world) I have received a number of emails since launching this blog thread. A number of those felt I was “bashing” our President, and if my word choice made you feel that way I apologize.

 

As a man, I have no problem with President Obama and if asked I would welcome the opportunity to be a part of the solution.

 

As our leader I must follow him, support him. If he loses, I lose…we all lose.

 

What I challenge is the process of this initiative.

 

My intension was to ;

 

“focus on the problem and not the person”

 

There are a number of lessons we can glean from watching life lessons before us.

 

I am sure there are many more lessons if thought leaders wish to add content:

 

 

  • the impact of social media on the 2009 Health Care reform Initiative

  • Lessons in leadership when a launch goes bad

  • The cost(s) of change

  • The psychology of change

  • When tempers flair seek first to understand and find common ground

  • …and I am sure there are many more

 

 

12 Lessons All Leaders Can Learn About Launching New Products and Services …From the 2009 Health Care Reform?

 

#1: Without a Clear Definition of the Problem You Want to Solve, You Will Experience “Scope Creep” and Your Launch Plan Will Fail

 

#2: Without a Clear Definition of the Problem You Want to Solve, you cannot write good requirements for your development team

 

#3: Without a Clear Understanding of the Problems to be Solved, and Requirements, Development will Build Solutions Because They Can and Not Because They Should!

 

#4: Your Previous New Product Launch success (or Failures) Affect Current and Future Launches

 

#5: Without a Clear understanding of the Problems your New Product Solves, Marketing will resort to “Buzz Word Bingo” and “Gobbledygook”

 

#6: Without a Road Map Your “Administration” Will Attempt Too Much, Too Fast and Not Achieve Any of Your Goals

 

#7: Asking…and not listening to your market, is worst than not asking at all…

 

#8; Buyers Become Tone Deaf to Lazy Marketing Messaging

 

#9; Make Sure Your Marketing Has All the “Rights” Covered…Fix the Right Problem

 

#10, #11, #12; Make Sure Your Marketing Has All the “Rights” Covered…right time, right customer, right offer

 

What other lessons have you learned, or are learning as we watch the 2009 Health Care Reform Imitative?

 

Is your organization making some of the same mistakes? Why?

 

Are you about to Launch a New Product or Service and you adjusted your plan based on the above 10 posts? If so which posts and how?

 

How can we unite as Americans and stop Blame Storming?

 

Do you feel I was wrong to use this real life emotionally charged lesson to blog about? Why, Why not?

 

2009 Health Care Reform Initiative Lesson #8; Buyers Become Tone Deaf to Lazy Marketing Messaging

obama head

 

Marketers who build their message from within the perceived safety of their office walls create lazy marketing messages that are perceived as safe, but do not resonate in the marketplace. When marketing and their creative teams build messaging from an inside out approach, versus the market needs and problems in, they create noise and buyers learn to tune out to the noise. If you continue to violate your buyer trust with luke warm messaging that fails to explain the problems you solve for them, your buyers become tone deaf to all you’re marketing.

Scientists who have studied people who are tone deaf have found they lack specific connections in their brains. These individuals have an interruption in the synapses and thus no longer able to distinguish changes in pitch.

Your market becomes tone deaf by hearing repeated messages that do not resonate so they learn to disconnect from your product and your Brand.

The Obama administration is now in that ever so common place entrepreneurs find themselves after rushing to launch without doing the market research and connecting to buyer needs early on. When you launch products with a; Ready-Fire-Aim approach you miss your target and may actually hurt your relationships with buyers in your market.

The current administration was so focused on hitting a launch date (hasting) they compromised the needed upfront strategy work. When this occurs in your business, you launch expecting to sell 3,000 units of your new product or service and in reality you only sell 3.

Market Leaders recognize they have a problem early on, conduct win loss interviews, dive deep into their market to gain understanding (and not sell), and create learning’s.

In the Bible it talks about the sailors sending out “soundings” in the black of the night during storms at sea. What they were doing was listening for land, and more importantly rocks that could sink their ships. The Obama administration needs to be connecting to the market, and listening for soundings and not selling.

Once you learn more about your buyers, their problems, their buying process, buying criteria, and develop buyer personas, you can speak to them in a voice they hear an understand.

Market Losers just tell the same message, over and over again.( hoping this time it sticks)

taxi mex

Market losers are like Americans hiring taxi cabs in foreign countries…if the driver does not speak English…we just speak LOUDER!

Market Losers create Lazy messaging because they failed to do the strategy work upfront and pay in missing ROI targets and more importantly broken brand trust in their market.

If you find yourself in the middle of a storm brought on by underperforming sales to goal…

If you find your marketing team trying to convince you to spend more, have more placements and impressions, you may be dealing with a tone deaf market.

What do Market leaders do?

  • understand the value of spending time upfront in their markets

  • understand buyers and their problems

  • segment those buyers into common groups

  • create buyer persona

  • speak to their buyers in a voice that resonates

  • Constantly send out soundings in their markets, always listening…

 

How about your company…

 

Are you in a Taxi cab In Mexico City trying to speak louder in your market?

Does your team practice; Ready-Fire- Aim Product Launch?

Have you learned to become Tone deaf to the Obama administration messaging?

Is your messaging resonating with your buyers…or is it lazy marketing noise?

Can you afford to have your lazy marketing negatively affect your Brand image in the minds of your buyers?

 

2009 Health Care Reform Initiative Lesson #5: Without a Clear understanding of the Problems your New Product Solves, Marketing will resort to “Buzz Word Bingo” and “Gobbledygook”

buzz word bingo

 

Just as marketing often throws products “over the wall” to sales, development often throws products over the wall to marketing. When marketing lacks a clear understanding of the problems your product solves, the buyers they solve them for, and a clear understanding of the criteria and process those buyers use when making buying decisions marketing resorts to “Buzz Word Bingo” in hopes that something they say sticks.

Marketing’s job is to create a story that spreads.

Or as Seth Godin states “Marketing tells a story that spreads”.

Without market knowledge and a clear understanding of the problem(s) your new product or service solves the marketing message becomes one of “Gobbledygook”.

As David Meerman Scott explains on his Blog Web Ink Now, That’s how so many PR people write — using gobbledygook-laden phrases that are so overused to have become meaningless.

 

When marketing creates buzz words and Gobbledygook it makes your market nervous as you have not clearly stated the problem(s) you solve for them, …so they assume.( and we know what happens when we are left to assume…)

One symptom your marketing story has gone astray is the need to have specific messages that address the myths in the market that have grown due to a lack of story clarity. Your marketing efforts will move away from developing a story that resonates with the market and they will produce defensive copy like: Top Five Health Care Reform Lies—and How to Fight Back.

All of the above are signs of a solution being thrown over the wall to marketing without a clear understanding of the problems your new solution solves and marketing is playing catch up. What should have been market research and testing of messages becomes surveys to validate the need. It gets really dangerous when development asks marketing to “create a need” for this new solution they just threw over the wall.

What should we all remember about creating stories that resonate in our markets so we do not have to be defensive? Cheryl Clausen helps us understand what it takes to write a good story in her blog: How to Put Life in Your Sales .

 

 

    As you develop your short powerful story include these elements:
  • Curiosity – Incorporate unexpected things, open a loop with an incomplete thought you have to stick around to finish
  • Make it about the people who buy your stuff either explicitly or implicitly
  • Keep it logical – Stories have a plot.  Therefore, a person like the people who buy your stuff must have an urgent challenge or problem that is resolved as a result of the actions they took.

 

 

    It does need to:
  • Speak to the right people
  • Share the right message
  • Tell your story the right way
  • Connect with people at the right time

  • Focus on the right reasons people want to act

     

     

If you find the market is struggling with the messages your marketing has created and its stories, what you are experiencing is your lack of market knowledge and the problems you solve is showing.

Chances are you are experiencing a Hasted effort to market without clearly understanding the unresolved market problems you were supposed to solve, your buyer personas, and an understanding of your buyer’s buying process.

You can keep trying to catch up and or defend yourself and your new product idea, or you can back up and spend time understanding the needs of your market.

You must stop telling and selling and start asking and listening.

In the process of doing so create buyer personas and speak to those personas in their voice. You must make your story specific to those most likely to buy.

When you use your understanding of your buyer personas and their voice you can create concise messages that are easy to understand and are emotional engaging.

How about your company….

Are you throwing products over the wall to marketing and they are using Buzz Word Bingo in hopes that something sticks?

Is your website full of Gobbledygook that fills a lot of white space but says nothing of value to your buyers?

Do you have to defend your solution and expose myths?

2009 Health Care Reform Initiative Lesson #3: Without a Clear Understanding of the Problems to be Solved, and Requirements, Development will Build Solutions Because They Can and Not Because They Should!

ipod bathroom 

 

Where a number of entrepreneurs make a costly mistake is in jumping into a new product launch and making a product launch checklist  without spending an adequate amount of time gaining an intimate market knowledge and building strategy. When this occurs, developers and engineers (Representatives) build things because they can not because they should.

How do we end up with a 1,000 page bill? ( few have read, and fewer understand?) Or an ipod station and toilet paper holder? Or a laptop that smells?…. ( by design)

Without a clear understanding of the problem you want to solve, and clear requirements and not understanding who you are solving them for, you will build stuff.

Developers are creative problem solvers. They want to be given problems and requirements. They go nuts if you also tell them how to solve it. Just as salespeople hate it when accounting tries to tell them how to sell more.

The inherent problem though lays in the fact developers also see problems that are real to them, that may not be market problems. So they have their “wish list” of solutions they want to introduce.

If you lack a clear definition of the problems you want to solve and the requirements needed and just “throw a challenge over the wall” two things will happen;

1. Development will create a perceived list of problems and prioritize them themselves.

2. Without a clear direction, they will build what they always wanted to build and not necessarily what the market needs or wants.

What happens next is even more dangerous. So you have shared your “big hairy audacious goal” with your market: “A Health Care reform bill before the August break”.

Not having a connection to the problems your team will connect to something…so the August goal is clear, measureable and written so they rally to meet that goal.

The achievement of the goal date becomes more important than solving the unresolved market problem.

When this occurs your team tunes out the market and its needs and tunes into the leaders goal ( and often ego).

Teams aligned around the wrong goal “tell and sell” versus “teach and share the problems they solved” and markets often rebel.

Buyers like to buy; they do not like to be sold.

With the power of social media, and the lack of alignment to the correct goal, a solution can launch and die within hours.

Market leaders understand the value in spending the time upfront, clearly defining the problem(s) they want to solve and developing requirements that set their developers up to win, and ultimately add value to the bottom line of the organization.

Market Losers are so focused on a delivery goal they Haste, and they waste. Focus on the wrong goal results in their team members thrashing around, starting and stopping and not able to develop revolutionary solutions that the market willing buys.

 

How about your organization….

 

Does your team throw things over the wall?

 

Do your developers ask for more information and the prioritization of requirements, or do they assume they know.

 

Has your company launched something because you could and not because you should? ….How’s that working for you?

2009 Health Care Reform Initiative Lesson #2: Without a Clear Definition of the Problem You Want to Solve, you cannot write good requirements for your development team

house of card

 

Without a clear understanding of the problem(s) you want to solve, how can you write the requirements needed in the solution your development team creates? They will assume the problems and will try solve those with  assumed requirements as facts. The farther the requirements move from actual market problems that you have agreed you need solved, the farther the final product solution will be from something that resonates in your marketplace.

In this case congress was asked to create a Health Care Reform bill with the lack of a clear understanding of problems they were to solve and my guess is they therefore did not have prioritized requirements that clearly explain what the final solution must do, and for whom. Couple this with being given an aggressive product launch date for your solution and you will experience what my father used to call: Haste makes waste. ( sound familiar, I have faced this many times)

Like congress, business owners use their gut and intuition at a time they should be gaining an intimate knowledge of their market, their buyers, buying process and buying criteria.

I am confident everyone “worked hard”, but I am also convinced without a clear understanding of problems to be solved they could not have “worked smart”.

What we are now experiencing with the 2009 Health Care Reform Initiative is symptomatic of leaders lacking market intelligence and a clear understanding of the problem(s) they are to solve. We see entrepreneurs with a vision boldly launching their solution into their markets only to find what they “thought” was a brilliant idea( their wife and golf buddies thought so) does not resonate with their customers and potential buyers. As I wrote in my post: Nail it before you scale it, you must completely solve the identified problems before you scale them. Scaling products that are not complete solutions only results in a lack of understanding among your customers and is often perceived as self serving, and an inside-out focused Market Loser, versus a market serving , Market Leader.. When this occurs you break trust.

Once trust is broken with buyers in your marketplace they are never won back 100%, and it will cost you dearly.

When you lack a clear definition of the problems you wish to solve you can not write requirements that are of value to the development team.

Without clear requirements, your development team will work very hard to solve the assumed problems they think you want solved and the perceived needs you “throw over the wall”. We not only need a list of the problems and defined requirements but development would also value the prioritization of those requirements.

Without open and clear communication development will decide the prioritization, again further drifting form market problems and solutions to urgent and pervasive needs.

One symptom of this is development spending more time defending what they built versus building new solutions your market wants to buy.

How about your organization….

 

Are you asking your development and or engineering to develop solutions without a clear understanding of the problem they are setting out to solve?

 

Does your development team have requirements or are they left to guess and assume?

 

Do you find your development team working “hard” or “smart”? Why or why not?

 

Do you find the quality of problem definition and the prioritization of requirements has an inverse relationship to the amount of time given for the solution to be launch?

2009 Health Care Reform Initiative Lesson #1: Without a Clear Definition of the Problem You Want to Solve, You Will Experience “Scope Creep” and Your Launch Plan Will Fail

reform bill

 

Without a clear definition of the problem(s) you solve with your new product or service you will experience scope creep and your team will thrash around. When you thrash around you have a number of starts and stops without completely solving each individual initiative. Not only is this behavior ineffective but it is costly and often dangerous.

Fundamentally I agree, if what the news media tells us is true regarding; the number of uninsured Americans, the rising costs of care, the rising costs of caring for uninsured Americans,… that there is a problem that needs to be solved. However I do not understand the problem, or problems we are trying to solve with the 2009 Health Care Reform Initiative, nor how the over 1,000 page proposal solves them.

I see this frequently with entrepreneurs. They discover what they perceive to be an unresolved market problem and the solution is crystal clear (to them) so they launch. They take out 2nd mortgages, they cash in their 401k, and they ask family and friends for support. (Money) They share their brilliant idea with their buddies on the golf course to validate their idea and everyone says… ”brilliant idea”. However very quickly they learn an expensive lesson when they expect (and have created the support) to sell 60,000 units and only sell 2.

Without a clear definition of the Problem you solve your New Product Launch Plan will fail.

Instead of clearly defining the problem, quantifying the need, making sure people want and will pay money to solve that problem they broaden their scope. Now they have a number of messages floating in their market that are Luke warm at best and none clearly articulate how you solve any problems for buyers in your marketplace. None are connecting with anyone.

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