Archive for the ‘startuplife’ Category

Innovating the market research industry – a startup perspective

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Anyone who has tried to get traction for an innovation – whether startup or internal initiative – will recognise the challenge. You have a view of a better future for your customers, if only you can convince them. Sticking doggedly to your grand vision on the one hand may not bring along enough people to achieve market success, while being too customer-centric limits your potential and fail to deliver the game-changer.

The trick of course if navigating a third way of market-driven innovation that meets people’s unarticulated and unmet needs – giving them the thing they didn’t even know they wanted but from which there’s no going back.

The following are some personal experiences from the last 3 years of launching and growing a mobile research platform – a tool that seeks to transform the market research industry. The examples are specific but hopefully the lessons are relevant to anyone trying to get their innovation off the ground.

 

Mobile – the next frontier in market research

When asked at the recent Insight Innovation Exchange in Amsterdam when the time of mobile market research is coming, Ray Pointer of Vision Critical replied, “About 18 months ago”.

This anecdote gives you some insight as to a market that has been hotly tipped for a while now but is still waiting to catch fire. (that said Survey Monkey recently reported that they had seen x14 increase in their mobile traffic in the last 3 years).

The case for mobile is various but includes: massive smartphone penetration and usage, an intimate and ‘in the moment’ channel,  the richer data made possible by smartphones’ communication, multimedia and location functions. This all adds up to a new way of engaging and learning from customers. At nativeye we talk about doing research that doesn’t feel like research.

 

Predicting real need is hard but vital

Prior to coding a single line we put together a clickable prototype and received strong encouragement to proceed. However those nodding heads we had initially were not necessarily our first customers. In fact, some are only starting to buy now, 3 years on. Possibly there was more we could have done to validate need, but there are a whole host of other factors beyond your control that dictate when people are ready to buy.

A clue to validating real current need is to look at whether people are already trying to solve the problem right now. They might be using other products, hiring people or inventing workarounds to try and do the thing that your product does.

 

Find your tribe

Some people resist just change (including new technology). This is certainly the case in the market research industry. Either because it requires effort to learn new techniques or because people feel threatened by it (which is probably justified if you are an Amazon warehouse picker). David A. Aaker advises innovators to ‘beware the pessimist’ that will attempt to derail innovation projects based solely of their irrational fear of the new (interesting to note that he also mentions to be aware of the over-optimist).

Some people you’re just not going to win over. The best you can hope for is to quickly identify them and move on. For others to try something new the Benefit must > Pain. Pain comes in many forms – the mental effort to work out where your product fits, the risk of an untried approach, bugs in a new product.

However, some people are much more inclined to give something new a whirl – the benefit to them being the potential transformation of their day-to-day. These people are like gold and will be your champions. I think Seth Godin provides the best advice here which is, “find your tribe and grow out from there.”

 

Learn to explain innovations in terms people currently understand

Of those that do embrace technology, many initially consider it in old frames of reference. Initially nativeye was seen as a mobile survey tool. Common questions included, “How will I get all the survey questions I want on a screen that size?” This made our spirit sink somewhat as we didn’t see nativeye this way – we saw it as a two-way customer channel that captured people’s experience in unprecedented richness and timeliness.

It’s sometimes frustrating when trying to push things forward only to be pulled back into old frames. But if your product is truly transformational and you can get people to try you out, then this should bubble to the surface and they will tell others of their great experience. In the MR world a tool has to deliver on old measures such as ‘response rate’ before people will countenance the new stuff. It’s a reality that you have to navigate this while still not losing track of the larger potential.

 

Don’t sell features, solve jobs

Clay Christensen talks about innovating by solving the jobs people want to do. Selling in these terms also makes your proposition much more compelling whereas only talking about features leads you to sell yourself short. This is why about 18 months in we started selling “relevance”. This is the bigger benefit that helps bring people on board by speaking language they can understand. As a customer, I don’t know if I want a ‘mobile research platform’ or to ‘open up a channel to my customers’ but I certainly want my brand to stay relevant to its customers.

 

Ben Claxton is the founder of nativeye, a mobile research platform that helps your business stay relevant. http://nativeye.com/

What research is and what it isn’t

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Some choice quotes from this great article by Erica Hall in Wired on why the ‘fail fast’ startup culture can actually just be an excuse for avoiding doing any research – which hell, i don’t know, might actually help your business succeed.

At the heart of this is being the most informed you can be. Not to restrict your imagination to what customers tell you what they want, but to make sure you are able to “design and build for the real world”. In other words, direct your imagination in the right direction.

“a common concern and excuse for not doing research is that it will limit creative possibilities to only those articulated by the target users, leaving designers devising a faster horse (lame) rather than a flying car (rad).

Worse than being limited by potential customers’ imaginations is being limited by one’s own — especially if most business leaders admit they’re not going to be the next Steve Jobs. But why should they have to imagine how the world works, when it’s possible to find out through research? Their imagination is then better spent on designing the solution.”

As an entrepreneur one of the hardest challenges is to really ask yourself “am I designing a solution for a real problem?”. Ideas are temptresses, especially if they are your own. But doing everything you can to validate your idea before you embark on a long and choppy journey of development is doing yourself a massive favour. And this again is where research can help.

Research is…

  • A tool to help create for the real world
  • Creative fuel
  • A way to validate your ideas and kill your darlings
  • Increase the success rate of innovation

Research isn’t…

  • A substitute for imagination
  • A limit to the possible

Content marketing and SEO for the clueless

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

And I include myself as one of the clueless.

I attended SEO London yesterday to try and shed some light on what I’m doing wrong. And these are the things I picked up:

1. Just because you have great content, doesn’t mean people will come

You have to get it into the hands of others – preferably people with high authority websites so that when they link to you will increase your page ranking. So that means doing the leg-work of making contacts and pitching them.

2. When pitching content, why you? why now?

What’s your personal experience or proven authority on a subject? Is there seasonality to the topic? Are there events in popular culture or your industry that you can piggy-back?

3. It’s all about angle

Related to 2., chances are you won’t be writing about something entirely new so what’s your particular spin?

4. Don’t sell, write

No-one wants to listen to a sales pitch. They want to hear the person and read something informative and/or entertaining. Sell yourself not your product/company.

5. It’s about authorship

Not only do people want to hear a distinctive voice, Google wants to know about your reputation as an author. Linking authors to their Google+ profiles (using rel=”author”) helps Google establish their authority which in turn will help your site.

6. Take content to the human conclusion

So even if your content is on a relatively dry topic, if you paint a picture of what it means in human terms, people are much more likely to relate to it.

7. When telling stories with data, look for the 3rd dimension

Getting a little technical here, but as a technique employed by Amazon (queries per second) and Twitter (tweets per second), ‘data velocity’ helps to indicate when something interesting is going on and therein potentially lies a story.

8. Make friends

Keep your eyes out for influencers who might need / be interested in your content at some point. Make the connection so that when the time comes you can feed them your tasty content.

 

Valuable hat tips from:

Lisa Myers of Verve Search

Nichola Stott of The Media Flow

 

The ups and downs of entrepreneurship

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Some nice soundbites in here on the emotional rollercoaster of starting and growing a business.

“We got to 30 people and I was looking at a wall of fear!”