“How" eats “what" for breakfast


It seems everyone is writing a book.  Please! Not another killer blueprint for success guaranteed to grow your business”.  The barrage of people telling us what to is so deafening it resembles the white noise used to soften up  victims before interrogation.  The thing is, 

reading about what has helped other people  just isn’t that helpful

even for seriously good tools and techniques.  Let me give you an example.  In one of my business model clinics last week, I asked if anyone had found any tools that helped them better engage with their ideal customers.  Now I am a big fan of the ‘Value Proposition Canvas’ - it focuses thinking on what customers really care about.  One of my participants had read up on it, but not actually used it.  I asked her why and she explained that it all seemed to make perfect sense, but when she tried to apply it - well there were just too many other things to-do.  Others nodded their assent - a common challenge for busy people   Of course they recognised the need to focus on what their customers really want, but finding the time or knowing where to start, that was the difficult bit.  

The “what” is easy, it is the “how" that trips people up.

So why is that?  It comes down to three things:

1.   Context is king.  If we cannot see instantly how to apply something to our situation, we move on.

2.  We need a jolt.  Our view of the world needs seriously challenging to propel action up the to-do list.

3.  Most of us understand by reading, but learn by doing.  Unless we do there is no point in understanding.

In our clinics, we spend much more time applying stuff to clients' businesses than telling them about it.  In the last one everyone had to come up with 3 things they did that made their customers happy and 3 things that solved a problem for them.  As usual, everyone found the second of these easier than the first.  So I asked them to name a few brands that they really admired.  The usual suspects…Apple, Nike and a few others like Innocent.  Do people buy their products to solve a problem?  No of course you don’t buy an iPhone because without it you cannot make calls or an Innocent Smoothy just because you are thirsty.  That gave them a jolt.  We are so conditioned to think about solving problems for customers that we fail to recognise the power of emotions; that making our customers feel great is so much more compelling than just solving their business problem.

So then to the acid test.  We started the session by asking people to say in one sentence what they did.  At least half gave the sort of reply that in a networking event woud have you starting to look for the next person to talk to.  By the end, everyone wanted to know more and in a straw poll every participant could think of at least one other person they knew that might be interested in the services of everyone in the room.

So the next time you pick up a business book or start reading another blog or resource guide telling you what you need to do to make your business better, ask yourself whether you are really going to apply any of it.  If not, you are probably wasting your time.  

Banner image © Mark Neild 2013  Dolphin in Bay of islands New Zealand taken shortly before we went swimming with them.