No Shortcuts - The ONLY Thing That Matters

Bold blog title.  I want to talk about coming up with new ideas and where your focus needs to be.  It's very easy to get extremely confused in this area and I recently had an experience where I was lost.....for almost a full year.  I couldn't figure out why a project was going South and why I was not able to lead my team to a solution that worked. 

I lost sight of the CONSUMER.  The CONSUMER'S wants, needs and desires are the only things that matter.  This actually makes tons of sense and isn't a new thing.  The challenge is digging to the core of what the consumer wants and pushing aside everything else.  "Everything else" can be disguised as something that looks good on the surface and can be easy to follow right off a cliff.  

Here is a list of areas where you can be led off course, as I was for a full year. 

"Strategy":  Proper strategy should be LED by the consumer insight.  Once you have an established business things can shift a bit.  Strategy can then be led by what your business SHOULD do versus going back to what the consumer actually desires.  An example of this is when brands over-expand into areas that aren't their core competency because it "strategically" makes sense.  Think Gap expanding past their core of basics and then end up losing their identity as a brand.  Trying to be everything to everyone.  Make sure the "strategy" is based on a true consumer insight and not just made up!

Data: Data is great.  I am a big believer in data.  Data can often be interpreted in different ways though.  You aren't seeing the true WHY around consumer decisions.  You often have to make some assumptions as to why the data is coming back a certain way.  Data is helpful to help support the insight you are seeing, but I struggle relying 100% just on data.

Personas: I am also a fan of personas to ground the team on the WHO.  These can also be up for massive interpretation though.  Do you know the DEEP insight on the consumer when it's posed as "an educated mom of 2 living in the suburbs who prefers natural products".   Again, the DEEPER insight needs to be illuminated that ties to this persona versus solely relying on a generalized persona. 

Too Many People & Ideas:  Oftentimes your team is too big.  You have too many people.  Too many ideas.  Too much wasted time trying to align everyone.  It's interesting to take a step back in conversations and observe the different directions it takes.  How one comment can derail an excellent line of thinking.  I like Jeff Bezos' thought on a two pizza party team.  You shouldn't have more people on the team than it would take to eat 2 large pizzas.  Everyone is doing their best, but too many people leads to a total lack of focus.  It's VERY hard to get a large group to all agree, as well.  And if they all agree it might not be a breakthrough idea.  It's likely a safe idea that isn't impactful. 

So how do we overcome this?  Get as close as you can to the consumer.  Get in their homes.  Observe them.  In COVID times, do phone and video calls to hear their voices and mannerisms.  Understand what else is going on in their lives outside of just your product.  I doubt your product is the center of their lives.  It's usually something they rarely think about, so try to grasp their full lives to see where your product actually fits in.  How is it helping?  Is it impactful or just so so? 

This process takes more time at the outset, but leads to better outcomes.  I just wasted a full year on a project and am embarrassed that I forgot a principle that I tell others.  It is easy to do for the reasons I mention above.  You THINK you're on the right trail, but you've actually been walking into the middle of nowhere.  The deep consumer insights will never fail you.  Don't take shortcuts!