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Use icons to teach what you stand for

Gene Kranz's waistcoat

Every organisation has a story

Every organisation has a story. Why it was…


Smarty Jones at Glen Echo Park

A little bit lost in Maryland this summer, my family and I came across Glen Echo Park, a once popular destination that’s seen hard times and is on the way back through the involvement of a dedicated not-for-profit tribe of volunteers.

Most of our visit was spent at the carousel where I was smitten with Smarty Jones. Mmmh, mmh that’s a handsome looking horse – if I’d have been riding I’d have taken Smarty for a trot for sure.

But for the whole time we were at the park, not one child rode Smarty.

What’s wrong?

Why don’t some customers buy your product? If it’s anything like Smarty, it’s great: accessible, goes up and down, has all the features, stands out in a crowd, it’s super-shiny for goodness sakes.

So why does the turkey get a ride whilst good ol’ Smarty puts on a brave face?

It’s the kind of question I get asked all the time. “We have a great product, but there something wrong. What is it?”

Whilst every product has it’s own story, the tale is put together the same way every time — and anyone can do it.

Ask your customers

Act like a consultant and ask your customers. You’ll learn more from what goes wrong than what goes right so make sure to ask non-customers who’ve made an active choice not to buy, and actual-customers who’ve bought but have stopped using. Get out of the building and ask the people who know. Visit, lunch, interview, test, survey — whatever it takes to get the information you need.

Speak to enough customers to see patterns; some will point to lack of priority or urgency, others may point to weaknesses in your product or your proposition. Assume nothing, test everything. When you’re pretty sure you know what’s going on, it’s time to act on what you’ve found.

What are you going to do about it?

There are three layers where you might need to fix things inside the building:

  • Message problems are easiest and cheapest to solve. Get together with your sales and marketing team and change your presentations, messaging, communications. Use A/B testing to see what changes work best — especially if you’re web based and have a lot of passing trade.
  • Go-to-market problems are more strategic and will probably force a new look at your market, features, distribution, pricing and positioning choices. Everything in this layer is connected so be suspicious of anything that looks like a silver bullet.
  • A weak or ill defined core proposition means a fundamental rethink and the discomfort of living with your current product whilst working back through first principles.

After two interviews (my own children, 40% of the carousel kids that day) it was pretty easy to work out Smarty’s problem. Too much competition and a very small market. Strategic problems with no answer in sight means old Jones could be racing to retirement.

What about you? Can you change priorities and raise urgency or do you have to go a little deeper?

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Previous article October 13, 2009

Finding your champion


What happens when prospects don’t say Yes and won’t say No?

A Maybe is a hole in time. Complex products…