25 July 2009

Recharge and Refocus

Hi. I'm back. Sorry for the delay in postings. I managed to be pretty good at putting stuff up while actually on vacation (3 weeks, Europe), but haven't posted since my return to the U.S. Read on, and maybe you'll understand why.

My trip? Germany, mostly, with a little France for fun. Was it good? Yes. Once again, I can testify to the rejuvenating quality of getting away from the day-to-day rhythm of life. I put myself on a different pace while away, still busy, but to a different beat. The beat was good. I took time to hike, bike, drive, and think. There was time for silly, time for serious, and much in between. I reconnected with old buddies and got feedback from dear friends. It focused me, and I highly recommend anybody who hasn't taken a vacation recently do so very, very soon!

Part of the focus I got while away manifested itself upon my return. There were things in my "normal" life that were prioritized incorrectly. I am pretty good at assessing importance and urgency, but I'd dedicated too much of my time over the past several weeks to some not so important endeavours. So, though the g-thought and writing in general make the list of "important", my attention over the past week has been on course-corrections.

Course-correcting accomplished, here I am writing again. And, though, this little story is about me, I hope it's relevant for you, too. Whether in personal or business settings, taking a bit of time to challenge assumptions, consider choices, and reprioritize is valuable. All too often, it seems we leave this effort unattended. So, how do your priorities look? Maybe it's time for a vacation, huh?

09 July 2009

Earth: The Customer Experience

So, folks, along the lines of empowered customer experience, I was inspired today by a blog post from The Debatable called "Folks, it's only one planet... let's take care of it." Full disclosure: the blog is written by a friend.

Here's where I got to after reading his post: The earth offers each of us one heck of an experience, but it differs profoundly from the retailers, service providers, or other experience suppliers we deal with every day. Where's the contact us link? The 800 number? The customer service agent for earth?

It's us! It's us, or nobody. And, therein lies the rub. This biggest, baddest, all-enveloping customer experience relies to a great degree on us - the users - to infer what's right and wrong with the whole offering. We have to make choices, collectively, about what to do about it, too. As if this challenge isn't significant enough, we probably won't be around to see the outcome of the initiatives we undertake, either.

So the question is, what are we going to do about it? Unlike a grocery store, we can't simply decide "this place is too hot to be comfortable, so I'll shop across the street." Where are we gonna go? Venus? I don't think so.

No, we have to solve this customer experience dilemma without a ready substitute at hand. It's a realtime monopoly, and yet there is the opportunity to influence the path forward. The opportunity is limited for most of us as individuals, but collectively we can exert remarkable influence. This is our co-op. We own the joint.

The choice, ultimately, will play out in a repeating cycle of the coalescence and dissolution of groups of various views, how they haggle with one another, and the consensus reached on a path forward "as of now." Step by step, course-correcting and modifying the path as new insights are gleaned, we will move into the future.

Without espousing a particular viewpoint here (I did that in a comment on The Debatable earlier), I am asking you to have a viewpoint, to express it, and to take what you consider the appropriate action. It may be an activist viewpoint, it may be a concessionary viewpoint, it may be one altogether different. Please have one, share it, act on it. As customer experiences go, this one is a biggy. Let's all be the engaged customers we so value hearing from in our businesses. Let's make a difference.

06 July 2009

Whammo Moments of Insight: The Baking Soda Model

I like the moments of opportunity when long-held assumptions crash on the rocks of imagination. I believe that, try as we might, we're not in control of what folks do with what we create.

In fact, the more likely scenario is that we have little to no idea of all the uses of our product or service. I worked on a shave gel business for a while, and it turns out some folks swore it was the best upholstery cleaner ever, while others got oil spots off their driveway with it. Really.

Many marketers are trained to deliver the "one thing" that's going to matter to users and differentiate from competitors. Reality is, it's the one thing that matters to most users most of the time, except for those folks on the fringe who apply their own creative juices in moments of need to problems we never considered and... Whammo! Shave gel removes oil spots on the driveway. Who'da thunk?

For those attuned to the messages and able to avoid the interference of their own thoughts, these whammo moments are insights coming through the door. Oil spots on the driveway. Wonder how many folks have them? Wonder what other oily stuff this product might clean? Wonder if there's a market for a cleaner of oily stuff that our manufacturing team can produce?

Arm & Hammer Baking Soda makes listening, learning, and applying new uses a key part of its brand viability. Church & Dwight, owners of the Arm & Hammer brand, list seven different consumer product categories on their website, but treat baking soda as a category unto itself. Why? Maybe it's all the various uses presented that make categorization near impossible. This one product is pitched for things as diverse as neutralizing car battery acid, freshening breath, and - of course - keeping fridges odor free. Oh, and don't forget that you can bake with it, too!

So, have you heard any interesting, but off-the-beaten-path commentary from consumers about your product? Maybe it's worth a little further consideration or follow-up. You probably don't have the next Arm & Hammer, but you might find a decent insight... Which is when the fun begins!

03 July 2009

My Secret War: Installment 2

A brief update to Installment 1. The squirrels have, for now, abandoned hope of storming the shed, which is good. Instead, they've adopted insurgent tactics, which is bad. Unsuspecting apple trees have been attacked, losing limbs in the process. Small plants have been ruthlessly uprooted and nibbled. They even managed to topple the bird bath. Those ravaging rodents! Who knows what additional mayhem they are undertaking while I'm away...

02 July 2009

iPhone as Personal Navigation Device

iPhone users rejoice! Well, at least those of you who often get lost. Finally, with the launch of the iPhone 3GS, Apple is allowing folks to take advantage of the iPhone's large screen, built-in GPS, and internal sensors to create navigational software.

Navigon, a German supplier of Personal Navigation Devices and other handy gadgets, appears to be first over the line in offering navigational software for the iPhone. It's not cheap, at 75 Euros a pop, but for the gadget greedy it might be just the new toy to wow friends.

The on-going back and forth on convergence of funtionality versus dedicated devices continues to roll along!