Value Proposition Canvas: How to Use Better Alternatives to This Template

Here you’ll find a guide to best alternatives of the Value Proposition Canvas.

It’s a template that is supposed to help you create new product and service ideas.

But…

It’s actually not the best tool to achieve that.

There are better alternatives to the Value Proposition Canvas.

So in this article, you’ll find better exercises for your innovation workshops and landing your buyer personas and product ideas.

What is the Value Proposition Canvas by Strategyzer?

A “value proposition canvas” is a way to capture the main things that make up your proposition, who would buy it, and why.

There are many different value proposition canvases out there.

But today, I want to focus on one of the most popular ones: Strategyzer’s Value Proposition Canvas.

This canvas is supposed to zoom in on two elements of a business model, the value proposition itself (what you offer to your customers) and the customer segments (who your customers are).

(For more information about creating compelling value propositions, have a look at The Value Mix).

The template of Strategyzer's Value Proposition Canvas
The template of Strategyzer’s Value Proposition Canvas zooms in on the Business Model Canvas

But it’s not really working.

While Strategyzer’s Business Model Canvas beautifully summarises the main elements of a business model, their version of the value proposition canvas has some major limitations.

Business Model Canvas - High resolution template
The Business Model Canvas, a great template to capture how a business creates, delivers, and captures value

Let me tell share my review of the Value Proposition Canvas:

I’ll tell you what’s good about it and what’s missing.

And then, you’ll learn about some better alternatives to the Value Proposition Canvas.

Pros of the Value Proposition Canvas

1. The use of pain, gain, and job to be done

The concepts of pains, gains, and jobs to be done are a good starter to understand your customers.

(If you haven’t heard of jobs to be done before, read these reflections about jobs to be done.)

But these concepts are even more useful when you visualise them dynamically (more to come below about the customer journeys).

2. Trying to visualise everything on one page

The Business Model Canvas is a useful structure to adopt when you are developing a new venture or trying to map an existing business model to see how it can be changed or “disrupted”.

It’s helpful to have a one-pager on two occasions:

1. In an innovation workshop when you want the participants to focus on a specific area during a design exercise;

2. When you share the output with your team and your stakeholders (boss, investors, sponsors, etc…). It makes it visual!

The Value Proposition Canvas aims to do this.

And it does look visually satisfying. :)

But as we’ll see it’s not enough…

Cons of the Value Proposition Canvas

1. Too simplistic

It’s just good at highlighting potential benefits but without any context. It’s built on the idea that value is an equation where:

– “pains” match with pain relievers
– “gains” match with gain creators

But it’s too simplistic.

Customer Profile Map template: pains, gains, jobs to be done
The Customer Profile Map shows only a few ways to analyse your market segments: pains, gains, and jobs to be done)

2. Not easy to use in a workshop

It makes it hard to get to a good outcome in a workshop when you use this template.

The Canvas isn’t a good template to come up with new ideas and capture the description of each of these ideas. And it isn’t a good tool to think about the benefits and user experience of a product or service.

There are better tools for that.

(More to come in this article.)

3. Missing the nuances of human emotions

The customer side of the Value Proposition Canvas is too mathematical. It misses many of the nuances of human behaviour and psychology.

It’s too utilitarian.

What’s missing is this “irrational” desires we experience.

What about impulse purchase? Or buying only organic or fair trade food?

The canvas doesn’t give a good explanation of these reasons to buy something.

4. “How to fill the canvas?”

There’s a problem with using such a canvas:

It makes you feel that you just need to fill the boxes. It turns the art of creating value propositions into a simplistic equation.

But innovation isn’t all black and white. Simplifying too much can limit your creativity.

While I recommend reading the book Value Proposition Design as a good summary of the Lean Startup process, I know there are better tools than the Value Proposition Canvas when you want to create new product or service ideas.

Better alternatives to the Value Proposition Canvas

Your objective is to create new product or service ideas.

In that context, there are two tools that can really help you.

Customer journey mapping - Innovation workshop

1. Map the customer journeys (Understand your market)

Objective:

Mapping customer journeys help you identify the circumstances in which your potential customers are struggling. It’s a great way to identify opportunities to create a new proposition.

What’s really helpful is to visualise dynamically all the steps your target audience goes through.

How to create a customer journey:

Creating a customer journey map is quite straightforward.

Here’s a simple explanation:

1. Decide on a journey you’d like to map (Which customer? In what circumstances?)

2. Write down all the steps your customer goes through. At this stage, include even steps that may seem trivial. This will help you consider the nuances of the journey that you may normally overlook.

3. Organise the steps into a map. A customer journey is often visually displayed sequentially in a timeline. In case of a complex journey, your map could include branches to show alternative paths in the customer journey.

A map of one customer journey of Codecademy
A map of one customer journey of Codecademy

3bis. Or.. write the story of your customers. Instead of visualising the journey, you can write about the customer story as if it was a novel.

Codecademy gives a good explanation of this process:

“Every good story has a main character and problems they encounter, so I began with our main character — our target persona. Then pulling from our research, I used quotes from users, the key problems that persona faced, and a ton of ideas from our team — everything I needed to start writing.”

4. Identify their struggles. What are the steps that feel frustrating to them? What are they trying to achieve?

If you’re interested, there’s a detailed explanation of how to build a customer journey in The Value Mix.

5. Look for the missing blocks. What you may realise is that you knew less than you thought about your customers. You may need to dive into more customers interviews to fill in the gaps. If possible, show the map to an expert who is familiar with your audience or test it directly with your target audience.

6. Ask yourself how you could create value at each step. Alternatively, you may see some patterns emerging. Maybe something surprising? Or an obvious opportunity to improve the overall customer experience?

Example of a customer journey: Airbnb

An Airbnb host may have a high mortgage to pay. She’s about to go on holiday and would like to rent her flat for the time of the holiday in order to pay for the flight tickets.

What the journey could look like:

Planning to travel > Looking for ways to pay for the trip > Chatting to a friend who recommends Airbnb > Looking for testimonials online > Registering to Airbnb > Getting a booking > Finding someone to manage the check-in while away > Finding a cleaner

By doing additional customer interviews, you may realise that finding someone to manage the check-in and clean the flat is a big frustration.

This piece of insight led to startups such as GuestReady.

Ideating - Having product ideas

2. Value proposition statement (Create new product ideas)

Objective:

The value proposition statement helps you clarify your proposition. It’s a template used to frame your product or service in a way that is differentiated from the competition.

What’s the value proposition statement:

When landing your value proposition statement, remember these principles:

What makes a good value proposition:

– Clarity! It’s easy to understand.
– It communicates the concrete results a customer will get from purchasing and using your products and/or services.
– It says how it’s different or better than the competitor’s offer.
– It avoids hype (like ‘never seen before amazing miracle product’), superlatives (‘best’) and business jargon (‘value-added interactions’).
– It can be read and understood in about 5 seconds.

To help you, here’s an easy template to fill in:

A template to capture your value proposition statement
A template to capture your value proposition statement

The value proposition statement deserves some explanations.

How to use the proposition statement template:

While most elements of the template of are self-explanatory, I want to explain:

  • The key attributes of your target audience: Try to capture some key characteristics of the segment you want to target as well as how they feel.
  • What they want to get done: It’s about identifying the outcome they expect from using your proposition. For more info, have a look at these examples of the jobs-to-be-done theory.
  • The reason to believe: It’s a “logical” explanation of why your proposition is better. In marketing, a reason to believe aim to reinforce the trust in the fact that your proposition will create value for your audience.

For more tools about creating new products and services, have a look at The Value Mix.

The book presents gives you a useful framework to:

1. Know your target customers better in order to create real value for them;
2. Build a coherent strategy for your new products and services.

 

5 Jobs-to-be-Done Examples to Help You Innovate with Confidence

The jobs-to-be-done framework is the most trendy innovation framework at the moment.

Why?

It helps to understand what causes people to buy a particular product.

You can use it in two ways:
1. To understand what people want in a specific market;
2. To create a compelling customer experience.

In this article, you’ll see a few examples of jobs to be done.

This will help you understand how to uncover the needs and desires of a market using the job. And how to think about the benefits and customer experience that should shape your value proposition.

What does “Jobs to Be Done” mean?

The jobs-to-be-done framework uses “jobs” as a metaphor to explain what people are trying to achieve when they buy something.

Here’s a good definition of a job to be done :

“A job is the progress a customer seeks in a particular context.”

Another way to think about jobs to be done is to see them as the things customers are trying to achieve in very specific circumstances.

Some examples of jobs to be done and products/services you can hire to get them done
Some examples of jobs to be done and products/services you can hire to get them done

In Competing Against Luck, Clayton Christen adds:

“This definition is specific and important: Fully understanding a customer’s job requires understanding the progress a customer is trying to make in particular circumstances and understanding all of its functional, social, and emotional dimensions—as well as the trade-offs the customer is willing to make.”

People do not just buy a product or service. What are they trying to get done?

They “hire” them to make progress.

Interested in the topic?

Have a look at The Value Mix. There, you’ll find more examples and tools that help you identify the jobs your target market wants to achieve.

The Job Theory: A way to put the customer in the centre

The “job” metaphor forces us to focus on the customer. It emphasises the progress they are trying to achieve. We’re then less likely to think about the product first.

Christensen explains this in an article called Marketing Malpractice:

“Theodore Levitt used to tell his students:

‘People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!’

Every marketer we know agrees with Levitt’s insight. Yet these same people segment their markets by type of drill and by price point; they measure market share of drills, not holes; and they benchmark the features and functions of their drill, not their hole, against those of rivals.”

— Clayton Christensen, author of Competing Against Luck

As an alternative to the concept of “jobs to be done”, I prefer using the term “goals“. I dig into that in The Value Mix. I have found it makes it easier to explain the concept to my team members and clients. (But for the purpose of this article, I’ll stick to “jobs”).

(By the way, Theodore Levitt is the author of Marketing Myopia. This an article that has had a big impact on what marketing means today. The article highlights the importance of defining your industry, i.e. known as the “Law of Category” in 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.)

What makes the Job Theory useful?

The jobs-to-be-done framework focuses on what customers want to accomplish.

Why is it useful?

It’s that being clear on the outcome gets you to understand what causes people to buy something.

Example of job to be done in Super Mario

Here is how the Christensen Institute explains the framework:

“The jobs-to-be-done framework is a tool for evaluating the circumstances that arise in customers’ lives.

Customers often buy things because they find themselves with a problem they would like to solve. With an understanding of the “job” for which customers find themselves ‘hiring’ a product or service, companies can more accurately develop and market products well-tailored to what customers are already trying to do.”

Once you get clarity on why someone wants to buy something, it makes it easier for you to create the right products.

Let’s jump on some examples to make this more concrete.

Example 1: A good JTBD example: Milkshake Marketing

I first came across the jobs-to-be-done framework through this example:

The Milkshake Marketing case study.

I use it often as it helps explain the power of understanding how jobs emerge in people’s lives. It’s about customers who “hire” milkshakes for breakfast in fast-food restaurants.

You can watch this video that summarises it:

The Milkshake example comes from the research of Clay Christensen. It’s about a fast-food company. The company used the job framework to create milkshake recipes tailored to the needs of their customers.

By doing customer interviews, they realised that people “hired” milkshake on the morning for a surprising reason.

The insight: Milkshakes were hired instead of a bagel or doughnut because it was relatively tidy and appetite-quenching, and because trying to suck a thick liquid through a thin straw gave customers something to do while driving during their boring commute.

Milkshake job to be done example

The new value proposition: Understanding the job to be done, the company could then respond by creating a morning milkshake that was even thicker (to last through a long commute) and more interesting (with chunks of fruit) than its predecessor.

The example is good for three reasons:

  1. The reason why customers buy milkshakes for breakfast is surprising;
  2. It shows the importance of understanding customers’ jobs in a particular context;
  3. It illustrates how jobs can be used to segment a market.

To put this into practice, read this article on templates that help you a value proposition.

Example 2: Using jobs to write a book tailored to your readers

In the functions of product and marketing, people share an obvious job to be done:

“When I’m creating or designing a product, I need to be able to understand what my customers or users will really want.”

At a higher level, they may want to understand their target market for various reasons:
– a startup founder is motivated by the success of her company;
– an employee wants to share good data as he may be hoping for a raise.

Ranking jobs to be done framework
Like for the Hierarchy of Needs, it is possible to rank jobs to be done

At a lower level, they may have different jobs to get done:
– a market researcher wants to draw a good picture of the market for his client;
– a product manager is trying to reduce the churn rate;
– a designer has to create the user interface of a new app;
– a marketer is working on a new campaign to acquire new customers.

Understanding this led me to write a new book to help them do that.

The Value Mix on Amazon
Understanding my target audience helped me write the Value Mix to make it useful for them

Insight: After numerous customer interviews, I understood that all of these people needed to share a common framework to analyse and segment their market and create their product strategy.

Value proposition: The Value Mix came as a way to do exactly that. The book digs into a few tools you can use to understand your customers and what they want. It then explains how to frame a coherent product strategy.

Example 3: Photoshop vs Instagram: When a new job to be done arises

The Photoshop/Instagram example is a good way to explains the importance of jobs.

Both products are photo-editing software.

Same product category. But, actually, they allow users to achieve two different jobs.

Example of job to be done with Photoshop and Instragram

The insight: Smartphones users take photos all the time. But not all of their photos are high-quality shots that deserve hours of editing in Photoshop.

The opportunity: Smartphone users want that helps them do the job (editing pictures) quickly and easily.

This why today, Photoshop and Instagram are used for two different jobs:

  1. Photoshop: For professional photographers who want to edit high-quality shots;
  2. Instagram: For amateurs who want to edit and share beautiful everyday pictures.

Example 4: The iPod and the difference between “Jobs” and “Benefits”

Here’s another example I use to explain the difference between a “job” and a “benefit”.

When Apple released the first iPod. It used a catchphrase that has become a marketing case study:

“1,000 songs in your pocket.”

At the time, people didn’t know what the feature “5 GB” meant for them. By translating “storage size” into “number of songs stored”, everyone could clearly see the benefit.

Example of benefits vs features

What’s the difference between a job to be done and a benefit?

In a recent conversation, I had with Karen Dillon, author of Competing Against Luck, a book about the jobs-to-be-done framework, she clarified the meaning of a job vs. a benefit:

“So features and benefits are geared to solving a job. But if they aren’t well matched to the job someone is hiring a product or service to do, it doesn’t matter how good they are, they won’t attract and keep those people struggling with a job.”

The job is about the customer.

The feature + benefit are about the product.

I dig into that idea in The Value Mix. Have a look at how it can help you create successful products.

An example of when we “hire” an iPod

An example of job to be done that we have is to motivate ourselves with music when we go running.

In that context, we were used to hiring a big Walkman. See Monica from Friends doing this in 1994:

Example of job to be done: Feeling motivated while doing some sport

The job remains the same in 1994 and in 2001—when the iPod was released. People still wanted to achieve the same progress: to motivate themselves with some music when they go running.

An example of job to be done

But in the iPod offers better features, which means better benefits.

Overall, the user experience is better tailored to do the job of feeling motivated when you go running. The iPod is smaller, easier to use, and it allows you to have more than one CD (12 songs) on your playlist. You don’t have to listen to the same music over and over again or be bothered to change the CD.

Here’s a summary of the example:

Feature: 5 GB
Benefit: 1,000 songs your pocket
Context: when you go running
Job to be done: you want to motivate yourself with some music

Example 5: JTBD in Retail Banking

The role of banks in our world sounds really complex. Indeed, banks offer so many different financial products with lengthy T&Cs.

So how can the jobs-to-be-done framework help us?

The framework allows us to go back to the first principle—i.e. what is the essence of what banks do.

Example of jobs to be done in banking
Example of jobs to be done in banking

If you think about it, banks help us achieve one of four kinds of jobs:

  1. Keep my money safe (e.g. saving account)
  2. Move my money (e.g. transfer, debit card)
  3. Grow my money (e.g. ISA in the UK, IRA in the US)
  4. Lend me money (e.g. student loan, credit card)

At the most basic level, any bank helps us do these things.

Identifying these core jobs has allowed companies like Wealthfront, Revolut, or TransferWise to succeed. They’ve focused on one specific job and have done it very very well!

More resources and examples about jobs to be done:

  1. https://leanpub.com/value-mix/
  2. https://medium.com/the-job-to-be-done/replacing-the-user-story-with-the-job-story-af7cdee10c27#.ca7hfuvbp
  3. https://medium.com/the-founders-blog/when-jobs-to-be-done-backfires-f70dd0ac4498#.q7j13bvke
  4. https://medium.com/@zbigniewgecis/8-things-to-use-in-jobs-to-be-done-framework-for-product-development-4ae7c6f3c30b#.y0ovaqula
  5. https://jtbd.info/know-the-two-very-different-interpretations-of-jobs-to-be-done-5a18b748bd89

 

Share of Customer: 5 Awesome Tactics to Increase Profit

In this article, you’re going to learn how to increase profit by growing your customer share.

I’ll tell you two things:

(1) Why focusing on share of customer is surprisingly better than increasing market share.

(2) 5 awesome techniques you can use to boost your customer share.

(All of this illustrated with real-life examples.)

The first sale is the hardest

When you want to sell a product to new prospects, your most difficult task is to win their trust. Your prospects need to trust you before buying from you. They must believe your story.

(Here‘s a good framework to improve your marketing storytelling.)

So once you made the first sale, you’re done with the hardest part your job.

From now on, the following sales will cost you less. Your customers have demonstrated a real interest in what you have to offer. They now have fewer reasons to hesitate.

Why? Because your customer believes in you. You have sold him something; it has proved to be all you claim for it; therefore he feels safe in trusting anything you may say to him in the future.

— Robert Collier, copywriter and author of The Robert Collier Letter Book

If you keep delivering what you promise and more, they’ll keep doing business with you.

Customer Share vs Market Share

There’s a big difference between customer share and market share:

Market-share strategy = Trying to get a little bit from a lot of customers

Customer-share strategy = Focusing on getting as much as possible from fewer customers

It is cheaper to retain existing customers than acquire new ones.

(Which means higher gross margins.)

(Which means more profit.)

(Which means a growing business.)

Knowing that, it’s wiser to focus on encouraging your customers to be more loyal. Trying to get a larger share of the market will cost you more and make you lose an unfair advantage: existing customers who have already made the decision that it was worth buying from you.

Bonus:

Your most loyal customers tend to be your greatest salespeople.

Increase the share of wallet

Share of wallet refers to the amount of your customers’ total spending within a product category that your business captures with the products and services that it offers.

Formula of the share of wallet (definition)

A higher share of wallet means that your customers are spending more money to buy your products than to buy your competitors’ products.

As an example, The Coca-Cola Company talks about “share of stomach”, i.e. the ratio of Coca liquids that you drink vs. the competition’s.

Here’s a big question:

Adopting a strategy requires you to make choices.

Do you want to invest in acquiring more customers or in making sure that your existing customers keep buying more from you?

Now, I’m going to share great examples of the customer-share strategy.

Following the success of this article, I published The Value Mix. This new book helps you create successful propositions by leveraging the concept of customer share and 7 complementary frameworks.

Get the book here.

1. Consistency: Fans of your products

What it is:

Consistency is about always showing up in a predictable way. That’s how brands are built.

It’s one of the key drivers of retention. Once your customers took the risk to try your product once, they want to be able to predict what will be the experience of coming back.

How it works:

GoudronBlanc, a sustainable fashion brand I founded in 2012, offers high-quality T-shirts for men made using organic cotton.

We do one thing very well: great T-shirts.

This is our focus.

It’s niche. But our customers love us for that. And they keep buying from us.

GoudronBlanc consistently offers high-quality T-shirts for men
GoudronBlanc consistently offers high-quality T-shirts for men

The brand doesn’t have an aggressive acquisition strategy. Instead, we focus on delivering the best to our existing customers. Since they are happy with what we do, they keep coming back to us.

But that’s not it!

What’s great is that they encourage their friends to have a look at our online shop. I am very proud of this, as it makes me happy to hear they’re happy about our work.

This strategy is a great example of being laser-focused on consistency to increase customer share.

2. Membership: A way to keep your customer hooked

What it is:

Membership is the state of belonging to a group of people that have access to special benefits. It’s about rewarding members—i.e. your most loyal customers—with special offers others—non-members—cannot have.

How it works:

One of Amazon’s biggest win as a retailer is the Amazon Prime membership.

According to a study by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, Prime members shop more than non-members:

Prime members spend an average of $1,400 per year vs. $600 for non-Prime customers
Prime members shop on Amazon 26 times per year vs. 14 times for non-Prime customers

By giving access to free delivery and unlimited video and music streaming, Amazon rewards its most loyal customers.

Amazon uses a membership programme to increase its share of customer
Amazon uses a membership programme to increase its share of customer

And the customers who subscribe to Amazon Prime?

They love it! So every time they want to buy something, they think “Amazon!”.

Rewarding the most engaged group of customers matters.

Prime membership is not about getting more market share. It’s about getting a bigger share of customer.

3. Upselling: Make additional features more attractive

What it is:

Upselling is about encouraging your customers to purchase a comparable higher-end product than the one they are considering buying.

How it works:

You can encourage people to boost core features

I went shopping with a friend recently.

He needed a new pair of glasses so we went to Cubitts, a shop in London.

There, he’d found glasses he liked.

So the sales assistant asked him: “Would you like thin blue light lenses? It’s £50 more.”

Opticians use different qualities of lenses as a strategy to upsell
Opticians use different qualities of lenses as a way upsell

“Yes!”, he said as she was explaining that most opticians recommend these lenses when one works a lot with computers (which is the case for my friend).

Here was the upsell.

As a customer, my friend was happy. He got what he wanted.

An important takeaway about upselling:

You must focus on key features that make your products so much better in the eyes of your customers.

Here’s another example:

When you buy an iPhone XS on the online Apple store, you pick the basic version and then, you can select additional features, such as more memory.

Upsell marketing strategy by Apple
Apple makes it easy to choose more premium versions of the iPhone XS

It’s a smart way to encourage their customers to play with the specs and be tempted, for example, to quadruple the storage of their new iPhone for £150.

You can make it slightly more expensive…

Starbucks has a pricing strategy based on upselling.

A tall latte (the smallest) is £2.10, while the venti size (the biggest, which is nearly twice as big) costs only £2.60.

The upsell strategy at Starbucks
The upsell strategy at Starbucks

For an additional £0.50, you get twice the size.

Seems worth it right?

So when the barista asks their customers about the size, many go for the biggest, as it’s marginally not that much of a difference.

4. Series: Building anticipation into your products

What it is:

A series consists of a number of similar or related products, events, or experiences. They may share the same topic or theme and may also follow one another in a particular order.

This is a technique that authors and filmmakers use a lot.

Star Wars, Harry Potter, and FIFA (video game) are all series.

How it works:

Why are most successful authors and filmmakers creating series rather than standalone pieces?

Simple answer:

It’s just as hard for an author to sell a standalone book as it is to sell the first one of a series. But once they’ve managed to hook a customer into a series, this customer is more likely to buy all the books in that series.

Example: Using series marketing to increase customer share

When J.K. Rowling publishes 7 books of Harry Potter, she does two things:
1. She increases her customer share, compared to a standalone book;
2. She increases a share of wallet (more below), as her readers are more likely to buy her releases of Harry Potter than another book.

5. Insurance: Creating peace of mind (at a premium)

Apple is a great example of a company that does upselling very well.

When you get a new iPhone or iPad, Apple offers AppleCare+.

Offering an insurance and support package is a way to increase customer share

It’s a technique for Apple to increase their share of customer.

Every time someone gets an iPhone or iPad, they are likely to consider a two-year insurance policy.

Airlines do that very well too.

They sell you travel and cancellation insurances. This is a clever way to make sure that they make more profit from each customer while providing additional peace of mind.

A higher gross margin is great!

It allows them to afford to spend more on acquiring new customers. So by increasing their share of customer, they get a stronger budget to increase later their market share.

A corollary of customer share: Increasing Customer Lifetime Value (LTV)

Focusing on the share of customer helps you increase retention.

If someone is happy to buy more from you, it’s likely that this customer will be more loyal.

And as the formula shows, better retention means better Customer Lifetime Value.

Following the success of this article, I published The Value Mix. This new book helps you create successful propositions by leveraging the concept of customer share and 7 complementary frameworks.

Get the book here.

Customer share does win over market share

Instead of focusing on constantly acquiring new customers, why not spending more time and effort to delight your existing customers?

Think about making a profit in the long run.

Amazon, Starbucks, Apple, Uber, and Netflix… They all focus on increasing their share of customer. Market share is just the byproduct of their marketing strategy, not the other way around.

You cannot go wrong when your focus is on growing your share of customer.

Minimum Viable Audience: A New Way to Find A Profitable Market

We can all agree that:

– Creating something is easy.
– Creating something that people care about (your minimum viable audience) is much more difficult.

The problem?

Most attempts to launch new products are based on a “cool idea for a product”. And then, a marketing team has to figure out how to sell this new concept.

Product-oriented marketing vs. Audience-oriented marketing

Products are born this way because it’s less demanding to start with a product idea than with what your audience may want.

That’s the wrong way to develop new propositions.

In the words of Seth Godin:

“You don’t find customers for your products. You find products for your customers.”

— Seth Godin

In this article, you’ll learn about the importance of defining your minimum viable market first.

And how to identify it.

A challenge: There’s no such thing as the mass market

It’s tempting to have the ambitious objective to serve a big market–the mass market.

But who’s the mass market? What do they want? What can you do for them?

Who is the average pilot?

In the 50s, the U.S. Airforce was trying to improve the design of the cockpit.

design-cockpit-us-air-force

The ambition was to find the size of the average pilot to make sure that every pilot could fit well into a standardised cockpit.

They needed data.

So they gathered the size data from 4,063 pilots and computed the average of the 10 physical dimensions believed to be most relevant for the new design–incl. height, arm length, and chest circumference.

Next, they compared the data size of each individual pilot–one by one–to the average pilot.

The result?

Big surprise!

Out of 4,063 pilots.. well.. not a single airman fit within the average range on all 10 dimensions!

For example, one pilot might have a longer-than-average leg length, but a shorter-than-average arm length.

There was no such thing as an average pilot.

If you design a cockpit to fit the average pilot, you’re actually designing it to fit no one.

Bottom line: Trying to please everyone requires to dilute so much what makes your proposition unique that you’ll end up appealing to nobody.

Interested in the topic?

Get my new book, The Value Mix. There, you’ll find more examples and details on how to identify and target the right market.

A solution: Focus on your Minimum Viable Audience

Creating a meaningful proposition requires to be specific.

If you want to make a difference for the audience that you serve, you must know them well.

The solution is to start by focusing on a Minimum Viable Audience.

Minimum (or Smallest) Viable Audience: A better way of approaching marketing

A minimum viable audience is the smallest possible market you can serve and that can sustain your business as it grows.

It’s about targeting the people who will particularly benefit from what you are offering.

Definition of the minimum viable audience

In This Is Marketing, Seth Godin shares his definition of the smallest viable market:

“Begin instead with the smallest viable market. What’s the minimum number of people you would need to influence to make it worth the effort?”

There’s a real advantage:

When you focus on a smaller market, you can make sure you serve them well. You can make a bigger impact on their lives, especially when you’re just launching a new product.

It always starts with a small market: The 100 customers who love Airbnb

Airbnb didn’t start with millions of customers.

They started focusing on making sure they could get 100 customers who loved their proposition.

This was their minimum viable audience.

“It was better to have 100 people who loved us vs. 1 million people who liked us. All movements grow this way. There was no way we could get 1 million people on Airbnb, but we could get 100 people to love us.”

– Brian Chesky, Founder & CEO of Airbnb

Being so specific helped the Airbnb team to create a proposition that people loved.

Example of minimum viable audience with Airbnb

They didn’t go for the average.

They focused on making a big difference for a small pool of customers.

The rest is history.

If you’re interested in more details about how to find your minimum viable audience, here’s the link to The Value Mix.

It’s about being their best option

When everything is one click away, we only care about the best.

People don’t want an average T-shirt. They want the best T-shirt.

This is what I realised when I started GoudronBlanc in 2012.

But how could I offer the best T-shirt?

I had to pick the smallest viable audience for whom GoudronBlanc would become the best option.

Quickly, I found that there was a group of people–our minimum viable audience–who shared a worldview. They wanted to be able to show up at work wearing elegant T-shirts.

Besides, they also cared about knowing how these T-shirts were made.

(More here about using worldviews to build the story of your brand.)

We were onto something!

Defining the feature set of your proposition becomes easier when you've identified your smallest viable audience
Defining the feature set of your proposition becomes easier when you’ve identified your smallest viable audience

We created the best option for our target audience:

Elegant T-shirts made in Europe using organic cotton.

The smaller your viable audience is, the easier it will be for you to be the best at serving them.

How minimum should your minimum viable audience be?

Kevin Kelly argues that an audience of 1,000 True Fans is enough for an independent creative to make a decent living. If each of them spends $100 per year, it’s a total of $100,000 per year.

“One thousand is a feasible number. You could count to 1,000. If you added one fan a day, it would take only three years. True Fanship is doable. Pleasing a True Fan is pleasurable, and invigorating. It rewards the artist to remain true, to focus on the unique aspects of their work, the qualities that True Fans appreciate.”

Kelly refers to solopreneurs. But his idea works for businesses too.

Defining your minimum viable audience through the lens of the 1,000 True Fans

The principle here is to force your focus on a defined number of customers that sounds feasible.

What about the exact number?

It could be 1,000 or 5,000.

The exact number doesn’t matter. What matters is writing down a number that you feel comfortable with.

In Kelly’s words:

There is something important and liberating in seeking a finite attainable number of passionate fans rather than hoping for a rare best-selling career backed by millions of folks who have just heard about you.

The right “minimum” depends on what’s “viable” for you.

Many factors matter. These include price, COGS, potential share of customer, and the size of your business.

Identifying your audience with content

What about starting with an existing… audience?

An increasing number of businesses have used inventive ways to lower market risks. Instead of starting with a product, they start with content.

Case study: Using content to build a minimum viable audience

In 2004, Rand Fishkin started SEOMoz (now called Moz), a blog sharing tips about search engine optimization.

Moz built an audience before launching. The founding team quickly grew a following that trusted them. Their readers were interested in acquiring customers through SEO. The team understood that and started offering SEO consulting services.

By interacting with their minimum viable audience, the Moz team figured out that consulting wasn’t enough. There was an opportunity to build some SEO tools that would help their customers do better SEO. Today, Moz is a successful SaaS business with over $30 millions in revenue.

All that just started as a blog about SEO back in 2004.

Here’s how Rand Fishkin feels with hindsight:

“This is a strategy I’d replicate again, far more intentionally, with any future venture.

(1) The greatest advantage initially seems like it’s the low cost of marketing you’ve generated by having a steady stream of people who already care about the problem you’re trying to solve visiting your site, knowing you, liking you, and trusting you.

(2) But, even more valuable is the deep experience you gain from spending so much time trying to provide value to and earn attention and amplification from the crowd you eventually want to serve.”

Any business can use content to spot emerging trends among a target audience.

Using content marketing to build a minimum viable audience

It’s also great to learn about your market.

Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, who theorised one-to-one marketing summarise it well in Managing Customer Relationships:

“The enterprise learns more about its own strengths and weaknesses from each interaction and from the customer’s feedback, and is therefore able to market, communicate, and handle some aspects of its own tactics or strategy more efficiently and effectively than was possible prior to the relationship.”

Creating your own media can be an effective way to interact with your audience and learn from their feedback.

And you’ll be better prepared for the launch of new products.

The benefits of gathering your smallest viable audience

Having access to an audience of passionate people who love your content is a real asset.

This was a huge benefit for me when I launched The Value Mix.

The Value Mix, book available on Leanpub
The Value Mix, book available on Leanpub

Like Rand Fishkin, I had already gathered a group of “true fans”. They’d been following this blog and my newsletter, Progress, for years.

So when I launched The Value Mix?

They trusted me. They knew it would be a good book (for them).

 

5 User Experience Frameworks That Work GREAT (with Examples)

User experience design has become one of the most important disciplines in innovation.

It’s key to creating great products!

And there a few frameworks that can help a lot for that.

In this post, you’re going to learn how you can use five of these UX frameworks to design better user experience.

In fact:

These are the frameworks that UX designers from companies like Facebook and Pinterest use to increase user engagement.

1. B.J. Fogg’s Behavior Model: The UX Equation of B = MAP

Objective:

The Fogg Behavior Model helps you take into account behaviour change when you create the UX of a product or service.

What it is:

This framework explains the cause of a specific behaviour with a simple model:

Behaviour = Motivation * Ability * Prompt (summarised as B = MAP).

In B.J. Fogg’s words:

“The [framework] shows that three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and a Prompt. When a behavior does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing.”

This means:

For a specific behaviour to occur, a person needs sufficient motivation, sufficient ability, and an effective prompt.

  • Prompt = Do this now.
  • Ability = You can do it now.
  • Motivation = You want to do it now.

Make the three elements converge at the same time and a specific behaviour will occur.

A visual summary of the B.J. Fogg's Behaviour Model
A visual summary of the B.J. Fogg’s Behaviour Model

Of course, the model is a simplistic view of the reality. Human behaviour is far more complex. Many variables like culture and society also shape our behaviours.

But, in the context of designing user experience for behaviour change, having a simplified framework helps a lot.

The UX Nugget

As we see on the graph, action (behaviour) is a function of both ability and motivation.

So if your UX is crap, you need to target an audience of highly engaged users. (This is what’s often called “early adopters”, i.e. people who really need what you’re helping them to achieve).

On the other hand, if you are targeting people who aren’t really engaged, you need to make it dead easy for them to take a specific action.

For example, users who have to deal with their expenses are really unengaged. The process, therefore, needs to be super easy, if not automated.

Put it into practice:

Here are three useful questions to help you as you design or review the user experience of a proposition:

Summary of the Fogg Behaviour Model
Summary of the Fogg Behaviour Model

Use these questions to review each screen or interaction you created in your product.

Interested in the topic?

Get my new book, The Value Mix. There, you’ll find more examples and tools that help you design a better UX for your audience.

2. Nir Eyal’s Hooked Model: Create Habit-forming UX

Nir Eyal’s framework is an adaptation of the B = MAP equation.

Objective:

The Hooked model helps build what Nir Eyal calls “habit-forming products”.

These products are designed to drive user engagement.

How?

They create a user experience which encourage users to return and use those products over and over again.

What it is:

The idea behind the framework is that making your users go through the right steps can get to influence their behaviour.

Hooked model - User Experience Framework

If you succeed to make them repeat that loop, they’ll start forming habits—the habit of returning and using your product.

How it works:

The loop based on the Hooked model consists of four components:

(1) Triggers:

External  Triggers are the prompts that get users to your product.

Example of external trigger - Hooked framework

Internal  Triggers are the set of emotions and jobs to be done that your product addresses to encourage them to use your product.

Example of internal trigger - Hooked framework

Both types of triggers should reinforce each other. The External Triggers are designed to leverage existing Internal Triggers.

(2) Action:

To encourage your users to take Action (i.e. a specific behaviour), you must reduce the level of friction. It means making it as easy as possible to perform this action.

This is the core of the B = MAP equation I talked about earlier.

(3) Variable Rewards :

Variable Rewards are about creating anticipations.

This is at the core of building habits.

Let’s break down the two components:

  1. You must find ways to include rewards that are fulfilling, yet leave the user wanting more.
  2. The best is when you make them variable, there’s an element of “nearly-predictable” surprise.

The combination of both generates a high level of anticipation from your users.

An example?

The Instagram News Feed.

The Instagram Feed is a good example of variable reward
The Instagram Feed is a good example of variable reward

The Feed algorithm triggers user engagement over and over again. Every time you refresh the feed, it shows you recent and engaging updates from your friends (variable rewards).

And what’s more likely to make you react than photos of people you know?

Variable Rewards increase the level of dopamine. Users end up being more likely to get excited about performing certain actions, over and over again.

(4) Investment:

Investments are about helping your users turn your product into an asset (i.e. something that gains value as you input more effort and data into it).

Two cognitive phenomenons happen here:

  1. It’s a lock-in tactic. Investments increase the switching cost and make it more likely for your users to return.
  2. There’s a sense of escalation of commitment. The negative impact of switching to another product (loss of the investments of time, effort, and data) reinforces the value of the current behaviour.

You can read more about this framework in Nir Eyal’s book: Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.

3. The 6 Levels of User Experience

Objective:

The 6 Levels of User Experience helps your prioritise your workflow.

(Inspired from the Elements of User Experience.)

What it is:

There’s an optimal order to how you organise what you do to design the user experience of a proposition.

Don’t put the cart before the horse. :O

Indeed, each level of UX is informed by the level above.

The Six Layers of User Experience
The Six Layers of User Experience

If you start working on one level before you’ve figured out the one above, it won’t make sense.

This is what Intercom calls the “dribbblisation of design”:

“Things that look great but don’t work well.”

Indeed, you cannot create a useful and easy-to-use interface if you work on the visual design before you’ve selected what information the user will need to see on it.

How it works:

You must make sure that you are clear on the most abstract level before you ask yourself:

“How do we implement this?”

The use case is clear?

So.. “how do we implement this?”

You create the user journey.

“How do we implement this?”

You need to define what information is needed at this level.

And so on, and so on…

I dive in this topic in more depth in my new book, The Value Mix.

You’ll find more examples and tools that will help you design a better UX for your audience.

4. Prioritising Your UX Design with the Proficiency Scale

Objective:

The Proficiency Scale is a framework that helps you prioritise the information and actions you show to your users based on their level of proficiency.

What it is:

The Proficiency Scale is inspired by Jason Fried’s distinction among three levels of priority:

“Much of the tension in product development and interface design comes from trying to balance the obvious, the easy, and the possible. Figuring out which things go in which bucket is critical to fully understanding how to make something useful.”

To create a great UX, you need to prioritise what you show to your users, where you display the actions and informations.

How it works:

I designed the Proficiency Scale to illustrate that:

The level of proficiency of a user correlates with what needs to be obvious, easy, or only possible.

The Proficiency Scale: A framework to prioritise information in UX design
The Proficiency Scale: A framework to prioritise information in UX design

Let’s dig in:

If your user just started with your product, you should only show them what needs to be obvious.

As your user gains knowledge, he’ll be able to access what’s easy to do.

The last bucket, what’s possible, is for people who have become experts. These possible actions are more difficult to find, “hidden” in menus and shortcuts.

An example of the Proficiency Scale in software

For example, WordPress’s jobs go like this:

Get an idea => Draft a post => Edit => Publish.

The minimal level of proficiency should allow new users to accomplish at least all of these steps.

As educating new users (called “n00bs” here) is costly, WordPress has to make it feel intuitive. They emphasised and made obvious all the actions that you need to get the job of publishing an article done.

The user experience on WordPress when I decided to write a new reflection on Guerric.co.uk
The user experience when I decided to write a new reflection on Guerric.co.uk

In this case, what WordPress needed to make obvious are the following actions: creating a draft, editing the draft, saving the draft, and publishing.

An example of the Proficiency Scale in hardware

Universal remotes are confusing.

The proof:

UX framework: The universal remote - What's obvious and possible
The UX of universal remote puts the emphasis on the wrong buttons

As you can see on the right, all the buttons that only an expert would use are made obvious.

On the right, the Duct tape highlights what should be obvious. The rest should just be easy or possible.

You immediately realise that: when everything is obvious, nothing is obvious. (And the UX gets confusing.)

So what should you do?

Make obvious only the core of what’s necessary to achieve a specific user goal.

5. The Familiarity Test

Objective:

The Familiarity Test is a UX design principle that helps you create a UX that your users will adopt intuitively by reducing the learning curve for your users.

What it is:

Familiarity is the degree to which users recognise elements of the user experience (including the user interface).

“Don’t try to change user behavior dramatically. If you are expecting people to dramatically change the way they do things, it’s not going to happen. Try to make it such that it’s a small change, yet an important one.”

— Sabeer Bhatia, Founder of Hotmail

A familiar UX allows your users to view their interaction with your product or service as natural and intuitive.

How it works:

Familiarity is based on the similarity with the propositions your users have interacted with in the past.

It works because using standardised interfaces reduces the learning curve. Your users can interact with your product without really thinking about how it works. That’s the power of being intuitive.

But it can limit what they can achieve.

Therefore, you need to balance familiarity with user benefits:

How much extra benefit do they get from the unfamiliar elements in your user experience?

An example of the Familiarity Test in hardware:

It’s been proven that the DVORAK keyboard yield a 30% speed improvement compared to a traditional QWERTY one.

The QWERTY keyboard = familiar - The DVORAK keyboard = unfamiliar
The QWERTY keyboard = familiar – The DVORAK keyboard = unfamiliar

But for the majority of users, DVORAK is not familiar enough to justify the extra benefit.

Interested in the topic?

Get my new book, The Value Mix. There, you’ll find more examples and tools that help you design a better UX for your audience.

The 4 Ms of Marketing: How to Set the Right Marketing Strategy

Unfortunately, the Marketing Mix has become has-been.

Marketing means more today…

As you know, the 4 Ps aimed to help define:

  1. what a company offers — product and price;
  2. and how it does this — place and promotion.

But in 2019, marketing needs a better definition.

Definition of marketing (4 M's)

In this article, you’ll learn a better alternative that will help you organise your marketing strategy.

The 4 Ms of Today’s Marketing Mix

This new marketing mix fits in 4 Ms.

It focuses on:

  1. who your customers are and what you are offering to them – market and merchandise;
  2. and how you entice them to buy from you – message and media.

Marketing is the bridge between the organisation and its customers–a relationship that leads to providing a business with cash flow.

The 4 M's of the Marketing Mix (Framework)
A new framework: The 4 M’s of the Marketing Mix

Defining what marketing stands for in 2019 isn’t an abstract issue.

The way a company defines marketing shapes how it organises its marketing. This is crucial if you want to build a strong brand and a successful marketing strategy.

Following the success of this article, I published The Value Mix. This new book helps you create successful propositions with a practical alternative to the marketing mix.

Get the book here.

So let’s define today’s marketing mix using the 4 Ms of the marketing mix (I added one as a bonus).

Digging into the 4 Ms of Today’s Marketing Mix

Two major things have changed since the inception of the 4 Ps:

  • First, the scope of marketing is much broader. It doesn’t only encompass products but also ideas, movements, experiences…
  • Second, marketing strategy has switched from a linear approach to an experimental, iterative approach. Real data is now available to support marketing decisions and refine them over time.

Here’s how you can take these shifts into account.

1. Market

The first step of developing a successful business strategy is to understand who your customers are.

Defining and understanding the market first helps you avoid the pitfalls of marketing myopia, a term coined in 1960 by Theodore Levitt, the then editor of Harvard Business Review. Businesses that focus on selling products rather than serving their customers limit the scope of their market.

Marketing myopia definition

Customer-oriented businesses work on helping customers achieve what they want to do and don’t limit the market to a certain category of products.

Gaining insight into your market means identifying who your customers are and empathising with what they want to achieve. It requires you to understand their problems.

You can’t limit yourself to segmenting the market based on demographics. There is, of course, some correlation in the way 30-to-45-year-old men tend to live their lives. But it’s not enough. Demographics is a shortcut to segmenting the market but it gives little insight.

There isn’t such a thing as “millennials”

GoPro doesn’t focus on selling cameras to people in their twenties and thirties–the so-called “millennials”. Its focus is to help people record the cool things they do, including extreme sports. It’s easier for GoPro to sell its HERO5 camera to passionate surfers and skiers than for it to attempt to identify who the “millennials” really are.

Three major benefits of using your market as a starting point for your marketing strategy are as follows:

(1) The size of the market is not limited to a product category;
(2) It reduces the risk of missing what your market really wants and needs;
(3) It makes it easier to understand how to sell your merchandise and build relationships with your market.

Here’s a practical way of approaching this: Some smart companies narrow down the scope of their market. They target what they call a Minimum Viable Audience. The objective is to make sure they offer something meaningful for their market!

Implementing:

What if you decided to focus your marketing on a very narrow audience? Who would serve in priority?

2. Merchandise

Marketing goes beyond the concept of products.

As marketers, we’ve changed our thinking from the physical object that is being sold to the overall experience that we offer to our customers.

This is why marketers often refer to “product and services” but marketing also applies to ideas, movements, jobs, cities, countries, and even individuals.

Tailoring the right value proposition for your merchandise requires you to understand the market very well. You gain insight thanks to business experimentation–an iterative process of running insightful market research and observing how your market reacts to different versions of your merchandise.

Building it for them

Focusing on a well-defined market helped me write The Value Mix.

I realised that many product managers and entrepreneurs I knew were struggling to bring market research all together with their product strategy. They needed a framework to help them understand what their market wants and build the right product for them.

This led me to write a book that helps them do that. But that wasn’t it. To make sure this was the right book for them, I constantly iterated.

Process to lean publish a book

I published a first draft that I sent to a few friends. Their feedback helped me tailor a better version that I published on Leanpub.

It felt like writing software.

The platform has allowed me to release several versions of The Value Mix. Based on the comments I received, I could adapt the book to make sure it’s all relevant for my readers.

Experimenting with your product strategy

Tesla has mastered the iterative process of constantly testing and improving its merchandise. Every now and then, the electric carmaker updates its software to add new features to the car. It has also recently leveraged the power of crowdfunding, another way to engage its market and experiment with coming merchandises. Hundreds of thousands of Tesla Model 3 were pre-ordered, a great way for Tesla to evaluate the demand for its new car before producing any.

The merchandise is what marketers tailor and offer to create a set of experiences for their customers.

Implementing:

What if you created a series of experiment to test that you have the right value proposition or marketing campaign?

3. Message

Your message is what you tell your market so they can tell themselves a consistent story about your merchandise.

(More here about how to find the seeds for building a great story for your brand.)

There’s a natural misalignment between the story you tell and the one people tell themselves. They only get a portion of your message. Nobody has enough time and energy to know the whole story, so they make up things with the portion they know. As a result, your message needs to be very simple and consistent across all media.

Think about it.

How much do you really know about, for example, Amazon, Apple, or Samsung? Probably just enough to tell yourself a story that makes sense and convinces you to buy from them.

So your marketing strategy needs a simple and memorable message.

Implementing:

What if you could only describe your brand or value proposition in two sentences? What would you say?

4. Media (and 5. MarTech)

Many companies fall into the trap of wanting to be everywhere. But this dilutes the ability to reach the market effectively.

Choosing the right media depends on four elements: who is in your market, what is your merchandise, what message you are sharing, and what do your competitors already do?

Today’s analytics tools–the so-called Marketing Tech (or MarTech) tools–are essential to figuring out the best way to share your message. Thanks to an experimental approach, your team can find out how to improve your marketing campaigns over time.

The key is to pick the right marketing channel

Well managed, Google Analytics can tell you exactly how a specific digital marketing campaign drives your sales. You can then experiment to figure out how profitable each channel is. This is how I know for sure that SEO is a more profitable channel than PR for GoudronBlanc.

Having this level of precision helps to make better-informed marketing decisions.

Implementing:

What if you could only pick the most profitable marketing channel for your business? Which one would it be?

For that, you need the right marketing technology

MarTech tools are very useful in the process of gaining insight into the market. But they are also great in terms of competitive intelligence.

For example, a tool like SERanking—one of my favourite SEO tools—allows you to get insights into your competitors’ strategies in display advertising as well as organic (SEO) and paid search (SEM). You can find out the keywords people have used the most to land on your competitors’ website. It’s a handy way to inform your digital marketing strategy and leverage the best media.

Implementing:

What if you could only pick the most profitable marketing channel for your business? Which one would it be?

Implementing the 4 Ms in Your Organisation

A good framework offers guidance.

The four Ms are useful to make sure that you checked all the aspects of what you’re selling and how you’re selling it.

The brands that win succeed to get consistency across the four Ms. This is a matter of how you organise your teams and how you allocate roles to cover all these questions.

Want more practical advice about creating successful products?

Get the Value Mix. You’ll love this book because it helps you create products that make a real difference.

Appendix:

What marketing means in 2019 (a recap)

As marketing guru Tim Ambler explained:

“[The essence of marketing is] the sourcing and harvesting of cash flow.”

This definition is a starting point to how marketing has to be seen today.

Marketing is the bridge between the organisation and its customers–a relationship that leads to providing a business with cash flow.

Notes:

My inspiration for this article comes from Al Ries, the great mind who popularised the concept of positioning. He recently challenged the four P’s, suggesting an alternative framework, the 4 M’s: merchandise, market, media, and message.

This is an interesting idea.

It illustrates how marketing today has a much broader scope than it did in the dark days before digital. But Ries’ framework is missing the modern approach to marketing that tech companies have developed over the last 15 years.

Use Worldviews & Storytelling to Build a Strong Brand Positioning

There’s something that the most successful brands do well:

They leverage existing beliefs to tell stories.

That’s because a person’s way of viewing the world is a major indicator of the decisions they make and the types of stories that resonate with them.

(Some call these beliefs “mindset”. In Positioning, Al Ries used the term “customers’ minds”. In All Marketers Are Liars, Seth Godin used the term “worldview” that I like the most, as the word is self-explanatory.)

As a marketer or innovator, using worldviews to look at your market helps you understand what stories resonate with your target customers, what products and services they consider buying, and why.

(This article has been inspired by my experience growing GoudronBlanc, helping entrepreneurs build businesses, and the great work of Seth Godin and Al Ries).

Let me first dig into what worldviews are.

Then, I’ll explain how you can use worldviews to create products and services that people want, figure out the right positioning strategy, and tell stories that spread.

Of course, these reflections on storytelling and marketing include real-world examples.

What worldviews mean in innovation and marketing

Worldviews are the beliefs, values, and opinions your customers hold about the world.

Marketers use worldviews as an effective way to segment a market and identify opportunities for new products and services.

In many cases, worldviews are a better alternative to demographics. That’s because what people believe to be true can be a more accurate predictor of future behaviours compared to age, gender, or socioeconomic attributes.

To explain how it works, here’s an example from the fashion industry.

Using worldviews to shape the storytelling of a brand

Since 2000, many factors were accelerating the progress of fast fashion in Europe, e.g. the 2008 crisis, the rise of e-commerce, the growth of Zara and Uniqlo, etc.).

A huge part of the market had a specific worldview: people valued buying cheap clothes, often.

In 2011, I started working on creating a fashion brand, GoudronBlanc. Looking at the market, I realised that the “fast fashion” worldview was driving the prices down. It was an arms race among big retailers, i.e. not a good space for a new business.

By doing some insight gathering and using worldviews as a way to segment the market, I found that there was an emerging worldview. And it was great news as people sharing this worldview seemed to be underserved.

This was the “buy less, buy better” worldview.

It appeared that more and more men wanted to buy better quality clothes. They valued quality over quantity and were willing to pay more for having clothes that fit better and last longer.

Then, with more nuances, I spotted that within this worldview, there was a worldview of men who thought it was cool to wear T-shirts at the office.

I was getting close to something interesting to tell a story that would resonate.

The insight was the inspiration that led to the creation of GoudronBlanc. It helped me tell the right story to my target customers. In 2012, we launched with a range of high quality T-shirts that men love wearing at the office.

The story we tell, the product, and the customer experience are all tailored in a way that fits the worldview we want to target.

Looking at demographics to segment the market would never have got me there. When you analyse sales now, there is very little correlation between any demographic variables and who buys GoudronBlanc T-shirts. But what most of them share is the same worldview.

It should be clearer now:

Worldviews can help you spot opportunities, create the right product/service, and tell a story that will resonate with the people you want to serve. It is the strong foundation of a good positioning strategy.

And for that, you need to target resonating worldviews.

What are resonating worldviews?

Worldviews can be a powerful storytelling tool for businesses. To be useful, worldviews need to help you achieve one thing:

They should encourage your ideas and stories to spread at an affordable cost.

“Marketing succeeds when enough people with similar worldviews come together in a way that allows marketers to reach them cost-effectively.”

– Seth Godin, All Marketers Are Liars

A resonating worldview is a belief, value, or opinion that:

  • already exists (it’s expensive and very risky to create worldviews from scratch);
  • enough people share (big enough target segment in the market);
  • shared by people who talk to each other (a tribe);
  • is growing (it spreads among the population).

1. An existing worldview

The smartest business people avoid falling fall into the trap of trying to change people’s worldviews.

“People don’t want to change their worldview. They like it, they embrace it, and they want it to be reinforced.”

– Seth Godin, All Marketers Are Liars

Successful businesses rarely create new trends.

Instead, they surf on the wave and encourage the worldview to grow.

You can observe a similar process again and again. The founders get some insight that uncovers an emerging worldview. Then, they create something and tell a story that are likely to fit this particular worldview. They experiment their way into fitting this worldview (i.e. getting to product/market fit). And when they feel there’s enough traction, they start growing the worldview faster.

“There’s a common idea that in some way fashion designers get together in a room and decide what the fashion will be next year. That’s a pretty fundamental misunderstanding. Rather, they propose what might fit the zeitgeist.

Sometimes that’s incremental and sometimes it’s a radical break – sometimes the pendulum needs to swing from one extreme to another. Sometimes they get it wrong, but when they get it right it captures an age.”

– Ben Evans, Fashion, Maslow, and Facebook’s control of social

Here’s a common mistake:

We often think that a business created a totally new worldview from scratch. Most of the time, we missed the fact that they started with a small, emerging worldview small and progressively grew this worldview.

It is much easier to build a product or service based on what some people already believe and value.

2. Enough people…

This is common sense: if you want to grow a business, you need a big enough market.

The question “what is big enough?” depends on your ambitions, your business model, what your investors are expecting…

3. …but small enough: a tribe

The key part here is small enough.

It is appealing to please everyone. But a startup needs to focus on a tight community of early adopters, i.e. a tribe.

In marketing, a tribe is group of people who are linked by shared beliefs, a worldview. These are people who do yoga, cycle to work, do indoor climbing, follow a paleo diet… and will tell you everything about how they embrace their worldviews.

They frequently talk to each other (online or offline) and share stories and ideas about their lifestyles and worldviews.

This is particularly powerful!

A tribe will make it so much easier to spread the stories of your product or service.

4. A growing worldview

Another obvious one.

Useful worldviews are the ones that can spread within the market. And this is where your company can help.

Yoga was already a thing when Lululemon started in 1998. But not as much as it is now.

They jumped on this emerging worldview and accelerated its growth. They were hosting free yoga classes, helped people find studios where they live, sponsored trainers… This led Lululemon to sell for $1.79 billion of yoga-specific clothes and accessories in 2015.

It is important to spot an existing worldview with good potential for growth, though it’s tricky to be able to assess how big it can become.

The difficulty is that there’s limited data on emerging worldviews. Spotting them requires to identify patterns and nuances in your insight. It can be very tricky.

5. One last thing, actually…

Useful worldviews almost always exclude part of the market.

This is the by-product of targeting a tribe.

Different segments of customers have different worldviews. And, most of the time, they are polarising.

Think about McDonald’s:

  • For some people, McDonald’s means Happy Meal, Big Mac, and nice moments with friends or family;
  • For others, McDonald’s means saturated fat, too much carbs, and junk food.

Of course, this is a simplified view of the market. But here’s the question:

If you were running McDonald’s, would you try to please both worldviews?

How worldviews fit with storytelling

Here’s what my poorly-drawn schema explains.

Get good insight

Gathering insight helps you spot the worldviews that sit in your market. Some are obvious. But most emerging worldviews come from nuances spotted in qualitative and quantitative data.

A worldview becomes the platform on which you build your positioning strategy.

Tell the right story

And you communicate your positioning strategy by telling the stories that fit the worldview you want to target.

This is through your stories and customer experience that you position your value proposition in the minds of your customers.

GoPro used stories to position its camera

I mentioned GoPro in this reflection about the new 4 Ps of marketing.

That’s because GoPro is a great example of a brand that was positioned using stories that resonated with a growing worldview.

GoPro doesn’t target 20-to-30-year-old men. Age isn’t a meaningful way of segmenting their market. Instead, the brand focuses on a worldview that perceives extreme sports, as a means to personal achievement.

And GoPro addresses this worldview using stories.

As a result, men of all age resonate with the way GoPro frames its stories. When they watch a GoPro video on YouTube, they feel like the video was made for them.

But it goes beyond. Since extreme sport practitioners are a tribe, they are all connected online (forums, YouTube…) and in real life. So when they practice their favourite sports together, it makes it very easy for the “GoPro story” to spread.

The example I just described isn’t a magic formula. It’s an example that aims at illustrating what I’ve explained. And I hope that it will also inspire your work.

So what’s the next step for you?

It can be difficult to leverage worldviews to create the right value proposition, and define your storytelling and marketing strategy.

So here’s what you can start doing:

While you are gathering insight, you can try to spot the worldviews that sit in your market. There are useful questions you can ask yourself:

  • What do our potential customers strongly believe to be true?
  • What do they value? What seems to be irrational?
  • How do people perceive the world today?
  • Which are the beliefs that contrast with the rest of the market?
  • Have we heard or seen something surprising or unusual?

Answering these questions should lead you to a better understanding of your market. It will make it easier to create a product that really fits what people want and tell stories that will resonate with them.

And don’t forget

Worlview is a tool.

Spotting emerging worldviews isn’t a necessary phase of the innovation process. But it can be a very useful one.

Not every success story was built on a worldview, though many have been.

There many cases in which successful businesses took the following path:

  1. They identify a tribe who shares an existing worldview.
  2. They create a product or service and tell a story that is likely fit this worldview.
  3. They iterate until it really fits the worldview.
  4. Then, once they reached product/market fit, they focus on growing this worldview.

So what is the worldview that you are targeting? What story are you telling your target customers?

Run Better Customer Interviews: Never Ask These 3 Questions

“What do our customers really want?” That’s what you want to find out.

But are you asking the right questions?

Some questions should never be asked. Never.

1. Do you think this is a good idea?

2. Would you buy this?

3. How much would you pay for this?

Why Are These Questions Bad Market Research?

There are many reasons asking these three questions won’t help you.

  1. Your customers can’t predict in the abstract if they will buy a new product, in the future
  2. The chances are they are polite people. Are you sure they’re not telling you what you want to hear?
  3. Your customers don’t make the same decisions when they’re peacefully browsing the Web on their sofa as when they are with you.
  4. They aren’t making any trade-off (money, time, reputation) when they answer your question. They’re not bound by their decisions. But this is what happens when they make choices in real life.

These reasons are all linked to one principle:

It is so far removed from the real world.

You can’t delegate market research to your customers. Asking for their opinion means that you are trying to make them do your job.

As innovators, we are investigators. We have to decide whether our ideas are good. We have to answer ourselves the questions: “Will they buy it?” “How much will they pay for it?”

Let’s avoid lazy market research. We want reliable customer insight.

What shall you do?

Observe their buying behaviour. Test the product in the real world. Learn from what happened. Improve the business model. Repeat…

[For a good customer interview method, I highly recommend Rob Fitzpatrick’s book: The Mom Test]