Archive for: January, 2011

Laser focused products are more emotional

steve jobs

This post isn’t about Steve Jobs, it’s about emotion and how to create it with your product.

When I was a kid I would spend endless hours reading magazines at supermarkets or bookstores. From PC Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Game Pro, National Geographic, Road & Track, SLAM, you name it. At one point I had subscriptions to 15 different magazines that I got in the mail, my mom wasn’t too happy about it. And she also wasn’t happy because I kept them all well after I read them.

Out of all the magazines I read, the one’s I look more forward to reading were the ones about cars. I just loved (and still do) reading Road & Track’s car reviews because of how they described their car experience, I can still remember some of the words used in the review of the McLaren F1.

Words like: ‘staggering power’ when pushing the accelerator, ‘stratospheric’ when talking about horsepower, ‘opera-esque’ when describing the sound of the engine, ‘astonishing’ when describing the car…you get the picture. So what’s the big deal? Well the fact that I’m telling you about it today and remember it is telling. Emotions are hard to forget and even though I’ve never driven these cars, the vivid descriptions make me feel as though I almost did.

I know what you’re thinking, we already know benefits trump features. Yup, but how?


Jeremy Clarkson, host and source of Top Gear, is a like a little kid when talking about cars. It’s all emotion. Even if you aren’t a car fanatic you’ll love them after hearing Clarkson, just like in the video below where he drives the Ferrari Enzo. Tell me it doesn’t get your blood moving?

Did you notice how he mentions the word ‘focus’ to the describe how the car’s interior doesn’t distract you from driving? If you own and iPod, iPhone or iPad then you know what I mean. Steve Jobs is the master at creating emotions for Apple products. He makes it sound so genuine because his products satisfy him. So when he gives a keynote speech, he’s like a little kid talking to you about his new toy. Emotional!

Google did the same thing with Chrome. It’s laser focused on enabling us to browse the web faster. The user interface has only what’s necessary to browse and it makes you almost feel like the browser isn’t even there. That’s focus!

Another example I’ll give you to chew on is how Super Bike Magazine describes how the new Kawasaki ZX-10R ‘Ninja’ makes it’s driver feel: confident. Confident that you can get the best lap times and win the race. That’s what they really care about.

And with that last paragraph I get to the intent of this post: Focused products are more emotional. People don’t care about your products features, they care about what it does for them. And the way to do that is by making your product laser focused on satisfying that job.

In the Enzo’s case the job is driving, in the iPod’s case it’s carrying all your music in your pocket. They eliminated all the things that can ‘distract’ from satisfying that job.

Thoughts? Do you think products that are laser focused on satisfying a specific job more emotional?

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Innovation posts of the week: How to bring innovations to market

Use constraints to fuel your creativity

Quickly, think of as many white things as you can in ten seconds.  Now think of white things in your kitchen.  Did the more constrained prompt spark more ideas? Yes.

Recent research on the best approach to creating novel things says that the number one key to innovation is scarcity. In other words, constraints help you focus on what matters.

Apple knows that embracing constraints helps them focus on what matters. Google is popular for using constraints to fuel their design and development process which have resulted in ‘perceived innovations’ in user experience. The ever popular 37 Signals, maker of online business management apps, pretty much runs their business on constraints.

So, how does placing constraints to fuel creativity look like?

Unconventional marketing strategy starts with ‘what not to-be’

The element of surprise is the ultimate equalizer. Remember that? Here’s another clue, check it out…

I was reading 99 Percent’s interview with the founder of Slice Perfect, Miki Agrawal, an unorthodox pizzeria in NY. The interview is all about how he ‘surprised himself’ but the last question (about their marketing strategy) reveals an interesting answer:

It’s about being unorthodox, it’s about how you stand out. When you think about branding, you have to think about every touch point of a business. You can’t just change the ingredients because that’s not enough. You have to change the packaging, the marketing materials, the web experience. Everything has to change to create an impactful experience.

So we try to NOT look like a pizza place, but still have that familiar feeling. Our packaging is long, rectangular boxes; we serve the piece in four bite-sized pieces on a sushi plate. It’s a neat and clean, pristine experience; it’s not like you’re picking up this giant pizza slice. It slows down your eating. You’re not shoveling something into your mouth. You allow your stomach to catch up to your brain. It also promotes sharing. I can order a different pizza from you, and we can share.

So those are three differentiating elements: it’s neater and cleaner, it slows down eating, and it promotes sharing. So it’s a different experience.

Bingo! Meaningful difference is what I got from that answer. Anybody who hears that will ‘get it’ right away. What’s also awesome, is the way he puts it: We try NOT to look like a pizza place. That’s a good way to ‘surprise yourself’ and shatter expectations.

Want to do the same?

Every business wants to offer a great customer experience — but what exactly does “customer experience refer to? And why is it so important?

Many businesses think that if you offer a good product at a reasonable price, you’ve done enough to please the customer. But that’s not the case. A business must consider many elements of the overall customer experience in order to ensure customer satisfaction.

The key to customer retention is the customer experience, so let’s dive into what that means and how to make it work for you.

Overview: What is the customer experience?

The term “customer experience” refers to the entire journey a customer has with your company, from interacting with your sales team to experiencing the product to working out issues with customer support — and, hopefully, buying from you again.

A complete customer experience is vital for a business, as even if a company succeeds at one element — i.e., a great product — the customer may still end up dissatisfied if, say, they have a negative experience with customer support.

In order for a company to be successful, leadership must work on the totality of the customer experience rather than focus on individual elements.

Customer experience vs. customer service: What’s the difference?

Customer experience differs from customer service in that the former covers a much broader part of a company’s interaction with the customer, whereas customer service only deals with one aspect of it — the human-to-human interaction between the customer and customer service professionals.

Customer service is an important part of the customer experience, but it is only one element, and you need all elements working together to create a satisfying customer experience.

3 benefits of delivering a great customer experience

Improving your customer’s experience will provide many benefits to your company, but three benefits in particular will have a significant impact.

1. More sales

The first benefit is obvious: Create a great customer experience, and your customers will reward you by buying more products and referring you to their friends and family. A great customer experience results in good word of mouth, which is one of the most powerful marketing forces — and arguably the hardest to master.

2. Lower marketing costs

When customers love you, they do a lot of your marketing work with the help of websites using Shopify for you. Some companies rely entirely on word of mouth for sales, and that saves a lot of money in the marketing budget. If you’re in search for affordable marketing services, sites like are definitely worth a visit.

You won’t have to blanket media with expensive advertising campaigns if customers are flocking to you because of the great experience you offer.

3. A loyal customer base

Companies with a loyal customer base have a more stable income stream and aren’t as beholden to the roller coaster of the market, fluctuating ad rates, and other outside forces that impact your bottom line.

A company with a great customer experience has a steady, reliable business model that can weather just about any storm thanks to customers that have their backs.

Strategies to improve the customer experience

But how do you go about improving the customer experience? It’s not just about working on your team’s customer service skills — it’s an involved process, and one that takes time if you do it right. However, the results are well worth it. Implement these strategies to maximize your results, get the best results by working with a professional user research company.

1. Create customer profiles

You can’t create a good customer experience unless you know your customers’ needs. And the best way to understand your customers is to meet with your team and brainstorm some customer profiles.

A customer profile is essentially how you would describe a certain type of customer. Draw up a description of the customer, describing qualities such as typical age, job title, income, interests, and anything else you find relevant.

Give the customer profile a name, like “Joe” or “Maria.” That way, you can easily refer to the customer type in meetings by simply mentioning their name. Your customer experience strategy should include at least two or three customer profiles.

Tip: Keep your customer profiles narrowly focused. Customer profiles that are too broad have little value and won’t allow you to create the tailored experience your customers crave. And if that means you have to create a dozen customer profiles, maybe your business has too broad of a focus overall.

2. Draw up a customer journey

Ask yourself, “If I were this customer, what would my ideal customer experience be like from start to finish?” Then draw up this journey for each of your customer profiles. Outline each step in the customer journey, from encountering an ad to purchasing to enjoying the product. Describe how each step ideally plays out.

How you visualize this customer journey is up to you. It could be a spreadsheet that describes what the customer is thinking and what action they might take — and how you want to change it — or it could be a flowchart of some sort.

Tip: Crowdsource the customer journey with your staff. Get all stakeholders to weigh in. They may notice things you do not, such as a desired customer interaction with the sales team you weren’t aware of.

3. Reward loyalty

A loyalty or rewards program may seem expensive, but it’s a lot cheaper than a marketing program to find new leads and convert them into paying customers. And it doesn’t always have to be a discount — you can reward customers in other ways, like offering extra features or exclusives.

It all comes down to understanding your customer and what they value — this is where your customer profiles come in handy. What kind of extra value could you offer to your customers that they would appreciate? If you know the answer, you’ll keep your customers coming back.

Tip: Narrowly tailor your rewards program to your best customers rather than showering your entire customer base with goodies. The point is to encourage loyalty rather than try to bribe everyone.

Here’s an exercise for you:

  • Write ‘let’s try NOT to be like <insert your category here>’ on the biggest whiteboard in your office where everyone in your organization can see it.
  • Next, let everyone know that you have a mission today to shake things up, tell them about how the message on the whiteboard will help you do that.
  • Next, invite your peers to contribute ideas on all the possible ways you can be the opposite of your category. Some people will laugh, others may already have some ideas hidden somewhere in their brains. You can collect these ideas by email, on an internal wiki, internal blog or pieces of papers. What matters is that you do it.
  • Once done, collect all these ideas and have a few people help you cluster them around ‘themes’ and put them where everyone can see.
  • Next, it’s show time! Via votes (number of ‘likes’) decide which ideas are ‘meaningful’ and ‘doable’. It’s important that you get the list down to only a few things that really ‘make a difference’, this will be tricky but very important.
  • Next, it’s time to action plan your ideas.

I know this is a fairly simplistic list, the intent is not to make it an activity so complex that people will lose interest. Remember, you’re asking people to get uncomfortable!


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For innovation: Be a fan of your co-workers


An environment of .

Frankly this is not a huge insight because human relationships live off trust. If you want to bring out the best in others you have to trust them and them you. If you don’t trust others and aren’t trusted then forget about it. That simple!

Just like communicating with your spouse or husband breeds openness and trust, a healthy relationship, why should it be any different within organizations?

I bring this up because I see a lot of businesses (new and old) where it seems nobody in the organization likes each other (more on this on another post). Not to mention trust each other. While we may be talking a storm about how innovation is about learning to cope with uncertainty, I think we sometimes forget that for this to happen trusting each other first.

How do you begin creating trust with your co-workers?

Be a fan of your co-workers

There are people whom you work with that you get along with better than others and that’s ok because you have common interests and ways of thinking. The real challenge is to get along with others who are not like you because they are the ones who WILL force you to be better by challenging you to get out of your comfort zone. To do this you have to understand that everyone has something to offer and you need to find out what that is.

Basically it comes down to:

  • Finding out what they like, that will then lead to knowing what they’re good at.
  • Doing what they like with them.

Sounds simple and it does take work for many but…

If you’ve been in a relationship then you know that doing stuff with your partner brings out the best in them because you’re doing stuff that makes them happy. That creates bonding which leads to trust. You become fans of each other and want nothing but the best for each. When this happens everything you do tastes, feels and looks different. And it’s all because of that trust.

The same thing happens with your co-workers. They’re human too!

You can’t buy trust, you have to work for it.

UPDATE: Here’s John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, on how to take trust from ideal to real:

John Mackey: How do you take trust from ideal to real?

With that said I’m a BIG fan of my friend and biz partner, Christian Laborin. Dude loves to draw and he’s pretty damn good at it too. I keep telling him he should be working at Pixar!

Here are some of my favorite drawings by him:

fighting fetus

MJ jelly



P.S. This is no shameful pug for my pal, this is actually the first time I’ve put any of his work on this blog. Maybe I should’ve done it before Smile

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Innovation posts of the week: Are you an innovator?

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Surprise yourself

After hemming and hawing for ages, I’ve finally decided to get a haircut. You can do it yourself too when you purchase tools such as Jaguar Hairdressing Scissors.

I’ve been growing my hair out since last year—I wanted to have Rapunzel-length locks for my wedding. But I’ve been a Mrs. for a few months, now. It’s high time for a new look. Only thing is…I’m torn between three very different dos. Care to weigh in? A great example of textured weave are these clip in hair extensions for black hair.

You guys were such sweethearts when Joanna needed help choosing a new look, I was hoping you could offer me some advice too. Pretty, please?

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Here’s what my hair looks like now. I’m iffy about the length and there really is no shape to it. Boring!

I usually tell Chris when I’m getting a haircut, but I rarely divulge the style I’m going for. I love seeing the surprised look on his face when I first show off my new tresses. However, this time around, I can’t make up my mind. I love these three looks and I can’t decide which would look best.

Image may contain Clothing Apparel Human Person Sunglasses Accessories Accessory Dress Female and Robe

This shoulder-length look January Jones is rocking is divine. Bonus: it looks super low-maintence and I’d get to keep most of my length.

Image may contain Hair Human Person Jessica Alba Face Haircut and Black Hair

Jessica Alba’s short style looks so fun and flirty; I adore her bangs, don’t you?

Image may contain Carey Mulligan Ginnifer Goodwin Face Human Person Hair and Haircut

I’ve been jonesing for a pixie cut for eons. Imagine how good this will look while wearing a prom dress with long sleeves. Aren’t Carrie Mulligan and Ginnifer Goodwin romantically chic?