Eating Your Own Content Dog Food

When was the last time you visited your website and read your product’s or service’s content?

I’m not talking about a quick skim to be sure the page loaded. I’m talking about a deep dive, grab a cup of tea or coffee and read what you’ve written – read what your prospects are reading?

Here are a few quick questions to ask (and answer) that can have a material impact on your site’s usability – and your conversion rates:

  1. Is this content still relevant?

  1. Does this content reflect the objectives of your product or service today?

    • Or, is this content reflective of where your product or service was?
  1. Is this content written in a way that your prospects can understand?

    • Or, is this content written in internal language that makes sense to you?
  1. Could someone copy and paste a description of your product or service from your site to send to a co-worker (someone who will help influence a buy decision or make a buy decision) and that co-worker would be immediately capable of asking second level questions?

The adage about eating your own dog food applies far too frequently to using one’s products and/or services. This also needs to apply to the consumption of your content – which is equally important.

Total Time: 20-25 minutes.  //  Frequency: Monthly


The 5 Customer Practice

A quick and extremely insightful exercise to improve customer satisfaction and keep your fingers on the pulse of your product’s or service’s value.

  1. Search through your help desk or CRM app for the past 30 days to identify the most consistently reported issue with your product or service.

  1. Note five (5) customers who contacted you about the issue. Note their contact information including company and title.

    • If there are multiple customers to choose from, select from different companies, titles and geographies to get as wide a cross section as possible.
  1. Call each of the these five (5) customers and speak with them about the issue for 5-10 minutes. Specifically ask them:

    • How they came about the issue?
    • How were they able to resolve and/or work around the issue before calling support?
    • How do they feel about the issue now that it has been resolved?
    • How do they feel about the product or service? How do they feel about your company?
    • Is there anything else they feel you should know about your product or service.
    • Thank them for their time.
  1. Share your call notes with your product manager or client relationship manager and the support team.

    • This should be a simple standup meeting with the sole objective of bringing all key parties to the same page relative to your customer’s satisfaction with your product or service.
    • Any additional discussions, meetings, product or project requirements, etc. can be defined in break-out sessions with smaller, more focused teams.

In the course of these conversations you’re going to accomplish many things including, but not limited to:

  • Developing a direct understanding of your customer’s most pressing issues – in their words;

  • Developing trust with your customers that they should be confident in calling support with issues. Your customers now know someone (multiple people, really) are paying very close attention to how well their products and/or services work;

  • Improving lines of communication with your most important assets – your customers;

Practice Total Time: 60 – 75 minutes.  //  Frequency: Monthly

Successful Products & Services Do One Thing

What have you learned today?

Me? A successful product or service does one thing.

Asking my son’s a similar question after their first day of school on Wednesday, I felt it might be appropriate to begin asking this of myself – and to note the answers. Perhaps just for posterity … Perhaps because they will make more sense over time … Perhaps, well, just because.

So, what did I learn?

I learned that a successful product or service does one thing. That’s it. Just one thing.

This isn’t a net new learning. Rather, this is knowledge that has been continually reinforced on a daily basis. For a number of reasons – yesterday was a really strong and positive reinforcement of this lesson.

What makes the web and ultimately mobile so unique is that the ability to connect dozens (or hundreds) of “just one thing” products is easily within our grasp. This enables the “best of the best” to serve their role while ancillary noise can be eliminated.

The ability to use APIs, plugins, etc. to connect these focused products is one of the most powerful aspects of the web and mobile today. The simple example of this is login – use your FB or Google login to access other services. This empowers the product team to “skip” the login and authentication step and focus their efforts on the core feature of the product or service … what will make it “must use” again and again.

In theory, this model of API-based application design should create significantly stronger applications as the ability to focus on core capabilities is unimpeded. In practice, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Sitting on my desktop right now are (literally) hundreds of screenshots for a client’s project. Each image illustrates just one of a dizzying number of states the platform will present to and manage for customers. The depth and complexity of the features and functions is astounding. The time, attention to detail, everything that has gone into this platform has focused on addressing every conceivable state the customer may encounter. Very few I’s are left undotted or T’s uncrossed.

The depth of functionality is quite literally exhaustive.

As I’m working through the details on this complex product, I reflected back on the almost dozen products that I’ve helped clients launch this year … and they all have one thing in common – Incredible complexity.

Obviously this isn’t a unique state.

I tend to be introspective in these areas so I had to stop myself and ask a very difficult question, “Am I the cause of this complexity?”

This type of introspection isn’t easy – and it wasn’t easy this time.

Looking back at where each of this year’s projects began (at concept) and ended (at launch), it was clear that the complexity of vision and execution arrived before I did. Thankfully, the end product / service has become significantly more concise at launch than at concept.

This should hold true, I guess. We’ve all heard the axiom, “I’m sorry I have written such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write a short one.” We’ve also all been faced with the prospect of doing something simple and ending up with pages and pages of stuff. Being precise and focused takes a considerable amount of time – time that most early stage organizations (and products) don’t have the luxury of wasting.

Instead of investing time in more, invest the same amount of time in less – if not in significantly less. The rewards of less will far outweigh the benefits of more – in the eyes of your customers, partners, employees and investors / shareholders.

… and now back to the product pruning shears …

An Introduction to Believe

Last week with the second installment in the learn . know . believe series I hit with a post on know. The basis of know is quite simple, too – yet equally overlooked in positioning exercises. The purpose of know is to help people understand exactly how your product / service / company will benefit someone like them. The complete post is available here as a reference.

In this final post of this series, we’ll focus on believe.

Following in the footsteps of learn and know, the foundation for believe also begins with a single question,

“What will <product / service / company name> do for me?”

Believe connects the benefits of know directly to the customer – at a truly personal level.

At believe, the customer no longer knows a positive benefit may be achieved. At believe, the customer has experienced your positive benefit(s) and believes the your ability to deliver on your promise(s).

At first pass believe sounds a lot like know. This is true, but the gradient between the two is quite sharp. Customers have to believe a product will meet their initial objective, and/or other nearby objectives. If they know it will meet their objectives, a small hurdle has been cleared as they know many other alternatives may also meet their objectives. If they believe it will meet their objectives, they have instilled in themselves a deep seated knowledge that your product / service has the ability serve them in a way no other alternative can match.

While know represents a satisfied customer, believe is the cornerstone of loyalty – the foundation upon which advocates for your product and your brand base their positions. When a customer believes in your product, they are fully committed to its contributions to their business and/or life. When a customer believes in your product, they are no longer seeking alternatives. When a customer believes in your product, they are taking active steps to introduce their network to the benefits of your product / service.

Beliefs are very difficult things to change. If you can achieve this level of commitment from your customers, you are very likely to have a customer for life.


The Importance of Attention to Detail


Earlier today I came across Ascari Bicycles. Located in Portland, Oregon, Ascari (@AscariBicycles) makes some of the most unique and beautiful classically designed bikes I’ve ever seen.

The attention to detail, the succinct nature of the design and a painfully clear desire to create completely unique riding and ownership experiences sets Ascari far apart from the norm.

The commitment of the product, the strength of the brand and the unmistakable commitment to quality pour off of the site.

It’s always worthwhile to remember what deep pride in manufacturing can deliver.