Trends and Insights for 2015 and “Minimum Viable Opportunities”

By now it seems everyone and their dog has shared their predictions and observations about the the trends of 2015, so it may seem I’m a little late to the party. But I was holding off because I knew I was scheduled to present on the topic 13 days into the year. That happened yesterday — I was the keynote speaker at the Franchise Business Network annual kickoff meeting — so I can break my silence, such as it is. Anyway, I spoke about the major trends affecting business that I see taking shape, particularly around data and technology, heading into 2015. And today, before we get any further into the year, I thought I’d share some of what I presented last night with readers here.

slide from 2015 Trends talk
slide from 2015 Trends talk – meaningful patterns

Bear in mind that this audience was primarily franchisers and franchisees, along with service providers to those businesses, and with a healthy sprinkling of high-potential startup founders in the mix. So I introduced the subject by talking about relevance and meaningfulness, and that I had tried to narrow the scope of the talk to those emerging topics that seemed like they could have the most meaningful impact on their businesses this year. I talked about six major trends:

  • Right-sizing big data
  • Ongoing channel shakeup
  • Rental crowding out the ownership model
  • Deeper and blurrier integrations of the ideas of “online” and “offline”
  • Disruption of payments: mobile payments, crypocurrency
  • Evolving ideas of “work,” “team,” and “leader”

I went into more detail for each trend, of course, but more importantly, I tried to summarize each trend with a “minimum viable opportunity,” repurposing the idea from the “minimum viable product” in the Lean Startup methodology. In case you’re not familiar with the notion of an “MVP,” as it’s called, a minimum viable product is a scaled-down first-stage version of your offering that you can produce with minimal resources to validate the overall direction and gain initial customers. My repurposing of the idea is to suggest that for each of these trends, there could be a scaled-down first-stage approach smaller businesses can take to implement them so that they can determine the trend’s potential impact on their business.

For “right-sizing big data,” for example, I said that although big data is not a new concept, it’s something there’s a growing awareness of, and its ongoing and increasing impact on business can’t be overstated. But I suggested that small businesses and startups can sometimes get bigger impact from being strategic with smaller data. So the minimum viable opportunity, perhaps, is to work on building processes that use the customer and marketing data already present in a business effectively before trying to tackle large-scale data mining or analysis projects. As small and growing businesses become more sophisticated about making data-informed decisions, they can potentially tackle more complex data sets to inform those decisions with a greater likelihood of effectiveness.

For “ongoing channel shakeup,” after covering some of the changes in the digital marketing landscape brought on by new advertising opportunities, algorithm changes, and so on, I talked about the opportunity, as I often do, for marketing to start from empathy and an understanding of customers’ motivations in a segmented and meaningful way so that they can craft relevant messages and experiences and test them in relevant channels. It’s increasingly an experience-aware world.

I won’t rehash the entire talk here (although if you’d like to have me come present to your company or organization, please reach out) — I’ll just offer that when you go back and skim the lists and roundups of 2015 trends, you might want to borrow this idea of the “minimum viable opportunity” for your business. What small change could you experiment with that might help shine light on where your next investments need to be? Bring in me or another strategic facilitator if you have to; we can help guide the brainstorming and identification of opportunities. However you approach it, I hope you do it with an intention to learn. Good luck, and may 2015 be full of maximum opportunities for you. Cheers!

How do other people introduce you?

I was meeting with a colleague in a coffee shop yesterday, and as we approached the end of our scheduled time, her next appointment walked up to the table and my colleague introduced us. What she told the other person, in essence, was that I was smart and joyful. I don’t think anyone’s ever distilled me quite that way before, and I was charmed but also intrigued. It’s always entertaining and enlightening to me to observe how people introduce me to new people. I wonder how many different ways my friends and colleagues would describe me. I wonder how much overlap there would be, and what those points of overlap would be.

All this got me thinking, too, about marketing. What about my company? What about your company? How would people describe or introduce your company? How do you suspect your best customers would describe you? How would your most unhappy customers describe you? Where is the overlap?

Depending on how you think about your brand strategy, you might feel comfortable with a degree of uncertainty, ambiguity, and variance in how people describe your company. I have friends who have a business that does very prestigious projects, but whose model is very difficult to explain. I know, because I once tried to explain it to a 13-year-old child of a friend who heard us mention the company, and asked what they do. This was a bright child, but even bright children aren’t overly familiar with abstract business concepts like strategy, engagement, and revenue share. Plenty of adults are unfamiliar with those concepts.

That business thrives on a certain amount of mystique. But most businesses, particularly consumer-facing ones, live or die by how clear their value proposition is to their potential new customers.

Of course there’s always the opportunity to ask your customers directly, and it’s a good idea to do so. But it’s also a good exercise to think about it yourself. Let me know in the comments if you come up with something good.

Column: “Carry what you love and value forward into the new year” at The Tennessean

An excerpt:

The transition from one calendar year to another, with its themes of improvement and renewal, often casts light on the areas where we are not aligned with our purpose and priorities. And while any time is a good time to take steps toward living the life you want to live, the fact that so many people around you are probably asking themselves the big questions makes this time of year particularly well suited to introspection and reflection.

Read the rest at the link:

http://www.tennessean.com/story/money/2015/01/02/carry-love-value-forward-new-year/21123827/