“Great listeners never run out of (blog) ideas!” Marcus Sheridan, The Sales Lion
I really don’t like complainers but, those who follow the iPhone story have discovered that listening to complaints/concerns/problems is a great way to find solutions!
Farhad Manjoo’s It Smelled Something like Pizza story on Slate on the invention of the iPhone suggests associations can find opportunities among the complainers. Here are some key points from Manjoo’s story:
- “The iPhone began not with a vision but with a problem,” Mr. Manjoo writes. “By 2005, the iPod had eclipsed the Mac as Apple’s largest source of revenue, but the music player that rescued Apple from the brink now faced a looming threat: The cellphone. Everyone carried a phone, and if phone companies figured out a way to make playing music easy and fun, “that could render the iPod unnecessary,” Steve Jobs said once.
- Fortunately for Apple, most phones on the market sucked. Jobs and other Apple executives would grouse about their phones all the time. The simplest phones didn’t do much other than make calls, and the more functions you added to phones, the more complicated they were to use. In particular, phones “weren't any good as entertainment devices,” Phil Schiller, Apple’s longtime marketing chief, testified during the company’s patent trial with Samsung.
- Yet Apple’s inner circle knew that one day, a phone maker would solve the interface problem, creating a universal device that could make calls, play music and videos, and do everything else – a device that would eat the iPod’s lunch. Apple’s only chance at staving off that future was to invent the iPod killer itself. More than this simple business calculation, though, Apple’s brass saw the phone as an opportunity for real innovation.
In their book Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne outlined an opportunity algorithm designed to help businesses and associations identify high-priority opportunities.
I used it for one association client and it works! This association – which focused on education about the profession – discovered huge opportunities not in providing services on how members could do their jobs better but in how members could run their businesses better.
The Blue Ocean strategy suggests that we (associations and businesses) identify opportunities in areas that don’t have nearly as much competition as what they call “red oceans.”
- Before opportunities can be addressed, they must be discovered.
- Before opportunities can be discovered, they must be defined.
- Opportunity is an outcome, job or constraint that is important and unsatisfied given products/services available.
- Identify job functions within your industry or profession.
- Determine the importance of that function.
- Discover how satisfied your members/prospects are regarding current products/services currently available for this function.
- Understand that the best opportunities for a “hit” product or service come from very important functions that have only satisfactory solutions.
- Prepare a questionnaire that lists all the jobs, outcomes and constraint statements captured from members (and/or prospects) about their work.
- Administer the survey to a statistically valid sample of the target … probably 180 to 600 people.
- Ask participants to rate the importance of all jobs, outcomes & constraints (1-5 scale, where 5 highest).
- Ask participants to rate the degree of satisfaction with current products / services (1-5 scale, 5 = highest).
Importance + (Importance - Satisfaction) = Opportunity
They shared these examples of desired outcomes for circular saws:
The higher the opportunity score, the better the possibilities for success.
Note that #3 was ranked higher in importance but had a higher satisfaction score ... thus, it represents less opportunity because prospects are already satisfied with currently available products and services for this function.
If you want a copy of my spreadsheet for one association, please request it (along with your email) in the comments section.