If the Shoes Don’t Fit


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Are you looking at variation the wrong way?

In the Lean and Six Sigma world, we look at variation as something bad, something we need to rid ourselves of. That is the typical promise most process methodologies make to the sales and marketing people. We are going to streamline your sales/marketing funnels and make your processes more effective and efficient. That is what Management, Lean Champions, Black Belts, Marketers and even Salespeople want. Revenue is driven to the bottom line. Can we think of a better way to make life easier and make more money?

However, when we look at only cost effective and efficient solutions, at some point we are so streamlined that we are only dealing in that world of a red ocean. That area of commoditization where price sooner or later becomes the issue. I would venture that there is only one person that abhors that thinking process, the person responsible for growth. Because, the simple fact is that growth is driven by variation. The organizations and people that don’t fit into the present shoe. Cinderella, they are not.

The problem is that good variation is hard to determine. In most marketing funnels, we are narrowing toward the ideal customer or to a point of transaction. We are looking for someone to fit our shoe and become a stronger candidate along the way. I have talked about the Funnel of Opportunity and the way I feel that growth is better served. If we look for example at The 5 Rs of Growth; Resell, Regain, Renew, Refer and Retain we usually have enough work cut out for us to find plenty of opportunities. However, I believe that if you look for variation within those groups, you will find an even greater opportunity for product growth and innovation.

Variation is a funny duck. It resides everywhere. Which if you follow my thinking, means opportunity resides everywhere. However, we have been trained to rid ourselves of variation and as a result opportunity. What if we fed on it? Think of a few of these examples when we look at the variation of customers as a good thing. What might happen?

  • Micro-segment to better address customer needs.
  • Find different ways our product/service are being used
  • Find unexplored markets
  • Find partners/alliances that we did not know we had
  • Find other products/services that will enhance our own

I could venture to say that it is a strength-based approach to marketing. Opportunity is much easier to find and/or discover in people/organizations that you are already familiar with. They have a tendency to share and collaborate, unlike others who feel like you are just trying to sell them something. Not every variation will lead to an opportunity. However, in a past blog post, Deming was just simply wrong about variation…, I said;

If we focus on Demand thinking, we must focus and embrace variation. We must ask ourselves how our customers differ and how their experiences differ. Focusing on these differences and grouping them accordingly offers us a chance to market to a broader spectrum.

A book that I would recommend, Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It, Adrian Slywotzky explains in a 6 Step process how demand creators think.

  1. Make it Magnetic: It’s not the first mover that wins; it’s the first to create and capture the emotional space in the market.
  2. Fix the Hassle Map: Map the hassles and fix them. This will provide a path to potential explosive demand.
  3. Build a Complete Backstory: Till this in place and all the dots connected in the hassle map, demand simple does not happen.
  4. Find the Triggers: Always experiment, always search to turn fence-sitters into customers.
  5. Build a Steep Trajectory: Continuously innovate.
  6. De-Average: Constantly improve product fit for varying customers.

I think this synopsis is an excellent starting point to find variation in a Funnel of Opportunity.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


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