Chill is a Skill, But Don't Get Too Comfortable

Hindsight is 20-20. If you scan a roomful of customers and have an uncomfortably low number of people under 35, this could be an indicator that your services are growing passé. If you’re trying to serve the next generation, but they’re not showing up, or sales are flat, it’s definitely time to learn why and react now.

These were the concerns that a group of geologists had when they invited me to dig deeper and help them refresh and grow their professional association. Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Council of Professional Geologists launched three new strategic objectives to better serve customers.

Here are some relevant ideas from their project that can help you refresh your offerings, move in a new direction and increase the value your product provides customers. For specifics on how we refreshed the value proposition to appeal to a younger audience and provide more value for veterans, let's meet and I'll share specific suggestions for your organization!

• Take time to make human connections and celebrate. This leads to tangible benefits, like insights and opportunities you would have otherwise missed if you had just hurried onto the next transaction. Here’s a photo of me and the project team lead—all smiles—near the end of the day at the association’s annual meeting.

• Make the investments to better understand customers through qualitative small data. A uniquely informed point of view about customers is a competitive advantage. We reviewed over 2500 free-form survey comments, plus three focus groups. These rich, first-hand customer insights made us quite confident that we had our finger on the pulse of our customers’ needs and preferences— and that made our idea-generation work cohesive and on-target. So, when we unveiled the strategic initiatives to customers this week, I was not surprised they were complimentary and curious about the new services. Deep customer insights greatly reduce risk associated with the ‘if you build it, will they come?’ problem.

• Identify the widening spectrum of diverse wants and needs among customers, even within a niche group of geologists and environmental professionals. This is extremely stark when you compare customers across several age groups. If your audience is fragmented, you have to work exceptionally hard to find the common denominators and to invent solutions that transcend the differences to provide unique value. As a result, this group is pursuing high-touch, high-tech solutions that will allow them to leapfrog from behind the times, to leading the way in their industry!

• Embrace your skeptics. They will help you learn (or validate) what you do that provides the most value. Here’s a photo of me with one of the clients who approached me at the end with “I want to tell you something…” What are you doing that converts skeptics into believers? That’s your competitive advantage. Listen to these folks and ask questions. “You converted me!” he said. “This was very productive and I’m impressed with what we came up with!”

• Lastly, seek opportunities to be the oddball in a homogeneous group. When you feel like a fish out of water among a group you don’t have much in common with, you can learn a lot about a new topic—maybe something new about your customers. This is knowledge your competitors probably won’t have.

• Not only do I have a newfound personal and professional admiration for the work of geologists—unsung heroes and consummate stewards of this big ball we are all riding around on, but their perspective on things is unique and rather enlightening.

o Geologists, whose scope of attention span thousands or millions of years, consider time a relative thing. 50 years ago is like just yesterday from a geological perspective. What ways of thinking could you reframe to gain a new perspective?

o People who deal with environmental remediation, or among other things, the unseen underground, appear to be unflappable about challenges and ambiguity. Could you strive to be more comfortable with discomfort and uncertainty?

o The combination of ambition, steadiness and a chill attitude create composure and focus, as well as extreme confidence and a positive outlook. Could you hold in balance your ambition with a more relaxed perspective?

o These scientists were a blast to work with and their analytical skills kept me on my toes. What would it bring to your work, if you integrated creative thinking with your analytical (scientific) thinking?

Here’s to happy endings and new beginnings! I’m looking forward to my next project adventure! To start your own adventure—to anticipate, refresh and grow, drop me an invitation to meet. I look forward to learning how Align can ‘rock’ your world.

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