Use ‘Customer’ Brainstorming To Shape Your Business Vision, and Websites Will Write Themselves

A Visionary Fridays article.Read in 10 minutes.Part 1 of 3: Brainstorming with Customers creates company vision.

We’ve all done brainstorming, haven’t we? It’s fun. If you’re like me, I started brainstorming early in school, in special sessions laid out by great teachers. We would all get together at the tender age of 6 and throw out ideas. It was kinda like Contact Thinking.

Brainstorming chart.

Brainstorming chart.

And as we grew older, we came back to those old brainstorming techniques developed from time to time, so solve various problems – with a loved one,  a company product launch, whatever. We’ve used those same brainstorming tactics learned as children again and again – sometimes with fantastic success.

But have you ever had a 3-hour Customer Brainstorming session? We have, recently. And it’s one of the most revealing processes you’ll ever participate in.

Personalize the brainstorming experience. Cook for your customers.

Why not spend an evening and meet with a customer or two about some crazy ideas you have? For the cost of dinner with friends, you can have an entirely different experience with customers. They’ll tell you things they would NEVER say about your product/service in any other environment.

Customer Brainstorming taps into company vision.

I you run a business, even a small business, brainstorming with customers is – dare I say it – a critical process which you can use to shape marketing – and company vision. After all, your website and product line is not for you, it’s for your customers, and they know what triggers them, what makes them jump. And you won’t have a company for long if you don’t implement things today that will keep them buying tomorrow.

What’s more, I have had my share of larger business brainstorming sessions, and it’s the same problem. Why? Shouldn’t they have vision figured out yet? Yes, they do, many times over. Now it’s just more complex with multiple visions and with more cooks cooking in the kitchen, and you have a block. Vision needs some reinforcement from time to time, some ‘this goes before that’ refinement.

In our Internet marketing business, this is especially true with web development, where development can get ‘patchy’ and no one consultant (who is supposed to be providing vision) has ever had control of the website from start to finish.

Company vision is shaped by customer need.

Whatever you’re doing, it’s for your customers. So why not ask them what they want to see your company become?

  • There might be many types of customers (large-sale purchasers, small-scale purchasers, sponsors, affiliate partners, customers that donate time),
  • Every type of customer needs to be spoken to in their language, and have their specific problem solved,
  • Every customer needs to…
    • understand what you do,
    • how you benefit them,
    • why your better than your competition,
    • and have you prove it.
  • And every customer needs be ‘called to action’.
  • [/default_list]

    Therefore, company vision is clarified by brainstorming with customers.

    So, if your customer is involved in the brainstorming session, vision is clarified. Specifically, calls to action are clarified. Once you know how your customers think, intimately, you’ll know what will trigger them, and that means you can use that information everywhere – sales pitches, website calls to action, everything.

    Here are some things you might be thinking:

    “God, if we start talking to customers and involving them in the vision process, we’ll never get anything done. What we’re doing is pretty complex, so why muddy the waters? We know what our customers need already. We know what they want to see online. We know our ‘selling points’.

    Yeah? You sure?

    Customer brainstorming is fun.

    Want even more reason to do customer brainstorming? What’s more, brainstorming with customers is just plain fun.

    It allows you to get together with customers under different circumstances and really hear what they want from you. Don’t do it at the office, or over the phone. Do it in person, over dinner, and in a relaxed environment. If at all possible, cook for your customers. It’s more personal.

    It benefits you, the business.

    Easier to explain things. Once you get together with customers, you’ll see where the error in communications lie in your marketing message. Because you can dialogue, it accelerates the process.

    Find out what your client really thinks of an idea. Why rely upon the telephone or e-mail when you can see body language and facial expression? The faster you discover client needs, the better off you are. Have a whole bunch of radical ideas hanging around waiting to test? Test them with your customers and get feedback – which includes body language and facial expression. You can read how they sit, when they start waving their arms, etc. Customers can’t hide behind, “Yeah, that’s great.”

    Brainstorm is fun, therefore fruitful. Just because it’s fun you’ll find yourself in a more creative space. I once heard someone say that when they spoke French (vs. English) they literally thought differently about things. Doing the dinner things vs. the biz meeting things changes the rules of the game, and gets you unstuck about certain solutions.

    It benefits your customers.

    Customer gets dinner and a warm-fuzzy feeling. We all have certain customers or clients in our business that are ‘shining stars’ – why not give them a treat? They’ll love you for it, and if they aren’t already, become a real advocate or your business. In essence, giving one of your customers this type of attention is the ultimate in customer service.

    Helps all future customers. Every single customer in the future will benefit from this current customer’s thoughts and expressions to you. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

    So we’re done with Week 1 of Brainstorming…

    Next Week; IT’S HOW-TO TIME: We’ll continue our discussion about brainstorming with clients, and show YOU how to ‘set the scene’ for a great Customer Brainstorming session. What tools to use, how to present and run the evening, what questions to ask to get the brainstorming flowing, the works!

    Week 3 – A GREAT RECENT EXAMPLE: Then we’ll talk about one of our recent experiences with a client, and what it produced. You’ll be amazed at the absolute windfall of ideas, leadership, excitement, and deep understand that was derived from this 3 hour session, over BBQ!

    Your call to action…

    Any of you have a great business brainstorming session that ‘opened up’ the vault of ideas or communication? We’d love to hear about it. Please comment below!

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    Greg Cox

    Analytics Geek. Gregory likes Motorcycles, Cooking, and Sciencey stuff.