It’s an occupational hazard.
Just like the doctor that gets asked at the BBQ “what must I take for that nagging back pain?”, or the mechanic down the pub whose mates always ask just to “have a quick listen to the strange noise under the bonnet”.
In my case, it’s “can I have your feedback on my business proposition / website / app / gamechanging platformicated marketplaced ecosystem …………..”
Having worked with and in technology innovation for most of my life, I’ve built up a reputation for being able to quickly ask the right questions – the ones the creators / ideators / founders didn’t know they should’ve asked already and to start with I must sound like a pedantic toddler stuck on recursively asking “why?” from a customer point of view –
- why should I choose you over the competition? (and don’t tell me you have no competition …..)
- why am I going to stop doing what I am already doing?
- why am I going to start doing something different? (ie – use you)
- why am I going to tell my friends about you?
- why am I going to love your proposition and become loyal to you?
- why am I going to spend money or time (or both) on you?
And so it goes on (and on).
And that’s before I ask the all important “why should a VC / angel / whoever I’m representing, invest in you right now?”
My questions often expose weaknesses and gaps in their strategy – a client of mine once described me as his “professional tyre kicker”.
More often than not however, my line of questioning highlights unexploited opportunities that could be enabled or accelerated by technology and trends they hadn’t considered as yet. This helps them to better shape their proposition into a far more compelling offering and led another client of mine to describe me as a “growth catalyst” – something that is highly valued by many of the startups I have mentored in the past.
I was recently approached on LinkedIn to provide feedback to a startup that coincidentally happened to be targeting a particular persona of me as a customer – that of “Andrew Vorster, Global Jobseeker“.
I’m not in the habit of providing free consultancy but since I potentially have a vested interest in the success of what this company outlined it was offering, I decided I would take a look around the site I was directed to.
Now as someone that has moved continents before and probably would again for the right proposition; has travelled globally on international assignments of varying lengths; has a large network of friends and connections that do the same and has hired global jobseekers in a variety of destinations from a variety of origins, I have fairly strong opinions on what a “global jobseeker” wants and needs out of a platform. I have come to the conclusion that global jobseekers broadly fall into 3 categories, each of which while to the recruiter / potential employer might all look the same on the surface, have differing needs, wants, desires, motivators, triggers and requirements at each stage of their opportunity exploration.
So before I clicked on the link provided, I had already formed a conceptual image of what their offering should be, based on the description provided of their “platform”. I had created a mental list of my minimum expectations plus a much longer list of the elements lacking from current offerings (I’m looking at you LinkedIn) that would entice me to change my habits and engage with them.
I can’t help it, it’s a kind of reflex reaction for me as it’s the way my mind works.
WOW – was I in for a nasty surprise! It turned out that by “platform”, they simply meant “another CV repository” ………. There was nothing different, nothing I hadn’t seen before. In fact, it wasn’t even thinly disguised that I was the product for sale – it was basically “give us your details and we’re going to make money selling them on to companies”. It was clear that they consider their “customers” to be the recruiters, the ones they are going to be charging money to access the platform.
This triggered a full blown Toddler Tantrum
and I found myself shouting at the screen “WHY, WHY, WHY???” as it became obvious that the founders had not attempted to understand even the most basic needs of a global jobseeker, basing their entire proposition around making the assumption that “they want a job” ………and we all know why you shouldn’t assume anything!
There was absolutely no value exchange offered to me as a potential customer – even more galling since I was expected to be the product they are going to monetise!
My mind went into overdrive, visualising all the ways they could have addressed every one of my questions and developed a compelling, winning strategy and proposition. It was easy really, given the low starting point – if you’re not familiar with his work, Simon Sinek has made a fortune with the concept of “start with why” (I really must get around to reading his book one day) and his core point is
“Tell me why I should become YOUR customer?”
Now if you can’t answer that in a compelling manner, then tell me why I should bother giving you any further consideration?
(PS – If you need help shaping your proposition, or if you want to know what those 3 categories of global jobseeker are, or if you are a VC or founder that wants to bootstrap a startup to leverage the very real opportunity to address the gap in the market to service global jobseekers ……….then I’m available, for a fee of course – like I said above – I’m not in the habit of providing free consultancy ?)