Me in Startup Grind, and some thoughts from X4 Summit

Here's me at Startup Grind on rules for an effective customer feedback survey.

I'm a survey guru. I've designed, programmed, fielded and analyzed more surveys than I can count. As usual, when I feel I've boiled things down enough into a simple formula, I like to codify those guidelines in articles like this one.

Hope this helps someone out there. If your business isn't running customer feedback surveys now, you should be—there's really no excuse.

On that note, I attended X4 Summit in Salt Lake City earlier this month. Great event. Highly recommend it. Qualtrics' (the event host/sponsor) whole spiel is experience management, or XM, as the catch-all concept behind the merging of marketing with brand management with market research with UI design with R&D…you get the picture. Qualtrics' CEO Ryan Smith pitched a binary perspective on business data—operational data vs. experience data. Both have their roles, but experience data is what drives growth—especially for smaller and/or growing firms. Operational data (margins, transactions, etc.) enables arbitrage and "land-grabbing," but experience data opens new doors and drives actual growth in things like brand awareness, market share, and other customer-focused metrics.

That said, the experience management concept itself is a tough sell, in my view. It's a bit overgeneralized (as seen in the wide variety of topics and panels at X4). Good thinking about business, I think, is more particularizing than generalizing. Yes, the role of marketers can overlap big time with the roles of brand managers, market researchers and/or UI designers. But that's obvious. It's knowing how these things differ, and thereby where to laser-focus resources, that gives businesses a leg up.

Synthesizing and aggregating customer "experience" data is great (and fun), but excelling here really only benefits big brands with lots of moving parts. I can't count how many times I've delivered hard-to-get, high-level market research findings to companies who really have no resources to do anything with that kind of data—companies who are better off to hyper-focus (for now) on excelling at just one of the several roles mentioned above.

(In other words, don't worry about synthesizing your customer experience data if you know of obvious, needed improvements in your marketing or branding. Fix those things first with the intuition that got you where you're at today. Then study your meta-data.)

But the event itself was superb. Snapped this panorama of the Warehouse Party (that's Tony Hawk's half-pipe).

X4 Summit – Warehouse Party (2018, Salt Lake City)

As always, I'd love your thoughts on any of this.

My new article, plus working slower

I have a new piece at Startup Grind.  In it, I break down the essentials of designing a basic market research survey for a product or service idea.

Quantitative market research (i.e. surveys) is a great way to validate a product or service concept. Further, investors are impressed if you can show them hard data—real opinions from real people (not just your friends) about your concept.

Key here is to get your concept description right. Ideally you can test more than one. Just remember that your respondents aren’t telling you how they feel about your product, but how they feel about the product you described in the survey.

In other news

Here’s a photo of my son from Halloween. Just had to share. Can he get any cuter? He loved Halloween—fun to be outside trick-or-treating, especially now that the weather is nicer.

The cooler weather energizes me. Summer was hot. Florida is beautiful, but getting used to the heat will take some time, I think. As in, a few years. What I have learned is to stay cool in Florida weather, it’s important to relax and slow down.

That sounds cliche, or maybe odd, but it’s true quite literally. Moving fast or stressing out raises your blood pressure and makes you warmer. Combined with 100-degree heat and high humidity, that’s a recipe for an uncomfortable afternoon going to lunches and meetings with clients.

Relax and slow down to stay cool. The same is true in business.

Over the past 18 months, the dictum “Work smarter, not harder” (which, to be more accurate, ought to read “Work smarter, not faster”) has come to mean a lot. I’ve never regretted slowing down, taking an hour off here and there to reflect and strategize. To “work smarter.” It boosts the return on my working hours.

Think about it this way: The faster you work, the more mistakes you’ll make. This doesn’t just mean errors in your code or typos in your slide decks, but also to your overall strategy. Taking on work too quickly—before really thinking about the rate, the time, the investment, the return—is a mistake, and it hurts you big-time. More than anything, really.

You can work 60+ hours a week on fun projects for awesome clients at 10% margin, but at the end of the week, you’re no better off than someone working for 30% margin for 20 hours total. Or just 12 hours at 50% margin.

Yes, working at break-even can be smart, if you have a very specific plan for leveraging this work to get better deals in the near future. But I’ve found many people—fledgling freelancers especially—who work at break-even do not have a specific plan. They work week after week for almost nothing, jumping on every opportunity to earn revenue, then burn out and call it quits after earning unjustifiably low profits.

So to succeed and stay cool in business, slow down and relax. Think strategically. Build slowly. And take it easy to keep good perspective. This advice may be laughably fundamental, but I make this mistake all the time, and I’m well past the fledgling freelancer phase of my business.