Diversity today is a key topic – how to achieve the right mix of talents, backgrounds and human characteristics in the teams we build and, in many ways, how to avoid missing out because we failed to include some.
My project to test WhapsApp as a business channel has delivered some startling results already, and confirmed what I had begun to suspect, that we must also focus on the diversity among our customers.
Asked about joining in to my project, I got responses as diverse as: “no, hardly use it, never for business” to “yep, use it all the time for everything”. I got a similar diversity of guidance about content from: “fast and chatty, please” to “only once a week, tops”.
There’s no one proposition that could meet everyone’s expectations across a field with that diversity, and many tech businesses face the same go-to-which-market? challenge, particularly if they’ve got a proposition with rich possibilities.
Selecting and prioritising target B2C markets is relatively straightforward – these people adopt early, those adopt later, and these here never will. Sometimes you can make it easier by harnessing customers’ self-selection by targeting, say, drone owners for insurance, or home owners for connected doorbells.
The situation has no such simplicity for those grappling with B2B propositions, particularly for larger organisations and ones with legacy. As I discovered, a group of a hundred business decision makers, today, has people spread right across the spectrum in about as many dimensions as there are.
So it is in organisations. Ok, there are some places where attributes may be a bit more predictable – a recently funded tech business with a name without vowels and offices in a Shoreditch WeWork, say.
You might think that businesses at the other end of some spectrum might be just as predictable – a conglomerate founded in the 1890s, perhaps? No such luck. Look at what Pepsico is doing.
It turns out to be dangerous to make assumptions by sector, age or size of organisation – you’re more likely to be wrong about some in a classification, than right about them all.
I’ve lived among market strategy and launching new propositions for decades. It’s fun and challenging. It usually consists of some desk research, thinking and discussion, followed by testing out ideas in front of a bunch of people. You’d start by classifying your potential market by, say, organisation size and sector, perhaps location and age, but the last four that I’ve worked on threw that into doubt, and WhatsApp just demonstrated the limitations and pitfalls of this approach.
Yes, you have to classify your potential market for relevance. No point in trying to interest a Ferrari dealership in an advanced fintech platform that automates high volume payments. What’s clear now, is that the diversity of individuals drives adoption and inhibits it, and you can’t assume that a target organisation will have the right type of personality in a position of influence.
Some of the businesses that I’m involved with have no obvious correlation among their customers as to where they are in the adoption curve. To all intents and purposes, there is no adoption curve or at least it’s so fragmented and diverse as to be largely meaningless as a tool to judge what to do as we go to market.
In fact, there isn’t “a market”, as such, or not one strongly defined by the organisations and their types. If there is a B2B market identifiable among larger organisations, it’s one set by the kind of individual in positions of influence. Some big and ponderous giants have visionaries who are starting pilots on the side. Some maverick teams will have signed up to an online service with a credit card and be using it, flouting policies and making enemies in corporate IT.
Some organisations will have devised transition plans, and be pushing hard, driven by a desire to get somewhere new as fast as possible. A few will have thrown caution to the wind and be diving headlong into new techniques and propositions. All this will be driven by the particular individuals and how much sway they have in their organisations.
WhatsApp blows aside the notion of B2B markets and shows that there are only B2C markets, in the sense that for so many propositions now, you have to target the individuals who will consume it. Whether they’re buying for the home, an organisation, or themselves, now more than ever it’s individuals who buy and it’s them that we have to understand if we’re going to be successful in taking a proposition to market.
Peter is chairman of Flexiion and has a number of other business interests.