Where to start with a startup, Part II: A customer and business experience

Where to start with a startup, Part II: A customer and business experience

Company values allow for a lot of interpretation (i.e. misinterpretation), therefore, they need to become more actionable and preferably quantifiable .
To do this, ask yourself what these values would look like to a consumer on a day-to-day basis. If the values are what you want people to know you for, what are the daily experiences you want them to have that will reinforce this message and build loyalty and eventually, trust.

If you want your customers to think of you as Honest you should tell them where your sources come from and validate your offering.

These are experience principles

When you start developing your idea into a product or service you can use these principles to guide your decisions and keep you true to your values.

There will be a limitless number of decisions that need to be made over the lifetime of the business and at times it will be hard to decide between conflicting benefits to the business or the consumer. Calling upon Experience Principles will help guide you in the right direction and make sure you’re making decisions based on the original purpose and core beliefs of the business. This set of principles can easily act as a checklist for future product development and allow a business to grow into several departments whilst aligning to an overarching desired customer experience.

Experience mapping

In parallel to Experience Principles you should also spend time mapping out the major touch-points and situations you consider to be influential in your intended customers lives.

Depending on the idea this could be anything from an hourly to annual basis, regardless, it is broken down to the key moments you feel the ‘idea’ might have a part to play.

An integral part of the exercise is to identify all potential scenarios so you leave no stone unturned and do your best to see that no opportunity is missed, which may well prompt some inappropriate ideas or misplaced suggestions but it’s all welcome at this stage.

It’s much better to take time to explore all potential opportunities and find an undiscovered gem than to save time not considering them because you think you don’t have a part to play.

The resulting Experience Maps will then act as a template for you to flex your creative minds and ideate over where you think the business could support, accelerate or even remove your customers from the process entirely.

Customer vs business

There is another side to your Experience Map which will have an equal effect on the success of your idea; the business itself. 

You must understand that although you need to think ‘customer first’ in everything you do, that does not mean the business doesn’t get a look in.

The needs of your customers must drive the objectives and ambitions of the business but not at its own expense. How can founders serve their customers in a way they’ve never experienced before if they’re not in a position to do so. The needs of the business must be aligned to the needs of the customer so they can deliver each other mutual value.

This might seem obvious but with the advent of freemium services such as Uber, Spotify, Instagram, Facebook, Dropbox, Airbnb and other companies considered to be the highest-valued startups in the world who are glorified for their customer-first approach, you can be easily forgiven for thinking “what’s best for the customer is best for the business”.

“First, a false sense of euphoria takes hold as a consumer solution is identified. Cries of ‘Consumers love my idea!’ and ‘We’ve solved it’ ring down the halls. But in truth, it’s at best half-solved. The needs of the consumer have been addressed, but the needs of the business and the people who run it, and who ultimately decide what gets to market, have not.” — Mark Payne, Founder, Farenheit 212

To help solve this, split your Experience Map into two channels to help understand both sides of the coin.

On the top: the customer experience (this often splits into multiple user types) and on the bottom; the business experience.

This helps you map the actions of the business with the actions of your customers and evaluate where your idea has strong commercial value (simple solutions with high margins) and where the idea might have lower commercial value (low impact with high cost implications) and require significant investment from the business. It’s not a case of one being right or wrong but assessing where you want to focus time and money against their wider business goals.

It also allows you to see where there might be crossover in solving multiple problems (across touch-points) with a single solution on the business side. This kind of discovery could save huge amounts of investment, reduce cost and maximise profits. It could also change the entire shape of the organisation and infrastructure. An example of this might be help and support — which is widely applicable to any business idea.

Setting the mood

Visualising look and feel:

After airing and defining some crucial aspects of the idea such as the market expectations, value proposition, core values and customer touch-points, you’re in a position to get conceptual and theoretical. How might you evoke the sentiments of your findings into how the company could look and feel? Separate this into clear categories which may include imagery, typography, colour and tone of voice.

Brand perception mapping:

While you’re in the primitive stages and still not 100% sure which sector your idea might actually sit — you should select the players you think are leading both from an experience and commercial point of view. Use this as a barometer to evaluate your proposition and audience against and try to understand what it is about these companies that makes them attractive and compelling to their audience.

This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.

Read next: 5 productivity apps working millennials cannot live without