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Friends Don’t Let Friends Do All The Things!

AcxiomMarch 24, 2014

Those who know me know that I can have a very irreverent sense of humor, as well as the scary ability to recall and apply pop culture quotations and imagery in very random context.

Sometimes it’s a gift, sometimes it’s a curse. Every once in a blue moon, that random pop culture nugget can turn into a gem of wisdom.

See, I’ve spent a large part of the past six months talking with marketers about data (big, little, third party, first party, propensities, social, you name it). Understanding the complexities, nuances, and applications can have a huge impact on an organization, spring boarding them ahead of the competition when it comes to customer experience. The reactions are universally consistent: everyone is engaged, their heads are bobbing, and then IT happens.

We go from big picture, visionary thinking, to boiling the ocean.

Let me pause here, and explain “boiling the ocean” for those of you who aren’t familiar. It’s an old quote, loosely attributed to Will Rogers during World War I, who said that “heating up the ocean” could be a viable solution for dealing with German U-boats. When pushed on the how, Rogers replied, “I’m just the idea man.”

post1When there’s an excess of information, it’s easy to slip into boil the ocean mode, or, in the wonderful world of internet memes – Do All The Things!

Don’t believe me? Let’s sanity check.

In the last six months, have you attended a meeting where someone has said “We really need:”
a) To build an app, our customers would love that!
b) A big data strategy
c) To use social more!
d) All of the above

Answering honestly, I can legitimately say that I’ve heard all four (with answer D leading the pack). It’s great to see the enthusiasm, and I love knowing that people are thinking about innovating, but invariably I come back to the same question.

Why?

post2That’s the rub with getting so excited about a concept that you forget the business application. Building apps, developing big data strategies, leveraging social, they’re all terrific ways to learn more about and engage with customers, but without the governing vision of why, it just becomes more noise. You end up being so busy with the details, that you forget the big picture, specifically:
1. Finding new customers
2. Engaging and extending existing customers
3. Developing new solutions to drive revenue based on customer need or demand

Now, if someone says, “Our customers really want XYZ, and we think that building an app that allows them to do that…” followed by a cogent plan for how to design and deploy the app – that’s doing it right. Why? Because it’s starting with a plan, grounded in intelligent customer insights to solve a problem. It’s not about boiling the ocean or doing all the things by trying to build an app that will be all things to all people.

You’ve already spent some time thinking about how to create an unsinkable data strategy, and you’ve taken the time to identify the problem and what it’s solving. If you haven’t, do not pass go, do not collect $200 dollars. Take some time, and slip off somewhere you won’t be interrupted (some of my best thinking really does happen at a coffee shop), and take the time to plot out the big opportunities or problems that you need to solve. Write it down inside your notebook, or save it in your smartphone. The next time you end up in one of those meetings, use that short list to your focus on the mission at hand, which is never to do all the things.