Megan Colgan is co-founder of The GO Project and a mentor at Startupbootcamp Istanbul focused on brand development, customer experience design and marketing strategy.
Empathy is the impetus of great design. Customer empathy—a fundamental understanding of a customer’s values, needs, perceptions and emotions—is at the core of designing a successful brand.
Studies like the Stengel 50 and the analysis by co:collective on Storydoing, prove that brands that personify and deliver human value are more successful in acquiring customers, creating advocates, earning customer loyalty, and performing financially. Such success is rooted in authentic customer connection which requires digging much deeper than aesthetics and tactics. It requires talking to and understanding customers.
What does that mean for a startup? Especially in accelerators like Startupbootcamp Istanbul there’s no time or money to waste, so the tendency is to jump from product development straight into marketing execution.
Pick a color scheme. Make a logo. Shoot a viral video. Make some Facebook advertisements. Buy some Google Ad words. While well intentioned, more often than not these tactical jumps are guided by inaccurate assumptions of who customers are and what those customers care about. And if we’re trying to sell apples to a monkey who wants bananas, no matter how beautiful those apples are, they’re not going to bite.
The pre-work to create a strategy based on actual customer insights will get you to market faster and cheaper. Here’s how to do it.
Bootstrap customer testing. While expensive and time intensive customer research and user testing can be very helpful, it is not necessary. Startups can gain extremely valuable insights and strategic direction from bootstrapped, quick and dirty customer testing and rapid prototyping that actually stimulate smarter and faster growth. It may only take interviewing as few as three customers to figure out if something is broken.
Design for human value. Do not waste your testing efforts by listening only to a customer’s surface level complaints or praises. Hone an acute ability to empathize with customers. The best brands don’t build and sell state-of-the-art product features. The best brands build and sell the human value that their state-of-the-art features add to someone’s life. As such, a company (and thus the brand)—from marketing communications and product design to the employee culture—must truly embody the fundamental human value it provides for its customers.
This week I ran a workshop called “A startup’s guide for brand strategy: 4 steps to bootstrap human-centered design.” It’s a walk-through of basic methods based on design thinking principles. Each step in the workshop was illustrated by an example of a brand and UX refresh conducted at Startupbootcamp Istanbul in less than a week for Benimcep—a secure online-marketplace for people to buy and sell smartphones at a discount and under warranty.
Presented in the third month of the accelerator, this workshop served as a gut-check for entrepreneurs to see how well they understand their target customers and if they have built a brand experience based on that understanding.
I hope this post and the step by step guide on slideshare are helpful!