Your customers, your audience and your business partners are all swimming in streams – streams of information, of communication, of work, of worries, of goals, of distractions… and let’s face it, some of these folks are drowning in these streams. They might be trapped in currents that inundate, disorient, and keep the safety of land at a distance. Let’s take a look at a few of these streams, and consider what this means to how you serve your various audiences.
- The Stream of Morning Routine
Perhaps the most overlooked stream of the day… it is astounding what people accomplish simply to get out the door in the morning. It’s an easy place to start, when considering why your customers are distracted well before they even consider your products, and how it might meet their needs.
A typical morning consists of rituals memorized over a lifetime: bathroom, shave, shower, iron, get dressed, drink coffee, pack bag, do dishes, make bed, grab umbrella, eat breakfast, and maybe get the kids up, ready, and out too.
- The Stream of Getting Places
Here is another stream that most are confronted with before they even set foot in their workplace. The lucky ones have a short commute, or perhaps none at all; but for most, it is a rushed battle of changing lanes, grabbing seats, passing through crowds, paying tolls, and hoping that the weather cooperates and accidents are absent. 1,000 things can delay travel in a given morning, each adding a sense of frustration.
- The Stream of Work
Wahoo! We made it to the work day. It would be nice to think that your potential audiences and customers get to their job, and focus immediately on their biggest needs – needs that you are providing solutions for. But often, that’s not the case… they have a wide range of responsibilities to simply "keep the lights on," manage others, go through routine administration, follow set processes and navigate political arenas. And this is simply what is waiting on their desk the moment they arrive – let alone the many interactions that pop up during the day and new fires they need to put out.
- The Stream of Communication & Connection
This could be an overflowing email inbox, line of customers, or schedule of meetings. Some are essential, and some grease the wheels to get things done. Others clog the filters we put in place to manage the ever increasing mass of communication headed our way.
This can include interpersonal connection, such as an office chat, smoke break, lunch, and those that aren’t face-to-face such as phone, email, text messaging, social networks, and other online tools. I’ve watched so many friends and colleagues discover social media tools, and am hearing that they are becoming inundated with these streams as well. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.
- The Stream of Information
Your audience has access to more business data than ever before, from within their business and external research and data as well. This includes fun things such as reports, metrics, spreadsheets, documents, files, powerpoints and so many other tools that are supposed to create flow, but often create piles.
- The Stream of News
This is another Wahoo! moment, as we consider things from the perspective of publishing, media, and journalism – such as providing B2B industry information. This is the moment in a potential customers’ day where they look up and look out, to get a pulse on news and trends in their industry, and look for opportunities and potential solutions to their problems.
This includes online resources, trade journals, magazines, newspapers, workshops, webinars, events and so many other avenues. For many, there are multiple sources of industry-specific information, plus the stream of broader news and financial information providers. For all the innovation in this area, the stream seems to have gotten wider and flow more quickly – making it more difficult for an individual information provider to reach customers.
- The Streams Inside Our Heads
Each of the people you are trying to connect with for your business has a constant set of streams flowing through their heads: streams of needs, of goals, of hopes, and of worries. There is so much you don’t see by just glancing over at a colleague doing their job… a million professional and personal things can occupy their mental energy on a given day, and often it happens concurrent to whatever else they are working on. This has a significant affect on productivity and on focus.
So what’s the point of all of this – of identifying streams that occupy the lives of those you serve, and those you hope to serve? Perhaps it is simply to understand that your customers live in a world of distraction, a world of rushing, a world of worries and hopes, of little surprises and little disappointments. A world where people focus on the most immediate things, often at the cost of long term goals. A world they try to make sense of, but have trouble finding any notion of control and understanding. A world where they look for accomplishment and success, but often find frayed edges and circular efforts.
This is the world you serve. The world that publishers, media companies, journalists, and bloggers contend with while they try to grab the attention of their markets, and get them to focus. And let’s not forget, your competitors are doing the same thing.
As I think about all this, these are the lesson’s I am left with…. because of all of this clutter that surrounds the lives of your target audience:
- This is why great design is important.
- Why product development is such a nuanced and critical art.
- Why usability testing is so essential to understand customers in context.
- Why research should be constant – to understand the quickly changing needs of those you need in order to grow your business.
- Why new technology is so important – because you are not the only ones trying to learn how to best leverage it.
- Why providing a variety of solutions is so critical – to serve different learning styles and different needs in unique ways.
- Why innovation is so important.
And this is why B2B information, publishing and media are so important – to help those we serve cut through the clutter, and swim in these streams more easily. To enable them to solve problems and move past barriers.
The remaining question is simple: How will you stand out and grab the attention of potential customers- not by getting in the way, but by surprising them with your usefulness. How will you make this day easier for those you serve, and filled with more smiles?