Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Zero To Product: Exploring A Situational Segment

This is part 2 of a retrospective on vizipres: A product I began and worked on for a few months.
part 1part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7

What Customers Are Doing Now

After choosing a problem space ( There's no great way to organize and share information ), I needed to do some research to see how people are dealing with the problem space now. Very rarely do people engage in a new behaviors, instead, they switch between behaviors. So, to know how and why someone would want to search for the solution I was proposing (vizipres), I needed to know what people were doing now, the problems they were facing and what would cause them to use my product to get the job done. Armed with this info, I could explore it and hypothesize a situational segment. After that, I could then begin to test my hypotheses through interviews.

Building A Situational Segment

Before even thinking about talking with anyone, I  needed to research the problem space more. I used perhaps one of the best research tools in the world: Google. Since I was in a setting where Powerpoint was described as the wrong tool to use, I began researching all about Powerpoint. I read everything I could, from the history of Powerpoint to techniques on creating effective Powerpoint presentations. The key thing I learned here was the context people used Powerpoint.  I wanted to build what I call a situational segment so I could focus on what job people are trying to get done instead of being bogged down by focusing on a particular customer.

When you focus on a particular customer, you risk building a product that is unfocused because you will end up trying to solve the many problems that particular type of customer encounters. This is undesirable because many of the problems a particular customer encounters are not related to the problem you are trying to solve.

To help build my situational segment, I kept a list of the most popular types of Powerpoint presentations, when people used Powerpoint and other ways people shared information. This is key because I think many focus on WHO is creating these presentations instead of WHY they are creating presentations. 

My list was like this:

Some Reasons People Create Powerpoint Presentations:
  • A point of focus for an audience to look at while listening to a speaker
  • Entertain during a presentation
  • Help educate the audience
  • Provide notes and take aways for the audience (e.g. often people will ask 'will slides be available')
  • Self promotion (e.g. slideshare)
  • Help the presenter give a presentation - like notes

I then focused on topics such as Powerpoint alternatives and problems with Powerpoint. This was interesting, since now I was learning some more keys things such as:
  • A lot people HATE Powerpoint presentations - even Steve Blamer
  • Many people don't like Powerpoint because it doesn't provide a way to easily explore the information. (e.g. someone has to click though all the slides to get to info on slide #35)
  • Slides can only hold so much info so you often get the problem of overloaded slides
  • Not everyone is interested in every part of your presentation
  • Different audiences have different interests, a generic presentation can waste time
  • Powerpoint-esq presentations are often associated with wasting time
  • There are several products out there promoted as 'Powerpoint Alternatives'
Knowing what are considered alternatives is helpful because you know that customers are not happy with their current solution and you see other ways they try to solve their problem. I even extended beyond Powerpoint and looked at all the different ways people tried to solve the problem space. I eventually came up with:
  • Google docs
  • Wikis
  • Research Papers
  • Excel
  • Email
  • PDFs
  • Mind mapping tools (e.g Omnigraffle)

After I had a basis for a situational segment, I had to scrub through the data I had compiled, identify any patterns and then pick out a segment.

Choosing a Segment & Deciding Who To Talk With

With my research compiled, I then filtered out what I think I could solve, what were the most common and what were the most related. I loosely defined my segment as:

People who want to organize and share information in order to entertain, educate and influence others. 

With my segment decided, I then moved to looking for people with who fit in that segment. I needed to interview people to learn more about their problems and to test how accurate my situational segment was and the types of people that fall in that situational segment.

To begin I used personal experience, what I had learned online from my earlier research, and also where I was when I first thought about this problem space. With all this in mind, I came up with a list of people who might find themselves in that situation (wanting to organize and share information in order to entertain, educate and influence others. ).

I came up with this list:
  • Managers
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Sales people
  • Science / Medical / Engineering professionals
  • Educators (e.g. teachers and grad students)
  • Professional researchers

The next step was straight forward: find people who I knew who where in these professions, create a list of questions to ask, talk with them and seek some validation.

I'll talk more about my results in part 3.