I came across a Finnish startup company a few years back through some personal connections. The reason for the connection was not just random, I was asked to meet the team due to my extensive experience in the field that they operated in.  

Despite my relatively young age, I had been involved in the field for more than 20 years, on a national and an international level, from the shop floor as a 16-year old to working for international companies across borders. 

What I knew thanks to my experience

  • I knew the target audience inside and outside.
  • I knew the field of business inside and outside.
  • I knew the players, the forces, the impacts, and their effect on various stages.
  • I knew just about everybody in Finland, many in the Nordic and Baltic countries, especially in Sweden, and my work was known on a European level.

I had plans of changing my field of work, but when the startup in question invited me to join their mission on conquering the world with a Finnish innovation they hit that one nerv, you know, the one you just can’t ignore… That is when I started my startup journey. 

When I started selling and marketing this innovation I opened my “magic” toolbox (i.e. experience) and we hit the first sales record my second month. We grew the website traffic with new ads, we got new retailers and customers, basically we got many of our charts upwards during the first five months. But I soon realised that this was never going to be enough to convince all the stakeholders we needed to attract. We needed even more aggressive growth. 

We needed to understand why the product was purchased or not, why the marketing messages convinced or failed to convince or why the retailers sold or didn’t sell. (Thank you Simon Sinek for that golden circle!) 

I understood that no past experience in the world was to solve this problem, we needed to look in the future, we needed data points from new perspectives. When you were selling something unforeseen, an innovation, something that had no direct comparison it just wasn’t enough to know something from the past, or something that you knew about something that resembled your product. It helped but it simply wouldn't cut it!

So I lifted my nose from my routines and comfort zone and looked around. What did we know now? And where could we find that route for exponential growth? I met various people, talked about it in the team and beyond the team, and searched for information. What were the pieces of information that we had? In all of this research, there was one thing that stood out, it was our customer research project. My colleague had “harassed” the rest of us with workshops and homework about details in customer feedback. The customer research information we had seemed obvious at times and very detailed and even margin at others. 

But when we mapped everything out, put all we knew on the table so to speak. It was clear for us that the mindset of our customers during their journey with our product and company was the key to finding that route for growth. If we couldn't connect with our customers, we wouldn’t be able to really win them over.

Through customer research we found that:

  • Customers' level of knowledge was too poor to understand the benefits of the product.
  • Our product was designed to fix a problem, while its potential lied in preventing the problem.
  • We targeted the wrong customers; the customer journey wasn’t agile enough to convert them before the product lost its relevance for them.
  • The price was not an issue when the perceived value was in place.
  • The expectations were beyond customer promise. 
  • Our value proposition was not clear enough.

These are just some of the insights we found through customer research. By now it was clear to us that no matter what field expert you are, if you do not invest in understanding your customers’ experiences in connection with your product, your innovation, you rarely have the ability  to really connect with that critical first audience that will become the foundation for your future endeavours.

So that’s when my colleague, service designer Satu Niskanen, and I realised that by combining various market intel and other information available with a fresh and open-minded holistic customer research approach, we could at least start solving the problem of how to sell an innovation.

Since then we have been developing and testing our methodologies. In this day and age we are happy to know that our methodologies have helped quite a few growth-minded brands already. If you want to learn more about them we are happy to answer any of your questions, we’ll also share them in more detail further on. We provide our services for anyone interested in customer-centric growth. You can drop us a line here.