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Meeting the Needs of Many – Understanding Shared Context

All organisations are faced with the challenge and opportunity presented by better understanding their customers. Richard Branson once said, “A business is simply an idea that makes people’s lives better.” Within this simple statement there is a lot of complexity.

We need to begin by understanding the people we are trying to connect with, and the context they are living in to even begin to develop the idea that improves their lives.

Previously we’ve written about the importance of using research and interviewing methods to create a better experience for people, rather than traditional marketing. Often the output of this process are artefacts such as personas. The purpose of personas is to create reliable and realistic representations of your key audience segments for reference. These representations should be based on qualitative and some quantitative user research and analytics. When done effectively, they can be a powerful tool for referencing new ideas, products and services against. It forces you to ask the question: “Would these people actually find our product or service useful? Will it make their lives easier or better?”

However, more often people fall into the trap of creating an ideal customer, or persona, that is made up of different people. For example, interviewing several people between the ages of 16 and 19, male and female, who might share similar interests, are compacted into a single persona called “Jake, who is 18”. Suddenly we are now using an ideal customer who does not exist in the real world.

Deeper Insight Through Understanding Context

Understanding the greater physical and emotional context in which your product sits presents opportunities to better help your customers.

Seeking to uncover what is the shared task or job people are trying to get done can be more useful than who the individual people are. For example, a new strength conditioning and weight loss program and app could be used by a 20 year old female who has always struggled with eating right. It could also be used by a 54 year old female who is looking to get into shape but doesn’t feel comfortable going to a gym. One option is to create a set of personas that represent different types of users, in order to design and develop products and services to meet each individual persona’s needs.

To gain valuable deeper insight, we must look closely and understand the greater physical and emotional context shared by your customers.

The broader physical context for such a fitness program can be easily distilled into one greater goal: to maintain healthy weight and lifestyle. Further, the greater emotional context in a program like this is ultimately nurturing self esteem and positive mental health. It is safe to say that both the 20 year old female and the 54 year old female share these goals.

A Health Product With a Holistic Approach

A great example of this is Tiffiny Hall’s online program, TiffXO. Tiffiny implements a holistic approach to her training regime, where exercise, nutrition and mindfulness and considered equal partners in the journey to health. She understands behavioural economics, by recognising that most people will fail when committing to long term commitments (like an annual gym membership) and only offers a month to month low cost membership fee. Low pressure and low commitment, breeds high engagement and empowerment.

By understanding context and behavioural economics, these findings drive ideas that actually make people’s lives better, rather than designing with specific types of people in mind, and potentially limiting your reach.

The Main Point

Finding shared context for your customers offers you an enormous opportunity to truly change people’s lives. As we research, we can probe beyond the superficial needs to discover the forces that hold people back from implementing change in their own lives. Further, we discover the forces that will spur on this change. Once we know and understand these notions, we can create products and services that manage to capture the minds of a broad audience, while also validating the individual.


By Rusty Benson | Director

Original image by Benny Jackson