Billion Dollar Questions

Written by Martin Lucas

This week we’ve been working on the future strategy for a consumer food company with a billion dollar turnover. Specifically, we’re looking at one of their underperforming product lines and how they can turn it around. Basically, you are trying to work out what the world is demanding today and how that will change tomorrow, and as a consequence how do you prepare for that future so you’re set to win.

The joy of this in this kind of scenario is two-fold:

  1. It’s all about understanding emotional intelligence through a lens of mass behaviours. This is everything my math brain is here to be weird about and find solutions for.
  2. Behaviour change is the best kind of puzzle. Why? Because you need to look at the world based on the collective mindset of the target market but only based on the decision-making they go through for your specific product/service/need.

Let me share some of our methodology that works whether you are a large corporate, a start up or simply want to win more in life.

Happy Potter Example 

Let’s say you want to start a business selling Harry Potter Candy


The first thing to understand is: Who is your target market?

Everyone loves the books, right? Yes, but not everyone cares about the candy in the stories. We can assume that it’s the younger generations who will care the most; those youngsters are our target market. Can others buy this candy? Of course! But the target market is the main bulk of potential buyers. In this case 9-25 year-olds are a good range to focus on.

Next up: Who is your competition?

Other candy providers are definitely on this list. We humans are ever-addicted to sugar. You may shout ‘what about fruit?! Or crisps?’. While they are snacks, it's about understanding the most aligned product being consumed closest to your needs. Sugar is an addiction - like it or not, admit it or not - it’s the truth. So we want to change our target market so they choose us over their current habit.

Why should they care?

Decisionmaking is all about emotional intelligence. Our brains are preprogrammed to make our lives as efficient as possible. That is not the same as good or happy; the brain does not care about good or happy, it craves minimal change. Its job is to process mass amounts of data everyday whilst managing the delivery of millions of habits. Our brains massively dislike change and as such, any change needs to be a marginal improvement on the status quo. Marginal is the key -  not drastic, not world changing - just a marginal change. Make your market care by making the gains simple.

If you want your target market to care then you need to step away from obsessing about yourself and your business and instead step into the shoes of your ideal clients. Focus on what you see as the three main decisions that they have to make to try your product:

What is my gain?

You can try awesome Harry Potter sweets which you’ll be attracted to as you imagined them while reading the books and watching the movies.

Why should I try this?

It’s sugary, it taste good, it's fun, you already eat this kind of food, and this is even better because it’s Harry Potter!

Is this hard to obtain?

Hmm, well you currently go to the shop for candy. You can get ours at the shop AND on Amazon AND by ordering from our website. It’s equally easy or even easier than other options.

Three great questions but here’s the kicker. The answers are based on HOW TO beat the competition. It’s not about what we could do, it’s what we should do to win. It’s what makes the decision simple, easy and obtainable with minimal effort.

The context of the above is the same for billion dollar companies as it is for an idea for a business. If you don’t plan for the true needs of your market then you are simply preparing to fail.

I was reminded of one key fact while working on this project:

You don’t win by being a life-changing, over-the-top game-changing service, you win by simply being marginally better than the existing habit.

In this case Harry Potter and a childlike gain that your target market has already imagined. As long as the quality* of the product matches the brand, it's game on.

The next billion dollar question: What you waiting for? :)

*What is Quality in today's world? Check this