How I did customer development while getting a coffee

Customer development while getting a coffee

I’m currently working on validating a SMS staff scheduling webapp called Shift SMS that lets managers push their calendars via SMS but also allow their staff to coordinate any changes on their own.  Shameless plug, please sign up for the e-mail list for the latest updates!

Today, I went to a local coffee spot called Manic Coffee when it was quiet and actually walked into their manager talking to their staff about their schedule.  What are the odds!  I immediately introduced myself and asked about their process when it comes to creating a staff schedule.  Here’s what I found:

What I already knew

  • They used paper
  • Their staff calendar was pretty consistent (a norm for places with less than 5 or 6 staff members)
  • Price sensitivity was high – they mentioned another app that cost $20 dollars with relative disgust
  • They knew of other apps which implies they might have tried to look for a solution in the past (great!) or they were pitched before (not that great)

What surprised me

  • They didn’t think that paper or excel was the best solution (great!)
  • They just didn’t think this was a problem that needed to be solved, even though staff changes were frequent enough to be a pain.
  • They asked if I worked in the service industry before I explained why I was asking (which makes this seem like a common pain point)

Overall, pretty interesting takeaways to go with my coffee.


The Death of the Company Blog

Imagine if you will, standing in the center of Penn Station (or your preferred hub of transportation) in the middle of the busiest time of the year.   A blur of people are zooming by, every single one rushing to get home to the comfort of their own home, to see their loved ones, or just relax from another long day at the office.  And for a split second, a face in the sea of hundreds from across the room catches your eye.  Just a flicker of light in your retina was all that needed to capture your attention, and it feels so familiar, even if you’ve only seen it for the first time.

Now imagine that was a blog headline (Ha! Gotcha!)

All dramatics aside, I seriously think that 37 Signals gets me.  Like, as a human being.  I randomly saw this article on their Signal Vs. Noise blog titled “When culture turns into policy” and their graphic hit me like Mike Tyson’s punch to the solar plexus.


I’ve been in multiple jobs where writing a blog was part of the description, and I have nothing against the concept of writing for a blog.  But what I do have a problem with is the churning process of “social media content”.  If you want to invest in having a blog, then great! But if a company literally says “hey, you got an hour – write a blog about x,y and z”, then the content is guaranteed to be awful.

It seems senseless to write a blog to make your company seem “cool” instead of actually just doing cool stuff.  Why force your coworkers to an after work gathering instead of just building the type of work environment where friendships would flourish any way?

Let’s just cut the bullshit.


#GIJENS is the best piece of marketing material ever

I think the best type of marketing is the type that doesn’t feel like it’s marketing at all.  Especially nowadays when we sort of live in a surreal world where everyone is a professional “brand” consultant.  I myself am guilty of looking at a marketing campaign and trying to tear it apart and critique it using a critical eye instead of just enjoying it.

Long story short, a photographer named Jens Lennartsson went on Alibaba and made a bunch of action figures of himself as promotional items to send off to potential clients to win their business.  The first thing I thought was, holy shit this is the coolest thing ever.  This guy jumped through 50 lazer beams and was able to access the dopamine receptors in my brain and turned them on.  I think it’s especially cool to me, because I’ve been studying a lot of portfolio sites (as research for my new site, which is going to be BAD ASS) and after a while they all became the same.

Breaking through the screen is sometimes the best thing you can do in digital.