They say that starting up a venture is a race to figure out a viable business model before your money runs out. In this race, figuring out your ‘early adopter’ customer is the starting line. Now it’s time to shift gears and think of your end game – that is, what you want this venture to accomplish when it is up and running (from now on we will refer to this as your steady state). Ultimately, the art of being a start-up or expanding on your existing social enterprise is figuring out how to secure your ‘early adopter’ customer and then build up to your end game with the least amount of risk and the highest chance of success.
Discussing and recording what your customers, your beneficiaries and your team must do in order to access and deliver your product/ service (key steps) is a valuable exercise for your team that will allow you to critically work through the different aspects of your venture, explore existing alternatives available to the groups you are hoping to serve and how your offering compares, and sets the stage for determining the costs associated with operating your social enterprise.
When it comes to steps that need to be taken, it all begins with your customers and beneficiaries. Here the key is to get a deep understanding of your targets’ needs. It’s about understanding the narrative of their lives in such rich detail that you are able to design a solution that far exceeds anything they themselves could have found words to request (Christensen 119).
As you go through the customer or beneficiary experience, don’t ask if your product/ service is good enough. Instead, ask “is it good enough to make this kind of progress in this kind of situation?” (Christensen 103).
Your steps narrative should include the “…moments of struggle, nagging tradeoffs, imperfect experiences, and frustrations in peoples’ lives” (Christensen 105). Of course, also keep an eye out for any ‘moments of struggle, nagging tradeoffs, imperfect experiences, and frustrations’ that your solution may cause. This in turn will guide you in developing a plan for your operations.
Barriers to Change:
In specifying the beneficiary and customer experience, also keep an eye out for “… the forces opposing any change, including the inertia caused by current habits and the anxiety about the new” (Christensen 120). Typically, there are three great barriers:
- Commitment to the status quo;
- Fear of risk;
- Lack of compelling reason to utilize your offering (Moore, 164): e. does it make your targets’ lives dramatically simpler, more convenient, more productive, less risky, more fun and fashionable, and/or is it environmentally friendly (Kim 120)?
The Six Basic Stages of the Customer/Beneficiary Journey:
As you list what your customer and/or beneficiary must do it may be useful to think of the six stages of the typical experience cycle of those engaging in an offering: purchase/acquisition, delivery, use, supplements, maintenance and disposal (Kim 121).
The Social/ Emotional Aspects:
Do not forget the social and emotional dimensions of your targets’ steps – in reality, “… social and emotional needs can far outweigh any functional desires” (Christensen 29). For example, the ease and cost of getting a babysitter and parking the car affect the perceived value of going to the movies (Kim 67).
Having examined your social enterprise idea from your customers’ and beneficiaries’ perspectives, you are in an ideal position to think about what you need to do to make your venture a reality. This could include steps/ actions you need to take and the resources you need to support both the customers and beneficiaries. While your customer/beneficiary steps are important and a great starting point for figuring out what you will need to do, know that they are not the same thing. Similar to above, think through activities such as product/ service design, production, staffing, delivery, how purchases will be made and funds accepted, maintenance/ customer service, evaluation, and marketing and customer retention.
Many of the actions and steps listed for your team, your customers, and beneficiaries will result in expenses/ costs that affect the operations of your venture. As such, having a clear picture of your business and social models as you develop and/ or expand your social enterprise is a important exercise as you begin moving towards the goals you have laid out.
Aulet, Bill. Disciplined Entrepreneurship. John Wiley & Sons, 2013.
Christensen, Clayton M., Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon, and David. S. Duncan. Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice. HarperCollins, 2016.
Kim, W. Chan and Rene Mauborgne. “Blue Ocean Strategy.” Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, 2015.
MacMillan, Ian and James Thompson. The Social Entrepreneur’s Playbook. Wharton DigitalPress, 2013.
Moore, Geoffrey A. Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers. HarperCollins Publishers, 2014.