Building a business means to identify, interpret and intercept “the flow”.
In the digital world today, everything is interconnected — awareness, research, recommendation, endorsement, entertainment and commerce. It, therefore, becomes pertinent to interpret and introspect on the path of the consumers’ journey.
Understanding the patterns of movement and category-specific influence points are the key to success in our understanding of how any idea finds its way to a market. What marketing is to distribution, distribution is to the flow. And, being in the flow is everything.
The fundamental basis is to ideate on the concept of “flow” — how do target customers move through the digital pipelines? How is the user’s journey articulated? Where are they starting and stopping? What content are they consuming and making? How are they coming together online? What is influencing their behaviour? What is their mindset? How many different kinds of flows are there? How big is each flow? How can we interpret activity inside each of them or intercept and add value to an existing flow? How much will it cost to get inside the flow? What is the easiest and the fastest way to find out?….
Let’s take for instance, a basic search flow. It might begin with how someone researches a product by starting with a simple search query – “who are the best home chefs around me?”
The ability to find efficient ways into this search flow, either paid or organically, can significantly influence the desired outcomes. Understanding the volume of such queries – how the results show up, the importance of content (reviews and recommendations) inside of this search flow and how you might make good use of it for your business is the key to understanding how hard it’s going to help in gaining paid customers today.
Amongst the many types, contextual flows are the authoritative commentaries that shape perceptions and define how decisions are made, eg – do we need a press release leading to a published article in a category ‘A’ national newspaper!
There are then, the conversational and community flows, where enthusiasts and loyalists gather to express passions and opinions on the topic of say, ‘home-cooked food’, that ultimately shapes consumer perception and commercial activity around it. Facebook forums, for example, fashion influential members of our community talking about the topic. This is relevant on any social platform today, influencing commercial flows, where related purchase decisions are made, say in this case, ‘festive deals and offers by other home chefs’.
Or service flows, where people go to help themselves to do the things they want to do individually – ‘monitor the best restaurant deals within their pin code.’
Identifying these flows with a purpose to influence them cost effectively, is the key to building any new offering.
Successful founders are powerful flow thinkers
Understanding the patterns and movements within your business can prove to be helpful in devising your own flows that can guide your customers in a way that makes their purchase journey more effective, useful and enjoyable.
And that is where flow thinkers are most valuable. Flow thinkers have a natural inherent skill and a deep fundamental knowledge about how flow really works online and begin all of their thinking about the viability of a business initiative from this point of view.
They could completely ignore the Total Addressable Market (TAM) aspect and see business building as the act of finding meaningful flow(s) and figuring out how to get inside of them. And find a way to get a minimum ethical viable product (MEVP) ready and into an existing flow as cheaply as possible, measuring what happens and then moving forward step by step.
Flow thinkers uniquely hack the flow. They are enterprising enough about finding efficient distribution leverage and influence points that others seem to overlook.
It will be encouraging to think about flow as a foundational framework to understand and act on a new business opportunity. The thinking to do then would look something like this:
– Interpret and identify predominant flows that define how a consumer moves through a digitally-led process (i.e. how we discover, research, decide).
– Look for evidences of secondary flows that are closely related to the primary ones. Finding those unexpected connections. Anyone can identify the obvious flows. Understanding contextual, commercial, service, communication and community flows is the key.
– Is the flow good enough to build something meaningful?
– What is the best way to hack into the flow, alter its path and shape it to your commercial ends? How can we bring about a fruitful action?
– How can you do this in a way that builds up on existing business processes and not fight against them?
– How can you identify the existing patterns of movement and the influence points to quickly to validate your assumptions?
If you can’t find the flow, and squeeze your way inside of it better than someone else, chances are, you may have to struggle while building your business.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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