Alien or a Foreigner? How to know when your idea is too ‘out there’ for customers to understand.

Over here we’re all about helping companies craft their product & service offerings so they’ll have something different to bring to their sea of sameness markets where everyone is more or less doing the same thing. And as an outcome of doing so, they’ll get more visibility, a higher chance of connecting with and being chosen by their ideal customer, be able to charge higher prices (and have their customers more than willing to pay), and more word of mouth (aka free) marketing going on.

So should you really push the boat out creatively and create something so unique that it’s like meeting an alien species for the first time?

Actually no. We’d not recommend you try take people to Mars. But how about Fiji? (or any other semi- exotic location on Earth).

One represents a disorienting confusion where you have no idea what’s going on, and in comparison the other is a pleasant novelty. In the grand scheme of things, Fiji isn’t all that different. There’s still people, water, food, and most of the stuff you’re familiar with- just with slightly different customs, weather, and scenery.

If you’re too different, you’ll likely confuse your customers.

And two things will happen- they’ll either not become customers, or you’ll spend too much time & money educating them to get them to the point of clarity where they feel like they are able to know what they’re actually signing up for.

I’ve got a little rule of thumb to make sure your audience lands in Fiji, & not on Mars: One Jump.

You can take people from where they are now, to one jump away. Not two (or more).

Which means grounding them in a sense of familiarity before telling them how what you do differs from what they already know.

A simple format to do this is :

It’s like —– except with/without ——-

Cars are like horses- only a machine made of metal & faster.

A kiwi is like a furry ball with a beak sticking out of it.

A dream is a movie that plays in your head while you’re sleeping.

What you can’t do is start explaining yourself by using a starting point which your audience doesn’t understand.

This would require 2 jumps (or more).

The first to explain what the thing is that they don’t understand that you need them to understand first before they can take another jump to what your thing actually is. Ugh, too hard.

I had this experience somewhat recently when a friend tried to explain what Blockchain technology was.

He explained that it’s technology to ensure that files that get passed from computer to computer always delete the senders copy, so that the recipient’s version is the only one that exists. This is for security and verification so files don’t either become a game of Chinese Whispers- with the information changing down the line, or to ensure authenticity of the original- as in, the file you have is the only one that exists.

(Actually he didn’t explain it quite like that, but that’s what I got from it).

But although I could understand the words he was saying, I couldn’t quite grasp the concept.

This is because I didn’t have a working knowledge of file sharing in the first place. I’ve never been in the position of seeing how files get distorted when passed down the line, or in what circumstances this would happen. I just didn’t have any awareness that this even happened in the first place. It’s not something I’d ever thought about.

I couldn’t clear one of the jumps.

A similar thing happened a few years back when trying to explain to me what ‘the cloud’ was.

…It’s when your files are stored on remote servers, and not on your computer so they can be accessed from anywhere….Ouch! Servers?

It wasn’t until it was explained like this that I was able to ‘get’ the idea:

The cloud is when your files are stored on the internet instead of your computer. It’s like email. All your emails aren’t stored on your computer are they?- you access them by logging into your email online.

At last!

I was able to understand it explained this way because I already knew what email and the internet were. So it only required one jump to explain that this was a wider category of storage called ‘the cloud’.

Using the One Jump rule, there’s 4 actions you can take if you’re getting the sense you’re in Two Jump land.

1: Explain the second jump.

This should only be considered if you have enough runway or a high enough price point to justify spending a lot more time and money communicating a three part message.

2: Find a jump off point your audience can understand.

This is for when you are able to find a suitable substitution for showing your audience what the current state of reality is.

This is what happened when I was able to understand what ‘the cloud’ was. Talking about servers was substituted for talking about email & the internet.

3: Find an audience who understands your jump off point.

This is about preaching to the choir. In the case of Blockchain technology- the choir I’m not.

In this instance, the choir would be those who have experienced problems stemming from file replication or adjustments as it travels from place to place.

4: If nobody understands your jump off point- jump ship!

Say for instance that you went back in time, before email & the internet even existed to try and explain what ‘the cloud’ was. You wouldn’t be able to even reference the internet. You’d first have to explain what the internet is. And that would be hard enough for people who’d never even experienced that.

In these cases, it’s probably just best for now to leave that idea on Mars.