Taylor Wescoatt, general partner of Concrete VC, a PropTech startup platform, looks at how tech businesses can best engage with end users.
In the property industry it’s clear that the winners will increasingly be the ones focussed on the end user. AirBnB, Uber, and WeWork are great examples of thinking this way. Real estate is an established industry looking for new ways, including Startups, to fix issues that have been around for decades. Real estate is not alone, everything from insurance to social care is experiencing similar challenges.
In the property lifecycle, participants in the value-chain are typically focussed on delivering their bit, and then handing it off to the next person in the chain. Architect > builder > owner > operator > and then, finally, to the person or employee who actually lives or works there.
A leading expert recently moved from the food & beverage sector into the property world. They told me over coffee that after a few months into their new career they exclaimed to a new colleague, “What do you mean the customer doesn’t come first?”. From their previous role they couldn’t understand why this wasn’t happening in the property industry. Rarely does the end-user get consulted or listened to on what they want or need, they just need to suck it up.
To communicate to the very top, you need to work with the bottom of the chain. Aside from the clear product benefits user engagement brings, the validation and insight can sway decision makers in your favour.
Here are some of the considerations and actions you need to take to best engage with the end-user and shape a compelling pitch for a potential corporate partner.
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Getting to know the end-user
Decide who they are for your business. User Research is not a new science, there are many consulting groups that will do this for you, but some of this expertise might be worth building in-house. Where you can gather data digitally, all the better. Once you have a first pass at what your end-user might want, test your hypotheses with trial applications of technology.
Make sure your whole team is part of the journey and that the job is divided and not just sat with an “Innovation Manager”. Educate, encourage, and incentivise your employees to try new things. Celebrate their efforts, give them a bit of room to fail fast and learn. Not only will you attract and retain the best and the brightest this way, you’ll also stay a step ahead of competitors that don’t.
People don’t actually want to talk to people
You can unearth tons of tasks that could be accomplished easier, faster, and better, by letting the end-user see and decide what they want to do. Given a choice most people would rather use technology to get tasks done than deal with humans. While most still like talking socially, or when problems need to be worked through, work is simply getting tasks done. You want comprehensive information, clear options, and the ability to make a decision without waiting for others to decide when, whether or how to engage with you. Think accommodation reservations (AirBnB), taxi rides (Uber), office leases (WeWork) – you just want to get things booked .
Unlock your data
People are using apps to get tasks done instead of talking to an intermediary. Not only does this make it easier to get something done, but doing it via a digital platform allows product managers to see trends and data that you simply can’t via a human-intermediated or paper-based process.
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This insight is where the secret to innovations lies. You can see the trends. You can see the clusters, you can see the gaps, in usage, interest, or consumption. Continually armed with fresh end-user insight you have incredibly valuable information to share with potential partners, and you’ll keep ahead of your competitors.
The bottom line
The bottom line will always mean a bigger number on the end of the company balance sheet. You need to convert your knowledge about what users wants into numbers that matter. Numbers that mean you can save your potential customer time, automate existing manual tasks, make their customers happy and improve their customer services. Whatever it is that you can impact you need to balance qualitative and quantitative sales techniques. Give your prospective partner data and bring it to life with stories and use cases you’ve seen by focusing on their customer.
Armed with valuable up to date user insight, industry knowledge, and figures that make sense to decision makers, you’re in a strong position to pitch to corporate partners. The sales cycle takes time, but the more prepared you can be from the beginning, the better your chance of success.