Amy is on her second career as she describes it, being a fractional executive, and an investor / advisor for smaller businesses. Her first career was in the corporate world that included executive positions with American Express, CITI and E*Trade. Hear how her experiences relate to small business marketing too.

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Hear Amy and Dax talk about the differences between large enterprises and small startups, and the surprising ways they are actually quite similar from an innovation point of view. Amy talks about how many small business owners are envious of the large enterprise budgets and worry they can’t compete, but that during her time at CITI she actually cut those budgets in favor of 1:1 interviews with customers.

Amy also gives advice and tips on understanding your customer, the importance of aligning your team / vendors / partners and even investors to your North Star goal. 

Hear about how innovation doesn’t start with ‘let’s go build it’ but instead the critical discovery phase where we have to listen and then iteratively build a product with the customer in mind. The danger of not following this process is a company can build a great solution that’s looking for a problem!

Engaging with the customer during the discovery phase:

  • Really dislike asking ‘what would you do’ because they don’t know what they would do, and they don’t want to hurt your feelings.
  • Ask them to tell you stories about a time when … BLANK.
  • Try asking them to imagine your product as a person and what they would be like. Amy shared her experience doing this launching new credit cards when she got the answer the card was like the janitor when they were aiming to be the host!

When having these conversations we have to be careful to shut down our confirmation bias.

We can use demographics when choosing people to sample, but of more value is to think of all the people who are trying to solve a problem. Demographics by themselves will give you a self selecting slice of the world.

Also think about probing after your initial question – 2 or 3 follow up questions make the person they’re feeling listened to, and will tell you much more than your scripted 10 questions may have. People like to help when they feel they’re being listened to.

Amy talked about going into people’s homes after the financial crisis to talk about retirement plans when she was EVP Chief Innovation Officer for E*TRADE. This is something any small business marketer can do themselves.

Try asking how someone would describe your product or service in order to write your copy for you. Amy uses text-to-voice services as a way to evaluate her copy; it gives her a better view of how it really sounds.

For advice and guidance Amy maintains a group of trusted individuals, and builds peer groups she can leverage.

Amy shared the story of how she launched the first web pages for CÌTÌ group at the start of the internet, and what the attitude was amongst groups of her colleagues at the time.

Links from the episode: