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Co-Create, Part I: Form a Supergroup

(And market with depth when you're not an expert!)



So now you have subject matter experts who know the ins and outs of a brilliant solution to a problem that needs solving and a marketer who wants to tell that story to the part of the world who will care. How do you connect the dots? And even more, how do you get one fueling the other? The simple answer is that you join forces in a big way right from the start.


There’s a musical group on my most frequently played list called I’m With Her. I’ve seen IWH perform live once at a charming venue about an hour from Raleigh called the Haw River Ballroom. If you haven’t heard this group and are a music lover or have a particular penchant for folk or bluegrass, please check them out and let me know what you think. This is a group of three artists who were each accomplished in her own right and came together to form the supergroup that is IWH. Sarah Watkins on her own is tender and powerful and clear. Aoife O’Donovan’s music is filled with drama and poetry. And Sarah Jarosz tells you a story in such a simple, understated way, you're waiting to hear what she'll say next. On their own, each is beautiful and unique. Together, they are unforgettable.


I mentioned in the last article, The marketer and the SME – Who’s more important?, if you want to drive impact through your marketing right out of the gates, you need to show depth from the start. That doesn’t mean you need to tell your life story on the first date. It just means what you say, how you say it, and the context in which you wrap it will tell your prospect whether or not you’ll help her.


Is how we create, creative?

As creative as the pieces of marketing can be, the overall method of getting from problem to solution in marketing is often very linear. An organization needs to get the word out on something. Marketing gets with one or two subject matter experts to learn all the key pieces needed to shape the story—what's the goal, who’s the audience, what’s the solution, how’s it different than the competition, what is the proven or hoped for benefit—the value proposition or promise to your audience. Then marketing decides the way to get this message out and hopes for the best. In this approach, the burden of coming up with the right answers is all on marketing.


Sure, marketing should own marketing impact, but feeling the burden of having all of the right answers doesn't have to be all on marketing's shoulders. I know it sounds like I'm contradicting myself, but bear with me. There is an easier way to do all of this, and it's called co-creation.


Co-creation is a method where you bring a problem you want to solve to multiple people who each has a different view of that problem. This diverse group of people is your supergroup. The co-creation framework shared here, I learned from my courses at IDEO U and adapted to the specific context of a marketer. I’ll start with the first two steps.


Craft your problem statement

The first thing you need is a clear problem statement. This should consist of someone who is trying to do something to result in some outcome. Sometimes you have to use the supergroup to help you drill into one of the components of this problem statement at a time, before you can put them all together. That’s perfectly OK, and I do it all of the time.


Here are some examples of problem statements I use a lot…

For target persona development you might want to have a problem statement that says something like, "Who would benefit most from what we do?" Or if you've had some sales but haven't zeroed in specifically on a persona type in your messaging, you can work backwards and say, "Of all of the customers that we've sold to, how did the conversation start?" That will usually uncover the persona you should be targeting first. Then if your sales cycle is complex, you can do the same storming around who influences the buying cycle along the way. The end goal is that you’ve clearly articulated who you are targeting. This is a North Star for everything that will follow and makes sure the message you get out there will speak to that audience in a meaningful way.


If you have your persona figured out and you're trying to decide how to message your solution to that person in a way that will be meaningful, your problem statement might look something like, "What is this person trying to achieve, what stands in the way, and how can we help?"


The first and the third problem statement cover a LOT of ground as a marketer. As you get comfortable, you can craft problem statements for anything you need to solve. These examples are pretty high level, but you can get them as narrow as your problem demands.


Create your own supergroup

Once your problem statement is defined, you can determine who all owns a stake in that problem and let that guide how you form your own supergroup. This could be the customer, the architect, the maker, the supporter, the marketer, the seller, and so on. The more perspectives, the richer the result. Together at one virtual table, this diverse group of people can very quickly progress the impact of your story. This method eases the burden on marketing to figure out all of the right answers. Instead, marketing becomes a facilitator, a data and idea miner. When done effectively, the group can organically identify the problem, start building the skeleton of the answer, and then fleshing it out. The end result is an accurate, powerful story full of life and much richer than a single marketer, or even a whole marketing team, could come up with on its own.


In addition to the problem statement and group of diverse perspectives, co-creation has a handful of other key ingredients. I’ll tackle those in detail in the next article. The basic tenet is that you’ve taken a problem and distributed the solving of it across a diverse group that represents who’s affected most by that problem. You’ve carefully crafted a way to pose a question to the group that will get you closer to solving that problem. Next we’ll talk about how to get the most out of that group in a short amount of time. The process will also get each member of your supergroup in touch with her creative side (everyone has one!), more connected with one another, and will result in speeding the time it takes for her to understand and adopt what was created, because she was part of creating it!


And if you’re interested in checking out one of the best supergroups (IMHO) of all time, the I’m With Her Tiny Desk Concert with NPR is a great place to start. If you have a supergroup you love, please share! I’m always looking for new music.



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