Understanding Your Customers, Finding Better Focus, and The Power of Placebo - This Week's Friday Favourites

Posted by Amy Wallace Amy Wallace on .

There are many great articles online but it’s easy to miss them in the daily flurry of digital information. Even with RSS readers and read-later services, it’s easy to overlook some great blog posts throughout the week.

So we’ve rounded up some of our favourite blog posts that we read this week. If we’ve missed your favourite post, blog or author, or you simply have a suggestion for us, please let us know in the comments below! We love to discover new and wonderful writers!

1) Understanding your customers

At the heart of any startup is understanding your customers and how they interact with your product. If they're struggling with something, then it's perhaps not being made clear, and if they all love a particular feature, it might be worth thinking twice before removing it. 

Even with great customer support and discussion with your potential users though, it's still difficult to discover whether or not they really do like you and your product. Just like an angry and unhappy piece of feedback does not automatically mean the person writing it is always an angry person, a positive message of appreciation does not translate into active users. 

John Richards, a FundersClub panel member, has written a post called 'Do Your Customers Really Like You?', a question which is difficult to answer but essential to better understanding how users interact with your product. 

Richards warns that many entrepreneurs fall into the same trap when sending out a customer survey: 

If they get a positive response by their customers, they consider their idea (or their morphed idea) to now be validated. This is token validation. One survey is just one pass at validating assumptions; it’s going through the motions but not really believing in the process.

To avoid this false validation, you need to dig deeper into results and spend more time speaking with your users. Richards continues the article with four ideas for how to avoid token validation in your startup, so head over to the post to check them out. 

2) Finding Better Focus

Some days, focus seems to come easily and after sitting down at your desk, the next time you notice the clock, you realise that hours have passed. That, sadly, can happen more rarely than it should. 

But what if there were things you could do to help yourself maintain focus more often? The brain is a very complicated organ but there are some tricks you can use to understand why you lost focus and then how to regain it. 

Andrea Ayres highlights that there are traps you can prevent yourself from falling into repeatedly: 

Your brain is receiving some kind of reward from the destructive behavior you are partaking in. What that essentially means, is you have to stop yourself before you even start. If you begin the destructive behavior it will be that much more difficult to stop.

Instead you have to fight against the destructive behaviors. Each time you begin to engage in one, stop it as fast as you can. If you find you check your e-mail 20,000 times a day, each time you open up your email client (or think about opening it up) go for a walk instead.

You taught yourself how to be distracted, you can teach yourself how to be undistracted.

It's easier said than done to 'untrain' your bad habits and replace them with good ones, but if you're determined to do so, it's possible and you've got to start somewhere. If you're interested in learning how to teach yourself to be 'undistracted', head over to Andrea's post and read on.

3) The Power of Placebo

Most people know a little about the placebo effect, which is 'interventions with no active drug ingredients'. It's the cup of tea that can bring a moment of calm to a very stressful day; it's the process of going through a pre-op routine but not having surgery and waking up with no pain; it's the powerful anti-migraine medication whose effect is due in the majority of cases not to a powerful chemical interaction but to the simple idea of taking the pill. 

Understanding its power and its undervalued status in society, Seth Godin has written a short but very interesting ebook about the placebo effect. He explains that: 

Placebos can reduce blood pressure, decrease time in the hospital, aid healing, even put the breaks on an ‘incurable’ disease.

The placebo effect is so powerful that in a rigorous study on active manual labor, researchers found that thinking you were doing exercise turned out to be just as important as actually doing exercise. The study found that the human metabolism (and long-term health) were directly impacted by the story we tell ourselves about exercise.

Even more extraordinary to consider is that the placebo effect can be learned, and that even if it doesn’t work the first time, repeated attempts lead to improved results.

The placebo effect is not something that would usually be associated with the idea of marketing but Seth makes the link between the placebo effect's powerful ability to change a person's thinking and the way it can be used in marketing, while keeping in mind the ethics of using this method. 

Head over to Seth's blog to read his ebook and learn about the interesting nuances of the placebo effect. 

4) Using the philosophy of Tai Chi to help understand your emotions

A good mood can change to a bad one in an instant, sometimes with no clear reason why. And once you're in a negative frame of mind, it becomes all too easy to let yourself see everything through a negative lens.

On Pick The Brain, Eric Couillard highlights how easily this can happen: 

So much of our mental anguish is caused by resistance and emotional ‘hardness.’  For example, this morning on my way to work I got cut off by another driver.  Initially this infuriated me; then I told myself, “You idiot, how can you get angry about something so little?”  At that point, my negativity was multiplying on itself – I was angry about being angry.

So what can you do about this state of mind? Eric writes that you can use the 'PRP method (short for permission, reframe, perspective)' to help you regain an understanding of your own emotions and turn around a bad mood. 

Eric summarises each of the three steps to the PRP method in his post so check it out to see how you can use Tai Chi's philosophy of overcoming hardness with softness to reduce your heightened negative emotions. 

5) How to Read More This Year

Yesterday, we wrote a post about using Trello to manage your reading list, but what happens if managing your growing list of books to read isn't enough?

Greg Muender, founder of SpareSquare, has written a post to help you hack your reading list to get through that pile of books faster. Entitled '7 Hacks To Read 2X More Books This Year', the post suggests ideas like listening to audiobooks and making strict decisions about which books are worth reading or not. 

He starts the post by writing that: 

Personally, I consider myself a moderate bibliophile. I stick mostly to non-fiction, and deviate only occasionally to the world of make believe. For the last 4 years, every time a book has been recommended to me, I've recorded it in Evernote. However, books were added to my list faster than I could read them. Much, much faster. As I amassed a list of 356 books, I had only read about 75 in that time. How would I ever manage this relentless expansion?

I devised a system that helps me extract the most value out of the books on my lengthy list

Head over to the post here to read those 7 hacks he's devised to read more. We'd love to hear any tips and tricks you use to read more efficiently, so add them to the comments down below. 

Let us know what you thought of these posts or if you have any suggestions for next week's post in the comments below, or say hi by Tweeting us or sending us an email