If I can put a 40-year-old man in a cocktail dress and take him to prom…

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It was my turn to set a trail for my “drinking club with a running problem.” You set a mystery trail that starts with a few beers and then you run and have beer along the way until you get to the end where there’s beer. You sing a few dirty rugby songs and call each other out for crimes and honors (punished and rewarded with, you guessed it, beer). Then if you’re still standing, you have a party where you drink beer (or in this case wine).

I had opened my big mouth at one of our local wineries and said some borderline risqué things and got no dirty looks. Upon further investigation, they were laid back, catered to local artists on the fringe and were throwing a party that was an “adult prom” on the day of my trail.

Kismet! This winery was next to the property of one of our local festival grounds. This meant I could take these half-minds across the Long Tom River (creek). If the bridge wasn’t still there, the boat would be.

Like any great endeavor, it’s not done alone. In our group, we have dirty nicknames for each other. I grabbed a “gentlemen” named Hugh Mungus who knew the area well and we scouted most of the trail in preparation. We never quite made it to the river but we figured we knew the area well enough.

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Come the day of the prom, my community delivered. We have a shared worldview around silliness and debauchery. Most arrived in fabulous dresses scrounged from local thrift stores, men included. I was one of the few in suit and bow tie. They were also ready to run.

We took off with a head start marking the trail and false trails with baking flour. I set the first part of the trail with Hugh and then he was supposed to go ahead while I swept trail and then headed back to the van to play designated driver. When we got to the creek I about busted my bow tie. No bridge. No boat. One heck of a current.

Hugh, who never sweats anything said, “Eh, it will be fine. Or it won’t.” He managed to make it across, barely. He clawed his way up the steep and muddy bank while I tried not to shit my tuxedo pants. I circled back to sweep my drunk runners. In between thoughts of everyone drowning, I watched my crazy people try and find the trail. It seemed so obvious to me but they just couldn’t seem to find our marks. I scouted it and set it. I knew where to look. It was very difficult not to just scream at them to “LOOK HERE!”

We made it to the creek and I prepared myself for anger and shaming from my peers. Instead, they either took their dresses off and swam or put those sequins right in the creek. The first macho men in taffeta that made it across helped the others across and up the steep bank. I have a clear memory of Mary Tyler Whore in full-length green sparkles scrambling up the slippery bank while Red Rim Jim Job shoved his hand in his ass to give him a boost.

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I hated to turn back and go get the van. I wanted to jump in with them! I hurried to the van and met them after the second half of the trail on the property of the winery. That there was an actual prom party was a surprise and it was well received. They were ready to celebrate their hard work and drink their just rewards. (And yes, we got invited back!)

My Customers Want to Become Prom Queen

Like my Prom Trail, I want to lead my customers down a path.

I work for a very small company selling outcomes software to rehabilitation professionals. We are currently not investing any development dollars into the platform. Sadly, we missed the boat on UX and it’s very difficult to find your way through the best parts of the software. So I need to mark the trail.

We did get it right about who our customer wants to be. They want to be the PTs that created the product. They want to collect and use data to make business and clinical decisions and run a great patient-centered practice. But few get past the step of buying the product. Those that do aren’t the super-nerds that created the product. They need the trail.

Inspired by the article Who and What our Customers Will Become. I want to rebrand my customers. We share a worldview around combining evidence with experience and knowing your customer with the goal of running a compassionate, patient-centered business. The Simon Sinek “Why” of our product is to empower rehab professional to be evidence-based practitioners. To empower them with confidence in using data as part of their practice. They can use the data combined with their experience and their patients’ preferences to deliver effective patient-centered care. They can measure the results and change interventions when needed. They can use their data as a benchmark with which to measure the effectiveness of improvement initiatives.

Right now, most are uncomfortable with data because they are trying to juggle being an entrepreneur with still carrying a patient case load. They have limited time to learn new skills and, like everyone else, they trend towards the things that they’re comfortable with (it’s not every man that can put on a sequin dress).

I want to create a customer who is excited about data and feels capable of using data. I want a customer who is proud to talk about the changes they made using data and their critical thinking skills. I want them to not shy away from conversations about patient-centered care but to jump in the center because they are doing it. I want them to proudly say that they use data to inform their business decisions. My customer wants this, they just need a path to lead them there.

I want to start marking this path by adding an element to our onboarding process. All new customers get a direct consultation after each of their first two quarters to help them read and understand the reports that our system can generate. The UX for the reports is the least intuitive part of our system and my customers often don’t know what business questions to ask. But they want to know. I want to show them how they can do it for themselves. I want to mark the trail for them.

I want to build deeper trust one relationship at a time. I want to build enough confidence that when I ask them to jump, they put on their best dress and leap.

I can take them through their reports. I can sit with them and listen deeply. I can help them ask themselves good questions. I can show them the tools they can use to make it to the party. I can be their designated driver when they’ve had too many.

They paid for the dress. I want to give them a party to wear it to.

Productivity/mastermind nerd, coach in Seth Godin’s Akimbo community, inbound digital marketer, former mental health professional, Hasher & Airbnb owner.

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