Thursday, January 30, 2020

Reading Redux

Looking around at all the computer screens flickering around my seat on my flight to Florida this week, it was obvious which of two time-gobblers was preferred by most of my fellow passengers. Hint: reading was not the winner.

A good book, however, is my mainstay for cross-continental flights. Even so, I can't manage to finish an entire volume in the time it takes to go from California to Florida, so I'll have more to think about on the return trip.

The book currently captivating me is the one I mentioned earlier this month, Crossing the Chasm. Reading the updated version of Geoffrey A. Moore's now-classic book is slow going for me. It's not that it focuses on how to market leading edge technological developments. It's specifically for the reason I've latched on to this book that I'm taking so much time to make it to the back cover: the material prompts my thinking processes. And my thoughts are firmly anchored in the decidedly low-tech stance of our genealogy society world. I'm trying to determine how to apply this marketing guru's advice to our much more conservative collective.

The gist of Moore's advice is to formulate what he calls a "Whole Product Model." In contrast, what we are used to—what he terms the "generic product"—is the item that was packed in the box and shipped to the purchaser by the company. It could be, for instance, a computer or a cell phone. For our purposes, let's say that "generic product" is a genealogy society. It's basically the stripped down version of the "product" our potential buyer is buying.

Moore goes through a progressive list of ways the customer can view this product. There is, for instance, the "expected product" (what the customer thought she was buying), or the "augmented product" (the tricked out version, complete with all the peripherals, bells and whistles). The main point, though, is to determine the potential for the "product" and its room for growth to become the "go-to" device the end user couldn't live without.

The user needs to be able to see herself being able to use the product—fully and satisfactorily—or there will be hesitancy in even stepping up to purchase that product in the first place. On the producer's side, being able to envision the entire package of what a potential customer really wanted—in many cases, before the customer could even imagine those uses for herself—may mean providing training, coaching, and other ways of coming alongside the customer to help bring her to that full realization. That is far more than just helping a customer pull a gizmo out of a clunky box.

Since this is a marketing book, it was no surprise to see the author's punchline regarding this sales problem: "By solving the whole product equation for any given set of target customers, high tech has overcome its single greatest obstacle to market development."

In other words, Moore warns these high tech entrepreneurs,
If you leave your customer's success to chance, you are giving up control over your own destiny. Conversely, by thinking through your customer's problems—and solutions—in their entirety, you can define and work to ensure that the customer gets the whole product.

Now, let's shift our focus from that ethereal world of high tech, and float back to the earthbound turf where we live: coordinating services for our (decidedly low tech) genealogical societies. What is our purpose as a local genealogical society? What do our members want from their society? What would that "whole product" be?

Whether our members have been drawn to join a society to share their family history triumphs, or to learn how to better find those elusive ancestors, one thing is sure. With the progress and changes in our own field, even the most entrenched Luddites among us are grappling with using programs to build our trees, search for historic documents, or even analyze DNA matches. And those society members seldom want to buy that "product" and pull it straight out of the box, uninitiated. They want knowledgeable coaches to help them bridge the gap toward informed and complete use of these new resources.

Others among our potential members are people who, having never researched their own family history, have been attracted by the seemingly ubiquitous advertisements promoting genealogy companies like or They want to try out this family history thing for themselves—but how to start?

It's groups like our own local societies which stand in that gap between the "generic product" of genealogy and need to be prepared to provide the augmented product for confident "customers." Perhaps we've never seen it that way—as catalysts between the low tech world of the neophyte user and the confident application of new tools—but that's the position in which we should see ourselves, as societies.

With all the tools and techniques now within our reach as genealogists, the greatest proposition we can offer to new family historians is to be their guide along an increasingly high tech path. To do that successfully, we need to examine just what that "whole product" actually would look like to our genealogical customers.  


  1. Thanks for bringing me thoughts about this book that I doubt that I would pick up on my own. I've been trying to think of ways to build some cohesion among new members and the rest of our club, and draw them into meetings. We already give out a yearbook with a membership list of everyone. Your remarks make me think that including a thumbnail photo for each member would help new members join in more confidently and form new friendships that can turn into shared projects.

    1. Marian, thanks for your comment here. I often hesitate to post items on this blog so far afield of the main topics of genealogy, but my second love, after genealogy, is the societies which help us all improve our research skills, so I couldn't help but think of those vital groups.

      Your suggestion sounds workable. Anything to help integrate new members will go a long way for everyone in your organization. In fact, rather than take up more time here, you've inspired me to write more on this in tomorrow's post. Thanks so much!


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