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Looking to the Future (Thinks Out Loud Episode 300!)

Looking to the future: Man interacting with virtual tablet

At the beginning of the year, I knew Thinks Out Loud would celebrate its 300th episode sometime in August. What I didn’t know was that the world would fall apart in the meantime. So, instead of looking back, it makes more sense to celebrate this show — to celebrate you and your support — by looking to the future. Not just of the show. But for ways to make sure you’re able to help us celebrate our 400th show. And our 500th. And many more to come.

That’s why this week’s episode of Thinks Out Loud is focused around looking to the future. And how you can do the same for your business.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you.

Looking to the Future (Thinks Out Loud Episode 300!) — Headlines and Show Notes:

Free Downloads

I’d mentioned in the show that there were a couple of free downloads for you. The team thought it would be easier to link to them separately, instead of you having to parse through all the links. So, here you go:

  • "Five Eyes" Product/Service Matrix. Use this simple matrix to map your business offerings across their real time/any time and fixed place/any place attributes. Here’s how you can put this to work:
    • Map your existing offerings to see if time and place matter
    • Ask, "how can I make those matter less? What is needed to make those more virtual?"
    • Can you offer subscriptions?
    • Can you offer flexibility? Gift certificates, gift registries, etc.
    • Can you deliver some part of the product or service completely virtually?
    • Offer classes online?
    • Package portions of the product or service into downloadable elements
    • Improve delivery or pickup
  • A Brief Introduction to Thinks Out Loud. This PDF document highlights some of our core episodes to help you dig into what the show is about and let you capture its essence while you’re working your way through the 300 episodes published so far.

Show Notes and Links

As always, here are the "regular" show notes, detailing links and news related to this week’s episode.

Thinks Out Loud is sponsored by SoloSegment: SoloSegment increases large-enterprise, B2B website conversion with easy-to-install software that automatically connects website visitors to the content they need to see to achieve their goals. SoloSegment does this using anonymous data and machine learning ensuring privacy compliance, addressing the many anonymous visitors, and improving the efficiency of marketing teams. Visit

Subscribe to Thinks Out Loud

Contact information for the podcast:

Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

Recorded using a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Mic and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 17m 46s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes, the Google Play Store, via our dedicated podcast RSS feed (or sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player at the top of this page.

Transcript — Looking to the Future (Thinks Out Loud Episode 300!)

Episode Introduction

Well, hello again, everyone. And welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital marketing expertise your business needs.

My name is Tim Peter. This is, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, this is episode three hundred of the big show. And I am stunned that that’s the case.

I started this podcast eight years ago, almost eight years ago to the month. This is August, I’m in mid August of 2021 when I’m recording this. I started the podcast in mid-September of 2012. So I’ve been doing this for eight years now, which is astonishing to me. I did not know that there would be 300 episodes. I did not know that anyone would listen to 300 episodes and yet here we all are.

And even though I’ve been doing this for eight years, even though this is episode 300, I do not want to look back. Because while I think there are things we can learn from the past — and you all know, I talk about this a lot — there are definitely lessons we learn from the past. But I think with everything going on right now, it is more important than looking back for us to look forward.

Looking to the Future

So here’s what I want you to do. I want you to picture that it is mid-August of 2021. I want you to take a couple minutes and just stop and think that you are sitting in your office or you are sitting in your home office, or you’re sitting at your dining room table or whereever you are when you listen to the show and when you do your work. And I want you to think about the fact. And imagine that you’ve just had the best 12 months you’ve ever seen. Now I get it. Things are not great right now. So I know that it might be hard to picture. And that’s actually why it’s so important that you do this. I want you to just take a few minutes out of what might be another one is stressful on otherwise crappy day. And I want you to picture how you’re going to feel a year from now when you’ve just had the best 12 months you’ve ever had.

You got that feeling? Are you taking a moment to soak that in and say, "yeah, I can picture that? I can picture that going from here. We’re going to have a great 12 months. We’re going to have a great run going forward."

Now it’s incredibly fair of you to ask and it’s incredibly fair of you to think. Okay, sure. I can picture that. But what do you have to do to make that happen? And that’s actually what I want to talk about today. That’s the future we need to create, you know, when it’s time for our 400th show, when the 10th anniversary of their show, we can celebrate, we’ll pop some champagne. We’ll have a great time. It’ll be spectacular. But let’s get to that 400th episode. Let’s get to that 10 years. Let’s make the next 12 months count.

How You’ll Get There

And the way you’re going to do that is stuff we’ve talked about before. But I really want to dive deeply into it and talk about what you need to do.

Listen To Your Customers

You know, that I always start with, you have to listen to your customers, right? That shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone here. But let’s take a step back for a moment and say, okay, let’s be clear on who your customers are.

Be Clear On Who Your Customers Are

An old boss of mine used to tell a great story about the difference between American Express and Visa. You know, if you think about American Express and you think about Visa, they basically are in the same business. They give credit cards to people and they do other things. You know, they use that data in various ways to create new products or offer, you know, other products to B2B folks and offer other products to B2C folks. But they actually have really different customers. American Express’s customer is the cardholder and everything that they do is for the benefit of the cardholder, they will do what’s right for the banks, but only when it is the right thing to do for the cardholder.

Visa on the other hand, who, you know, by all appearances, is in exactly the same business does what’s right for the banks. Their customer is the bank. Now they will do what’s right for the customer, the cardholer, lots and lots and lots of times, because that’s usually also what’s good for the banks.
But in both cases, if there’s a dispute over, you know, who should benefit from a given product, service, offering, promotion, dispute, what have you, each of those companies is very clear on who they need to serve, where their bread is buttered. In Amex’s case it’s the cardholder. And in Visa’s case, it’s the bank. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Yes, there are cases where you can have more than one customer. You know? Google and Facebook, is their customer the user, the advertiser, both? Platforms like eBay or Etsy or Reverb. Is it the buyer? The seller? Both? Someone else altogether?

For most people, you know, if you’re a hotel or a restaurant or a retailer or you’re in financial services or technology, or what have you, you want to make sure you’re very clear on who are you here to serve. Because you’re not going to be able to listen to the customer and understand the customer if you’re not very clear on who that is.

Looking to the Future Using Social and Search to Listen

Now, of course, once you’re very clear on who that customer is. You have to think about what their needs are. You have to listen to hear what their needs are. And I’ve talked about this past shows in just the past few weeks. So I’m not going to belabor this point. But you can listen in lots of ways. You can obviously talk to them person to person or face to face. If you can do that right now with what’s going on.

You can use search data from Google Search Console, or using Google like we talked about a few weeks ago, or use your own website search data to understand what they’re searching for and what matters to them. You can use social listening tools like BuzzSumo or Social Bond or BuzzWeb or FollowerWonk or Sprout Social or plenty of others.

You can conduct a survey using Survey Monkey or Google Surveys or things like that.

Again, all of these are low cost to free tools. So you don’t have to spend a lot of money to do this if funds are tight right now. But you do need to understand, "who am I here to serve?" And "what is it that they need help with?"

Thinking About Your Business in a Future-Looking Way

And then it becomes a question of how can you help them. And this is where the real trick is going to come in both right now and where we’re going to go over the next, you know, six, 12, 18 months. Because it’s probably not, how can you help them doing what you’ve always done? At the same time, it’s probably not just, how can you use digital to meet those needs?

What I want you to think about how can you use all the tools at your disposal, whether it’s face to face, in person, virtual, digital, what have you, to help them? Because it’s not an either-or situation. It’s a both-and situation.

How Uber, Airbnb, and Facebook Look to the Future

Think about companies who’ve been very successful over the last bunch of years and what they did. Uber didn’t just think about how to use mobile, to identify where people were, pick them up and take them places. They also said, why can’t we pick up things at places and take them to people? And that’s where Uber Eats came from and other services like that.

Airbnb, didn’t just say, how do we have people rent a room or an apartment? They also said, who are the people who know the most about a place and how do we connect travelers to those folks? And that’s where Airbnb’s Experiences product came from. And they’ve just recently extended that to virtual experiences.

Facebook just announced that it’s an offering a platform for paid online events. They seem to recognize, as you might imagine, the conferences have gone away. And lots of the tools that many businesses use to interact with their customers don’t exist right now and said, what’s a great way we can actually serve this need for our customers?

And in fairness to Facebook, they’re doing some cool things. They’re not charging any fees for at least the first year, which is dangerously brilliant. Because it’s a great way to get people locked in and then ratchet up the fees later if they choose to. But they’re making a service available to make things better for their customers.

They’re also taking a — and to be fair, an entirely accurate and deserved — shot at Apple for charging a cut of the fees of things that happen there. If you do this on iOS, because Apple is being pretty crappy about that right now. So, I mean, Facebook is being very smart and very savvy in a way that they don’t usually do. They’re being good to consumers and they’re playing the long game rather than just, you know, what do we do in the short term?

So just as those folks have done, how can you rethink your business offering or your product or your service to focus on making things that were real time, any time? How can you make things that were at a fixed place, any place?

Introducing the Five Eyes Product-Service Matrix

Some things you won’t be able to, but are there elements where you can. You’ll find in the show notes, I’ve put together a very, very simple matrix that you can download. It’s not gated, it’s just a PDF. You can download it and use it as you see fit. And you can map your existing offerings to see if time and place matter and then ask, how can I make those matter less?

What is needed to make those more virtual? Can you offer subscriptions to what you do? Can you offer flexibility in pricing or time or place? Can you think, in terms of gift certificates or gift registries or things like that that allow people flexibility? And when they consume your product or service, can you deliver some part of the product or service completely virtually offer classes online?

Again, think about things like the Facebook paid online events. Can you package portions of the product or service into downloadable elements? Can you improve delivery or pickup to make it that it was at place A, but it could be any place?
Again, how do you make real time, any time? And how do you make things that were fixed place, any place?

Producer, Problem Solver, Platform Value Chain Model

And then the last part you need to think about is where do you fit in the value chain? Now there’s a model I’ve used for years, a framework I’ve used for years that I love that talks about the three components of the value chain:

  • Where you’re a producer. That is you make the thing.
  • You’re problem solver. That is you deliver the thing, regardless of who makes it, or,
  • You’re a platform. You connect customers to producers, problem solvers or both.

Most people listening to the show I expect are going to be producers or problem solvers most of the time. But there is a secret in here. You are always also a platform. Your platform is your digital presence. Like we’ve been talking about in recent weeks of working in a world without Google, or how to deal with the whole TikTok cluster… Tok, right?

It’s all about how you make your platform more effective, make sure you’re using your hub and your spokes appropriately. Because you need to think about how to make your platform, your digital presence, more effective if you’re a producer or a problem solver so that you’re not dependent on a platform getting between you and the customer.

That’s what I’m talking about. Where as a producer, or as a problem solver, how do you make those things that were a fixed time in place and make those more flexible in terms of time and place?

Looking to the Future – Conclusion

So, those are the questions that you have to ask yourself and you have to answer. Who is my customer, what do they need? How can I deliver that in a way that is more successful, more effective for where they are right now? Not by doing what I’ve always done, but by doing something that takes all of the tools — face to face, in person, virtual, and digital — and puts them together in a new way to help customers get what they need.
Because if you do that well, that’s going to help you get what you need. And that’s how you’re going to be able to sit here a year from now and say, yeah, this was the best 12 months we’ve ever had. And that’s a pretty good future to look forward to.
You can do this and I hope to be here for another 300 episodes to help you get there.

So 300 episodes in, don’t be looking at the past, look to the future. Now I do want to point out John in the UK, a new listener, asked for a primmer that he said, "You’ve got 300 episodes. Where do I begin?" So I’ve also put together a PDF of some of the past, the top episodes from the past to direct you to. Sort of the best of Thinks Out Loud, to the core of what I’ve always talked about. So you can think of it as a starter kit, so you don’t have to go back and listen to all prior 299, unless you want to, in which case I would be really, really happy that you did, but you can, I pick and choose from the ones you like. But I hope you get what you need and then be like John in building that future that you really deserve.

Looking to the Future – Show Outro

So with that, I want to say, thanks so much for tuning in. I really appreciate you tuning in every single week. I want to remind you that you can find the show notes for this episode, as well as an archive of all past episodes, including that little primer I just mentioned by going to Again, that’s Just look for episode 300.
While you’re there, you can click on the subscribe link in any of the episodes you find there to have Thinks Out Loud delivered to your favorite podcatcher every single week. You can also find Thinks Out Loud on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher Radio, Overcast, wherever fine podcasts are found.
Just do a search for Tim Peter Thinks, Tim Peter Thinks Out Loud, or Thinks Out Loud. We should show up for any of those.

While you’re there. I would also very much appreciate it if you could provide us a positive rating or review. It helps new listeners find us, helps us show up better in those various podcast hosting services search, and it helps new listeners understand what the show is all about a little bit better. It really makes a huge difference. It means a ton to me and I would very much appreciate it.

You can also find Thinks Out Loud on Facebook by going to You can find me on Twitter using the Twitter handle @TCPeter. And of course you can email me by sending an email to Again, that’s

I’d also like to thank our sponsor. Thinks Out Loud is brought to you by SoloSegment. SoloSegment uses machine learning and anonymous behavioral data to automatically connect website visitors to the content they need to achieve their goals. They do this in ways that ensure privacy compliance, address the needs of your website visitors and improve the efficiency of your marketing team. You can learn more by going to Again, that’s

With that, I want to say again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for tuning in for 300 episodes now. It means so very much to me. I hope you have a great rest of the week. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I hope you have the very best future imaginable.

And I’m going to look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then please be well, be safe, and as I say, every single week, take care, everybody.

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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