Using Design Thinking Strategy for Brand Growth: Handful Resources for small business owners

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It is often said that the key to selling is identifying what consumers want. What better way to do that than design thinking.

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I was in a voice session yesterday, and the speaker highlighted some key points in design thinking. It opened my eyes to the possibilities that abound and how SMEs can explore design thinking in growing their business and hitting mega sales.

What is Design Thinking?

In simple terms, design thinking is a solution-based approach to solving problems. But is that all that there is to design thinking? Not at all. It is so much more. Design thinking is about observing, understanding and building empathy with your customers. It is you asking questions like:

Would I use this product I’m selling?

Can I pay this much for this item?

As a distant customer, would I pay so much for a waybill?

Design thinking is basically you putting yourself in the shoes of your customer to identify challenges and then proffering solutions. We have all had bad network issues before. So if you as a user were to develop or suggest better ways to strengthen network bandwidth, what would you do? That is design thinking in play. Design thinking revolves around developing a deep interest in understanding the people for whom you are providing goods & services. 

The Five (5) stages in Design thinking

There are 5 known stages in design thinking that help in thought development and build a hands-on approach to problem-solving. Below are the 5 stages explained. 


The first stage of design thinking is to understand exactly the problem you are trying to solve. Is your product a necessity or luxury? Empathy is important to the design process as it helps you to view difficulties from the consumer’s angle and not from your standpoint. It allows you to gain insight into consumers and their needs. As a business owner, your friends, associates and colleagues could serve as your researchers. Ask them key questions. If you’re a shoe seller ask them questions like: 

What kind of shoes will you be comfortable wearing?

Do you feel okay wearing copy shoes?

What is your standard budget for a good shoe?

Will you be buying these shoes if you were offered them? 

Those questions would help you gain valuable information and aid your next stage of design thinking.


When you’ve gained your information and gotten insight through research, the next stage is for you to define the problem. In identifying problems, you should not put yourself or your business first. Instead of saying, for instance – “we need to identify ways of selling our iPhones to youths and low-income earners”, a much better way of defining that problem would be to say “We need to show this social bracket of people, just the right iPhone that suits their financial pocket”.

That is you showing empathy and knowing that an average person might not be able to afford the iPhone 13 but should comfortably get an iPhone 6s or an iPhone 7.  This define stage would help you better process the next stage, which is to…


This stage of design thinking requires you to start generating key ideas. From the first and second stages, you’ve been able to understand and look into the mind of your users and be able to identify their problems. What is left is to find viable solution ideas. This is where you are required to think outside the box.

Recently, Pornhub discovered that their female user numbers were low, and they sought to find a way around it. What did they do? They made research and found that when women are ovulating and in their period, their sexual drive is at the highest. So to solve their own problem, they solved a problem for ladies too. They offered women the opportunity to sign up and input their probable ovulation dates. When it is their date, they get free access to exclusive videos that might give them sexual pleasure and release the tension they usually felt. Weird but simple idea. They identified a problem for both females and themselves and found a solution that works. 

As I mentioned earlier on the iPhone for low-income earners, how do you navigate it? You can market giveaway prices to that category of people, showing them what the iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 can give them. A better camera than the average android, a smarter phone and the swag that comes with using iPhones. Now you’re selling to a lower spectrum of people, and those people are relishing using apple products. Problem solved both ways. 

When you’ve gotten your ideas, it does not just end there. That is why the next stage is key. Test running your product. To do that, you have to develop a…


As a small business owner and most likely a one-man business, how do you apply the prototype stage?

This stage is all about you putting together a rough draft of the ideas you have created, and developing it into a workable plan. This might be you dropping filler content and studying audience reaction. This is your experimental stage, and the aim of this is to identify the best solutions for each problem customers might have.

Your goal is to implement your generated solutions and ideas into the prototype and observe the workability of your solutions. This could be you posting trivia questions regarding your solutions, and observing user response. This part of design thinking directly leads to the final stage. For the iPhone vendor for instance, part of your prototype might be you asking a few vendors to test-use an iPhone 


This stage, like the title suggests, is the stage where you begin to test your ideas on real-time customers and individuals. We have left the prototype. It is time for you to go to the market with your ideas and test how they impact customers and your audience. For the iPhone vendor, this month is Black Friday month. To test how your desired spectrum of users would appreciate your offers, you can, via testing, develop marketing content to build anticipation and hype around Black Friday. In Sabinus slang, promise them something hooge. And when you’ve generated enough buzz, offer them discounted prices for those phones. Na dem go rush you!

In finality, design thinking, although adopted from the engineering field, cuts across every sphere and is adaptable to every field. It is a problem-solving approach that involves understanding known problems and providing simple solutions using consumer behaviour as a key metric. It is a thinking outside the box approach as you are required to develop new problem-solving methods that do not follow book rules. You adjust and develop your problem-solving as per your audience.

Did you find this engaging enough? Got value? Please share and cut soap for others to read and get knowledge.


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Akpofure Shedrack

Tech Enthusiast, creative writer, marketing Strategist, Editorial head Lovablevibes International, Lead Content Creator/Creative Strategist - TinkaSave Nigeria and Content Contributor, Psifon.Org

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