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Do you see your customers?

BY JOEFFREY TRIMMINGHAM

Recently, a research participant talked with us about an instant cooker; a gift from her dad. She used it almost daily for more than a year, then she heard about and bought a newer one with updated features. But, months later, during our interview, both instant cookers sat on her kitchen counter. The older instant cooker was still the one she used. She felt it was familiar to her and easier to understand. And, she didn’t have the time to learn how to work the new one that she paid hard-earned money for. What was going on here? We’ve found that companies often come to the belief that we know our customers. We assume our vision of our customers’ lives is correct and get comfortable with the customer archetypes we have created. Unfortunately this can lead to business decisions that negatively impact the people who buy our products and services.
An example … A client came to us after investing $5 million to develop a product. They had launched it and had few takers. When they investigated why, it turns out that they had not confirmed, with their customers, if it was a valuable product that they would actually buy. How do you avoid falling into this trap? Ask yourself, “When I look in the mirror, do I see my customers?” It’s a simple question, but it should lead to a more complex set of thoughts. Do you really understand your customers? How are their needs different from yours? Are you solving for their challenges or yours? What steps are you taking to meet their expectations? Leaders often look at ideation and solutions development as something that can happen entirely internally. As a result, they can end up in a place where they have a vastly different offering than what their customers want or need. The consequences are that these decision makers can get trapped in an inaccurate understanding of their customers, resulting in lost opportunities, money, and time. Fewer than five percent of new products succeed every year. This means that brands get it wrong almost all of the time.

So, what’s to be done?

We believe that there are two things you can do as a business leader to help you get closer to your goals.

  1. Meet your customer where they are.Seek to understand the context of their decisions and actions, getting to know them well enough to make adjustments based on what they need and expect.

    Have you investigated why and how your customers are interacting with your brand? What needs you are not seeing? What will meet their expectations? How can you deliver a solution that will delight them? Learn what is important to your customers and make the adjustments that matter most to them.

  2. Rinse and repeat as you move forward.The strategy you put in place even a year ago may not work anymore due to any number of factors, so be sure to refresh your perspective regularly. What has changed about your customers’ contexts? What’s competing with your solution? What must you do to keep winning their business? In short, get used to staying in touch with how your company meets their needs.

In our experience, people want to be heard and to have their perspectives acknowledged. Your customers should be able to look at your solution and see themselves. Successful companies recognize that there may be an issue with this, interrogate it, adjust to it and go back to the customer with a solution that works for them.

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