“Nothing happens until the customer feels something.” – Brian Solis and gapingvoid
The last post dealt with the Customers’ place in the management system, so predictably we’ll now focus on the management practice relating to customers.
The competitive forces of markets can be daunting. We’ve learned over the years that you can make money taking a me-too position, but it’s almost impossible to build a great business that endures playing the same game as every competitor. Walmart gives no pricing power whatsoever to products that are indistinguishable. Come to them with something special and you can have the pricing power that others crave. Customers pay a premium when they perceive higher order benefits. The best way to determine if that’s the case is when customers make statements like ‘when I buy _______, I may spend a little more, but I also get________…’. It doesn’t matter if the benefits are real or perceived, if the difference can be objectively measured or is only a rationalization to justify the purchase. You’ve connected with the customer, and that is the entire point.
The opening quote from Brian Solis our friends at gapingvoid bears repeating: Nothing happens until the customer feels something. Despite the practice of prospective purchasers to compare facts and prices, the tipping point is almost always subjective: how do they feel? Emphasizing design makes all the difference, and that means not just how it looks but especially how it works, with goal being ease of use. It makes sense to pay close attention to the tangibles they like the most, but the overall feeling they have in consuming or using your product or service defines your level of success.
We’ve all acquired horror stories of demanding customers, who frequently appear to have the potential of steepening the revenue curve. Delighted marquee customers should be enrolled to evangelize your products and services. When you approach a prospect and say you’re great, they usually think ‘yeah, yeah’. When a committed customer tells a prospect that you’re great, the prospect thinks ‘wow!! I hear they’re great!!’. Customers who push you to achieve new heights are your best friends. Those who torture you for sport should pay an asshole tax, or better still, be steered to a competitor… with a smile.
Prospective customers harbor doubts and may raise objections. Every time they do, they create the clearing for you to sell them on the value you deliver. Be thankful they gave voice to the concern. There’s not much you can do to win them over in the case of polite silence.
The strategy development component of the management system will help you to define your target profile of customers and segments. It’s important to be open to possibilities, especially to adjacencies of that target, but stay disciplined. Too many times we give in to FOMO (fear of missing out, in case you need to look it up) and move down the path of trying to be all things to all people. Nobody thinks that’s a great idea.
It would be easy enough to invoke Harry Selfridge’s view that ‘the customer’s always right.’ They’re not, but they bear a special responsibility for the consequences of their purchase. It pays to remember that customers often use products in ways that product designers never intended. So they may nudge you away from some fundamentals, including your mission and vision. Resist if they push you away from your values… that’s too costly.