It is all About the Customer

In a world of increasingly personalised products and services, where customisation is king, the modern successful entrepreneur succeeds because he or she is willing to compromise their vision to suit the market. Ok, with a massive marketing budget you can create want but this is expensive and difficult to sustain in the face of fast moving trends. So how can some companies launch products that are immediately successful and others fall flat? There is no magic bullet but what is becoming increasingly obvious is that the successful entrepreneur must embrace the golden rule:

It is all About the Customer!!

I work with a lot of small businesses and it is amazing how many times I hear that their product is perfect; if they only had investment/sales/marketing budget then they would be millionaires. And my question is always:

How much customer research have you done?

Often the answer is little or none. There is still a business mentality that says "If you build it, they will come”. You know; You have an idea, invest heavily, launch it and then wonder why the world isn’t beating a path to your door? We've probably all done it at some stage. But you know what? They might come, they might like it, you might make lots of money, but wouldn't it make life easier and cheaper if you didn't leave it up to chance?

It might seem impossible but it is actually relatively easy - the trick is to find out what the customer wants before you create your new product or service. Sounds simple? Ok, so there is a bit of planning involved but guidelines have been developed, in particular by David Kelley, design thinking guru, Stanford Professor and CEO of one of the world’s biggest product design firms, IDEO. Empathy involves digging deep into the motivations and desires of a person. It involves putting yourself in the place of the customer and finding out not only what they do, but also how they do it and why they do it.

There are many ways to develop empathy and the methods may be adapted to your own situation but the following are just some guidelines:

1. Learn to listen The next time you talk to your customers (and if you don't, get started), instead of mentally dismissing their chatter, listen, even if it they are not talking about you specifically. Finding out their pain is the first step.

2. Try to dig a little deeper ...and look at what they are not saying (consider using an empathy map).. You may think that they are buying your product because it suits their needs, but the customer might see that it gets the job done but really they need something more advanced that saves time by carrying out multiple jobs. You can really only see this by appreciating how the product is used in the field..

3. Start a conversation It's probable that you know a few people who fall into your target market. Even if you are B2B, your customers are people too. It's surprising how expansive people can be about things that frustrate them. But don't let it get negative - if a sentence starts with "I hate" etc., let your next question be "And how would you fix that?”

4. Involve others in the field It's not what a lot of entrepreneurs want hear, particularly start-ups, but the best possible way to succeed is to share information. You don't have to give away the farm, but there is a wealth of information already out there, gathered by people who are already dealing with your target market. If you are a complementary therapists, there are therapists, doctors, nurses, counselors, health food shops, yoga teachers etc., all of whom are dealing daily with your target market and hear every day their wants and needs. You can find out trends without undermining patient confidentiality.

In conclusion, your customer has more choice than ever before. The closer you pay attention and develop a product that suits their needs, the better your chance of success when you launch to the market.

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