marketing and sales executives from Silicon Valley

Friday, January 21, 2011

Your Customer Said Build Green, but You Need to Build a Jaguar

People say what they think, but not always what they mean

Ever have a customer who wanted a product and would say something like "that would be really cool in forest green"? Then you might build them a version in forest green and they continue "that's not how I imagined it would be, I don't think I'd really want one in forest green."

You haven't been punked, you've been hearing, but not really listening. The customer may have imagined a version of your product that had the color, shine, and elegance of a Jaguar that was both art and gadget. You just delivered color when the customer really wanted experience.

Sometimes customers say things that are the easiest to say. Colors are easy to see and describe, but they often have emotional ties with meaning. But it's not just colors, but think of shapes, another difficult topic. What do you do when someone says your product is too linear or angled? Do you add curves , make it curvy, or even wavy? The linear shape may suggest industrial, simple, or cheap, and the lack of rounded anything may symbolize austere or minimalist expectations.

My point is that when someone gives you feedback on a product or service, be sure to listen deeply and don't just record the words you hear. This problem exists for consumer goods,  physical services, and even online applications and enterprise software.  If you listen deeply, you may just uncover a real need or opportunity that the customer has not figured out how to articulate.

If you do your job right and extract the real need, you may be rewarded with happier customers and a larger market.

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