by Ron Stein
Updated 10 months ago
A few weeks ago I spent several days at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas -- a must see experience with over 4,000 companies displaying their new products.
Just about everyone was talking about automation. From self-driving cars and automated fast food restaurants, to convenience stores without clerks and a computerized shirt-folding machine for your home.
In fact, there was more automated stuff than you can imagine. Some made sense for me as a consumer, such as autonomous vehicles -- but only for select applications like taxi services. But, not to completely replace my car.
Don’t try to tell me that our personal automobiles will disappear in ten years. If someone tries to deprive me of the joy I get from driving fast on a winding back road, well the result won’t be pretty!
That got me thinking; just because something seems like it’s good for your business does that mean it’s good for your customers?
There are a lot of companies out there that are out of touch. They think in broad terms and not all market segments want or need the same thing. Regrettably, these businesses buy into their own hype.
Companies spend too much time and money in attempting to convince, even demand, that their new-fangled idea is for us. A rude awaking is ahead for these companies.
That doesn't necessarily mean the offering is something no one should buy. Only that prospects finding value in this particular feature set or service is your target market. Otherwise you're spending energy offering something to a large portion of the market that doesn’t care to spend money on what you have.
With a little work -- although a lot less than running after evaporating markets -- you too can be attuned to the market’s desire. The result will be a clear message targeting people who want what you have and no wasted time and money selling to people who won’t buy.
Put customer success first. Your job is to help buyers get maximum value from the significant investment they will make when they purchase your product or service. The key here is to be proactive not reactive. Predicting the market direction isn’t always easy though. When something “seems” to make sense and competitors are jumping on the bandwagon, it’s time to step back and ask, “Is this a flash-in-the-pan, or a sustaining trend?”
I believe that self-driving cars will be safer than human drivers, yet two things stand in the way of me getting rid of my car: I’m not convinced that the inevitable bugs will be worked out any time soon, and -- I simply get a ton of pleasure from driving. I’m willing to bet that there are millions and millions of people just like me.
Be your buyer’s advocate. Whoa! Does this require you to do what’s best for your customer instead of what’s best for your company? Well, without happy, paying customers, you know what happens, so yes. Here’s the rub -- you can’t assume you know what’s best for them. Take a deep look at who your customers are today and also think about what type of future buyers you want, and then break that down into segments.
Back to the autonomous car market, look at all the possible applications; taxis, urban cores, long commutes, and even travelling salespeople. Now, dive deeper. Overlay who might own the vehicle as well as business models such as interval ownership -- or no ownership at all because it's a pure service. Breakdown the type of person that is likely to use, or not use, the car in each case by demographics and other metrics. Wow, that's a lot of work, but the future of you company depends on it.
Ask the not-so-obvious questions. The chances are if you poll people and ask if they can see themselves using an autonomous taxi within the next five years, the vast majority of respondents would say yes. This is the wrong type of question to ask because you’ll learn nothing useful. Before introducing a new product into the market, first make sure you understand the market you’re catering towards. Now find out what problems these specific target market segments have with similar existing products they use today. But the “similar products” may not be as obvious as you think; instead ask how they currently solve the problem you have in mind and then what they value most and least about that. You may be surprised by the answers. Do more than validate the market and product or service you want to introduce – discover exactly what problems you can solve that the competition either hasn’t or can’t. Asking the wrong question frames the issue in such a way that people may give you the answer you want to hear, not what they need and are willing to commit to. Plus, people always have plenty of great ideas to improve your thinking and provides valuable insights.
Chasing after “hot” markets is a gamble. You may be tempted, but don’t do it until you’ve done your homework. Otherwise you’ll end up with people like me who feel snubbed and decide to drive their own car.
Ron Stein is founder of More Customers Academy, helping business leaders build strategic messaging and positioning that cuts through the competitive noise to grow revenue. Ron has developed his own highly successful 5-step Stand Out & Sell More approach to winning new customers as a result of his twenty-five years of business development, marketing, and selling experiences. He works with a range of businesses, from startups to large corporations across industries including technology and healthcare, manufacturing, and financial services and banking. Ron conducts workshops, leads company meetings, offers keynote talks, and consults. He can be reached at 727-398-1855 or by email.