A Faster Horse
Henry Ford understood that people wanted better, faster and more comfortable transportation and he translated this into the tremendously successful Model T. So instead of asking what the market wanted he gave the market what it needed and that catapulted the growth of the Ford Motor Company. Can you do the same?
The answer is yes!
What’s holding you back? Gravity. A company’s natural tendency is to focus on at least matching or even beating their rivals – often seen from a product perspective. The result of this copycat catching up focus is a head-to-head competition largely based on incremental improvements. So what to do? First you need to accept that your customers can’t be creative on your behalf and give you the answers you need to come up with something that stands out from the competition. Henry Ford and Steve Jobs knew this as well as the people behind successes like Uber, Netflix and Airbnb; they didn’t get their ideas from asking people what they want.
What really matters to your customers
Does this mean that in order to stand out from your competitors you need a visionary? No, not at all. You just need to ask your customers the right questions. Not what they want, instead you need to ask them which problems, frustrations and challenges they face – with your and your competitors’ products. Disruptive innovation is born out of this. It is a process whereby an often smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge the well-established companies in the market. This can happen when the well-established companies focus on constantly developing products that are a little bit better than what their competitors have brought to the market. However, at some point the products get either too good or too expensive - or both. This leaves room for disrupters who make simpler, cheaper, user-friendlier or more reliable products – or even introduce a totally different business model. Examples? Netflix, Uber, Airbnb to name a few. And not to forget Apple who smashed Nokia when they introduced the technologically inferior iPhone.
It’s a fact that most of the companies that find themselves in trouble do so because they are product oriented instead of customer oriented. Clayton Christensen suggests that companies need to focus on the progress that the customer is trying to make in a given circumstance — what the customer hopes to accomplish. This is what he calls the “job to be done” theory: Make (disruptive) innovations that help to solve the target group’s problems, frustrations and challenges making it possible for them to make the progress they need, while addressing any anxieties or inertia that hold them back. What increasingly separates winners from losers is the ability to understand the target group’s explicit and implicit motivations and to turn this insight into innovation.
Customer problems, frustrations and challenges
Netflix doesn’t have cinemas. Uber doesn’t own cars. Airbnb doesn’t possess rooms. And yet they are highly successful because they found a smarter way of handling the market’s “pains”. Netflix dealt with the pain of having to go to a shop to rent a movie. Uber made it more user friendly to order transportation from A to B, and Airbnb provides a vast selection of rooms at low prices compared to hotels. Netflix, Uber and Airbnb could not have come up with their successful and innovative solutions without a pretty good idea about their target group’s problems, frustrations and challenges, which together make up pains. These cannot be identified by applying traditional research methods. Instead you need our OpportunityDetectorTM. This is a unique tool that does exactly what the name implies: It detects opportunities that can make your company stand out from your competitors.
Your customers are in the driver’s seat
When we apply our OpportunityDetectorTM, we find out directly from our client’s customers what matters to them. We do so by means of a few pilot interviews where we have a conversation about which problems, frustrations and challenges the customers face with not just our client, but also the competitors. This approach of listening ensures that the research covers all the pains experienced and not just the ones that you yourself can imagine. Thereby the opportunity to identify unmet needs that can drive your innovation efforts is vastly increased. With this deep knowledge about your customers’ problems, frustrations and challenges you finally have the insights needed for your innovation efforts. Not based on what your customers say they want, but what they actually need. How? By you “translating” your customers’ most serious and frequent pains into solutions you can provide.
By understanding – in detail – your customers’ pains and the frequency and impact of these, you have an almost unfair advantage against your competitors. Based on this concept we have created a mini eBook that we are curently offering as a free download. Please click on the link above for more details.