Some entrepreneurs create products and services that they would personally like to use and then assume that their prospects and customers will feel exactly the same way about these creations. If the critical response to the new product doesn’t match expectations, the entrepreneur blames the customer for not understanding the value and potential created by the new product. This disconnect between supplier and customer can result in a failed launch and severely impact the stability and profitability of a small company.
Taking care to adopt the customer’s perspective, rather than just the entrepreneur’s voice, into the product development and business process is critical to sustainable business success. Research indicates that B2B buyers believe that suppliers are too narrowly focused on their own solutions and don’t understand the buyer’s needs and challenges. Entrepreneurs routinely fall in love with their own products, even if the products don’t solve a real business need for their customers. When entrepreneurs fail to connect their product’s value proposition to what customers really want, the result is loss of business opportunity and a decline in business value.
Products and services that are over (or under) priced, over (or under) developed, or simply unneeded (or obsolete) actually articulate and define the entrepreneur’s capabilities and business needs, rather than represent a reasonable solution for the customer. Experienced buyers know that an overpriced product, for example, may be indicative of the entrepreneur’s missing channel and competitor knowledge. It could even be a sign of financial instability in the seller’s company – a sign that quick cash is needed to keep the business operating. In either instance, the lack of understanding about the customer’s product needs is ultimately the biggest takeaway from these types of interactions.
Consider the following thoughts and ideas as you develop sustainable strategies for product development and sales which consider customer needs and produce impactful value propositions.
Connect with your customers in their environment. Meet with them in the setting where they use (or hope to use) your products and services. Watch how they use similar products and observe what is going on around them while using these products. What do you see that can be improved upon or reformulated?
Ask open ended questions about what your customers need. Don’t assume that you know what they need. You are not in the same line of business as they are. They are the authority on their business process – not you. Listen and ask questions that give them the opportunity to talk about what they need to make their business stronger.
Develop and communicate a customer centric value proposition. Your value proposition should target how your company will provide your customer with an advantage that will support its vision as it works toward achieving its own business goals.
Maintain your focus. Keep the current needs and anticipated wants of your prospects and customer at the center of your strategic product development and marketing plans. Remember that the ultimate goal of product development and innovation is to increase sales and profits.
The most successful entrepreneurs see themselves and their companies through their customer’s eyes. Pay attention to what your customers want and watch the competition closely. The conversation always starts and ends with the customer’s needs.