Why Customers Rather Than Products Drive Successful Companies
Do you really know why customers will buy your products or services? Most entrepreneurs think it’s because of their product or service and its features, functions, and benefits because that’s what they ask potential customers about, and that is what established, competitive companies fight over. Short-term, transactional sales.
But, successful companies know what their potential customers want. They are customer focused rather than company focused. They know that customers want to buy products and services from companies where they believe in the founder’s vision and see that vision in the products they deliver. Companies whose products and services were created for them. When that happens, they become long-term, loyal customers.
For example, Apple said they wanted to design computers that would make computers easy to use. That purpose drove the company to make computers that a segment of customers wanted and were willing to pay a premium to get it. Customers believed what Apple believed. This outward, customer-focused approach led to long-term, loyal customers.
Here is an example of the opposite inward product looking approach. Honeywell started a computer division in the 1960’s said they were “The Other Computer Company” taking the assumptive position that they were second only to IBM. But customers didn’t see it that way. They didn’t believe. Their features, functions, and benefits were not enough to displace IBM. They only had short-term, transactional customers and were forced to sell the computer division after several years of losses.
Startups need to start with what the customers want, not what founders want. You still need to ask the basic questions about your value proposition and determine the importance of each feature, function, and benefit. And you have to ask about every aspect of your product offering including quality, functionality, packaging service features, ease of use, reliability and more.
You also need a lot more than demographic information. You need to get into the market and talk with prospects so you can get into the minds of buyers, users, influencers, decision makers, and people who could kill the sale. And you need to classify these potential customers by the reasons they buy.
Remember, if you don’t ask the right question you won’t get the right reason.