I often talk about the need to meet with customers and understand what their needs are. But I also often struggle in getting through with the message of what the real potential of doing so is. So let me try it a slightly different way.
When we sit down with potential customers, or we visit them in their natural environment, we get a chance to ask questions and – most importantly – listen. And when we listen, we get an opportunity to uncover the dreams of our customers.
Dreams are funny. They are for many people characterized by three things: First of all it is something we would really like (to happen), second the acknowledgement that I am not there yet and it is out of reach and third a lingering idea that maybe it will stay a dream forever.
Tuning into the dream will give you the same three things to innovation on: A clear desire, an opportunity to be relevant and – following from that – a chance of creating an epiphany moment for them that they will reward by not only buying, what you have created, but also staying loyal to it. What’s not to like?
The other day I invited a good acquintance to come and visit us at inQvation and to provide feedback on an idea, we’re toying with. The latter part made sense given that this person has about 30 years of experience within the industry, where our idea potentially offers a new angle on things.
I asked him to talk straight from the gut and tell me what he thought. And his first words resonated deeply: “Ideally speaking this idea is great. Unfortunately, the world – and this industry is not ideal”. And then he went on to provide amazing feedback on potential blind spots and pitfalls based on his wealth of experience, we hadn’t considered at all, and which proves to be critical hypothesis, we need to spend time trying to find a workaround for. Otherwise our idea will tank.
When we said goodbye he apologized for being so candid. But I insisted he shouldn’t and that this was the best feedback we could get at this point in time. Because it showed us some of the potential blind spots we would have essentially zero chance of figuring out on our own. And that is a god sent. Because the blind spots – left unattended – are the ones that could end up killing your idea and/or business.
One of the things that continues to amaze me is the power of actually seeking out potential customers for solving a problem and chat to them about their experiences so far in both experiencing the problem and trying to find solutions for it.
It is easy to get an idea all by yourself. But the idea – or better yet; the theme in which your idea resides – gets so much extra power by actually meeting and listening to the real experts: Those experiencing the problem.
The exercise itself is really simple: Figure out who you need to meet, set up some meetings or chats for coffee etc, show up, ask a few questions and LISTEN. I guarantee you will leave much smarter. And you will be able to channel all that insight directly into whatever it is that you’re doing, if you choose to. And yes; you should.