Now picture the scene. You’re in front of Blofeld. You’ve beautifully pitched your puppies to him – glossy pictures, testimonials on their great behaviour, pedigree certificates, the works. But Blofeld looks bored.
“I don’t like dogs, Victoria”
“But Blofeld these are exceptionally cute puppies. They have such lovely shiny fur. Honestly, you’ll fall in love with them”
“Victoria, I find dogs unnecessary. Needy. Yappy. The cat does not require walking. It eats less. It has an air of sleekness and independence. The cat lends oneself a wonderful sense of menace. I am a cat person. Bring me cats.”
OK I think, Blofeld is clearly thinking about his image. I’m a good sales person, I can work with this.
“Look Blofeld, these puppies are so well trained. I’m sure you could teach them to do a bit of a snarl. If you feed them up they’ll get bigger. You could put a spiked collar on them. They’d look really menacing I’m sure!”
“Victoria. A plump dog in a spiked collar sitting in my lap and curling its lip at my various nemeses will simply not convey the impression I wish to create. Besides, I am allergic to dog hair”.
Ouch. At this point I’m worrying. Is that true about dog hair? Perhaps he’s just trying to get a better price. Perhaps other people are selling puppies a good bit cheaper than these. I start suggesting that I do a super deal for him so he can give each of his henchmen a puppy, leaving the cats to him. So much for my healthy mark up and new puppy line…..
I’ll leave you to imagine where this story goes next. But I’m fairly certain it doesn’t end up with Blofeld buying a puppy.
Now clearly, I’ve spun this yarn to make a point. The point is an important one and it is this: New products alone do not grow businesses. Customer understanding does.
I worked in a business that needed growth. When I arrived, they had seen an unprecedented year of NPD activity – the Product Management team were virtually on their knees under the pressure of launching products. But nothing was selling. There were millions of pounds of cash tied up in stock in the warehouses. ‘It must be marketing’s fault!’ The CEO cried. They haven’t marketed these products properly! ‘It must be the sales team’, cried marketing, ‘they aren’t doing a hard enough sales job!’. Fingers were being pointed, heads were rolling. But the problem, really, was that we were trying to sell dogs to cat people.
We’ve all heard the Henry Ford quote “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. Everyone has a tale of doing consumer testing and getting the ‘wrong’ answer. That’s because every subtle nuance of how you ask a question or how you frame an input has a profound effect on the answer or output you receive. One customer mentioning liking puppies, one manager having a great relationship with a puppy breeder, an internal straw poll in which several people confirm that puppies are going to be the ‘next big thing’; these are not sound enough reasons to make major investments in puppies.
Sometimes, a business leader champions ‘going with their gut’, and seems to get it right. No customer insight required, thank you very much. I tell you this, those leaders have a powerful understanding of their customers frustrations and needs – they are the masters of customer insight.
This is something we can help you with. There is a world of insight available to you right now. You just have to know where to look for it. Get in touch. I promise I won’t try to sell you puppies.