The customer – how to spot and ride their wave

Ken Thurber, author of new book Big Wave Surfing, Extreme Technology Development, Management, Marketing and Investing, explains how change can be an opening to opportunity.

We’re in a new economy – the innovation economy – and it’s really about spotting disruption. New products such as short tweets of communications and easy financial transactions like PayPal are game changers because they were new products that started new industries. The greatest opportunity and the biggest wave to ride is the new product that creates a new industry. The next best thing is to recognise how these new industries have created a new wave of opportunity. Whether it’s developing an application for the iTunes store or recognising that the iTunes store is the gateway to a new software industry – it’s critical to recognise and embrace change.

You need to see disruption as an opening to possibilities. Embrace change and make these new ways of doing business your friend. Don’t see change as a problem. Rather see it as new path and embrace it. If you think you’re having problems imagine what your customer is going through. Disruption creates openings. An example of this is the advertising industry which has been turned upside down because of social media. Advertising via social media has created more opportunities now for smaller to mid-sized agencies than ever before.

One sure path to opportunity is through your customers. Talk to them and get them to tell you about their problems. And if you can come up with a solution to their problem, then you can develop a product concept. Sometimes solutions to our problems are really about solving someone else’s problems. Sounds simple, but it’s often overlooked.

To help solve my problems I constructed four principles that I want to answer anytime I launch a new product or service. What I want to construct and have easily understood is a description of our product and its value. The description needs to be clear and concise. And it needs to be stated in a fashion that will make the user want to buy or implement our product or service. You can almost see this as a simple formula when describing the product:

  • What is it (25 words or less)
  • Why is it important
  • Give an example of how to use it
  • How does your customer implement it

I developed these four principles around the basic elements of value. What describes the product or service. Why answers the question of value. The example tells the customer how to use our product. The how is the implementation strategy – how the customer makes it work to their business advantage. Remember this all revolves around how you always want to stress the benefits – not the features – of your product.

People often get the two confused. For example when we when talk about cost we are not talking about price. We do not want to compete on price rather we want to stress a cost benefit. A benefit is the proof that the product will save time, money or some other important and scarce resource that the customer is concerned about. Or if we have a completely new and disruptive product we want to show that we can enable a completely new capability (like PayPal). Remember even in the car industry manufacturers have convinced people that with certain cars price is no object.

Most people look at sales as a problem. How do I sell this product? I look at sales as an opportunity. An opportunity to solve the customer’s problem. Think like a customer. Solve their problems. Make their problems your passions. It will help in solving yours.

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