I just found this article in the Wall Street Journal of January 26, and should have commented earlier.
Most of the article is forgettable, aside from the reference to Clay Christensen’s work on innovation and disruption, but there’s one phrase that is so true: “The reason that companies fail when they try to move the stack is simple: they don’t have firsthand empathy for what customers of the product one level above theirs in the stack actually want.”
Now, that’s a little jargon-y, but you must understand what your customers want. How do you get it? Here are some simple ideas:
- Ask your outside or inside sales people what they’re hearing about how the customers use the product or service; if they don’t know, then you’ve got another problem.
- Convene a focus group of your customers.
- Start a blog among your customers to find out what they’re thinking.
- Do some blind product evaluations by outside firms (secret shopping).
- Put a survey up on one of the public sites if the product is widespread.
- Find out if your promotional methods are reaching the customers. Is it a fit with how they’re using the product or service?
So, you CEOs, RELATE!