The Your customers are wrong post gives a brief overview on how your customers are wrong, and what I mean is essentially, they just don’t know what solutions exist to solve their problems. They will just ask you for an incremental improvement to what they currently use to solve their current problem. Below (in an overly simplified manner) I’d like to outline some of the steps I would take to try and identify some needs and what to do about it.
First off, you can’t do anything without knowing your customers. And I mean truly know them to the point where they are giving you candid feedback. Break your customers up into groups. Your first group is small, so small you can have a one to one relationships with them. Know their names, where they live, kids names, and interests. This will help you build their buyer persona. They will also be more candid with you, giving you ‘real’ feedback about your event or product, not just a 1-5 rating. But be cautious; don’t allow a minority to represent the majority.
The rest of the groups are up to you to build. Customers vs. non customers, broken down by vertical markets, geography, etc. Feedback can be gathered via social media, surveys, or any other way you can capture their opinion.
Next, you should understand the why. Why do they attend your event? Why do they buy your product? Is it to save money, be more efficient, find new customers? This is where you will begin to find out whether or not you are filling a need in the market, and more importantly, how you are filling that need. This is where you can identify your strengths and weaknesses. What aspects to build upon and what to get rid of. What is the 1 thing you are doing right? You’ll learn here where to get rid of the fluff.
The next step is the magic. The black box. This is where you go back and start brainstorming, the part you do on your own. This is where you need to be true to yourself and think outside the box. This is where most companies fail, especially the bigger ones. Most big companies are designed to provide incremental improvement. Year over year growth of 5 or 10%. Here you need to challenge yourself. Challenge the norm. Challenge your business.
Now if you create a revolutionary new product, getting it out to market can be difficult. Remember, your customers don’t know they want it yet. They want the same old same old. Your launch strategy will be critical, and it’s important to identify influencers and early adopters (should be part of your initial research group).
Much of my thinking on this topic has been influenced by Clayton Christensen The Innovator’s Dilemma (affiliate link). It’s a great read and will go into more detail on disruptive technology. It gives great examples from hydraulic cranes to the disk dive industry and how companies have disappeared overnight by not understanding their customers’ needs. All the best to you Mr. Christensen.