A Path to Success

I have no idea if this is true, but it makes for a great metaphor. It is probably just another urban legend. 

A path to success or an urban legend
Architects, when designing buildings, do not put in the sidewalks. They wait to observe the natural patterns of how people use the space and then they follow their tracks and create the walkways.

This idea intrigues me from a marketing perspective as it illustrates how important it is to be closely connected to your target audience. If you are creating products and services for people, how well do you really know what they need? Do you understand the natural way they work or think? More importantly, do you understand where an opportunity lies with the benefit your product can bring to them?

What is the problem you can solve for your customer? That is the most critical yet simple way of understanding where to put down your own sidewalks.  In other words, maybe you need your customers helping you create the finished product (or service) by giving them a sample or free use in exchange for feedback.  Wouldn’t you love to know before you launch a new product that a majority of targeted users consider the handle on your new device fits perfectly, the fabric matches their performance requirements that it cleans easily or the taste of your new beverage has just the right amount of sweetness?

Marketing professionals sometimes talk about this as the voice of the customer. The VOC has to be a part of the product development process that helps you understand if what you are creating is close to their need.  Is it simple to use, does it meet the need of the audience and is their sufficient value to warrant the price? All of these are critically important sooner rather than later.

If I were marketing a new product or service, I would first determine who might want to buy what I am offering. With one-on-one conversations, I would explore what would delight them and make them describe my product as remarkable. Let the customer be part of the product development team by recognizing that ultimately they have to believe that you have something different, meeting their needs and worthy of the price you want to charge. 

"Consumers can't tell you what to do. But they can help guide your path to success." 

What can you do right now to improve your chances of success? 

1. Deeply understand what benefit your product will bring to the decision maker. Create a small user group or community who you can show mock ups, samples or who you can easily survey with one or two questions. 
2. Provide them with a working model, samples, trial or something to help them give you input on your value proposition. 
3. Balance their feedback and requirements with what you need to do to achieve their business. If they want extra features at lower prices do you know what they would give up in return for this bargain? 
4. Use the input as part of the picture- not the answer. Let it help you understand the opportunity. 

Creation of Elation
What are the criteria that have to be satisfied to make them elated. I know that many consumers can’t articulate these needs but you can bring to them your almost finished building and let them help you find the pathway to open up the door. 

The consumer wouldn't have asked for iPad. But I'm sure Apple had enough input from consumers to understand the right weight, thickness and features. Jobs was notorious for following his own vision- but he did need some guide rails to help as the product was created from users. What he ignored and what he listened to is hard to know. 

An idea you can use: 
If you work in marketing on a brand, have you ever considered inviting a group of your consumers to dinner. Tell them you want to understand more about why they use your product and to learn how it fits into their lives. Consider it an opportunity to get a richer understanding of their personalities, what they do, where they hang out, what could be associated with your product and on and on. Yes it is like a focus group but it is more of a chance to stop thinking of your target as demographics and to put names and faces on who likes or dislikes what you do. Its a remarkably simply and invaluable way to understand opportunities. Don't just invite big fan- find a few folks who have issues or complaints with the brand too. (Hint: Lots of wine is helpful unless you sell stuff to kids). 

Pathway to Success 

Let customers help you build the sidewalk to success. 

I am a marketing professional with over 30 years of experience creating success. If you enjoy these blog posts, please sign up to receive them in your email or share them with other marketing friends who might be interested in these topics. You can comment on this blog, send an email to me at JeffreyLynnSlater@gmail.com or as the Car Talk guys on NPR  like to say, write your question on the back of a $20 bill and mail it to me. Thanks for traveling along with me on this journey. 

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