Understanding your customer and their background is the most important thing to any organization creating a valued product or service. Organizations can spend years making products that customers don’t really need or want. Other organizations spend large sums of money making sure the products they create actually meet a customer need. After the product is created, customer feedback is key, but what if you could create a product or service with the customer’s needs already in mind? What if you could understand your customer’s environment before the product/service is even designed or created? Robert G. Cooper states in The Product Development Management Association’s Handbook on New Product Development that those products and services with unique benefits and superior value to the customer or user have a success rate three to five times higher than copycat, reactive, or ho-hum products with undifferentiated characteristics.
Meaningful to Customer + Different in the market = 3x Success rate
Many businesses overlook a key component in providing products and services—the customer. The customer is the next step in your value chain (the value chain can have many customers and suppliers). Without that customer, the product or service is meaningless. If customers’ needs are not being met, they are likely to find someone else who will meet that need. As the business environment changes, so do the customers and their needs. To be a best-in-class and profitable business, you must understand your environment, who you are serving, even if indirectly, and what their needs are.
Traditional and accepted approaches to interacting with the customer have been to conduct focus groups, panel discussions or one-on-one interviews, which are all held in a controlled environment. Today, we have many other tools as well. To really understand consumers and their behavior, organizations need to interact and observe their consumers and their behavior in the consumer’s natural environment. For this, tools and techniques from anthropology have been adapted to help organizations get an in-depth understanding of their customer. Not only do these organizations get an in-depth understanding of the consumer, but they also begin to understand the entire context of the consumer’s environment and how it affects the organization’s product. These techniques have become more widely accepted in the new product development world and are typically referred to as ethnography and observational research.
This year, we will share techniques and exercises that we hope will spark a new way of connecting with your customer. The information is taken from anthropology and larger consumer focused organizations. If there is something, in-particular, you are interested in learning, please let us know, and we will try to include it! Also, we would love to hear from you if there are techniques you prefer and how they work for you!