Asking for customer feedback is essential to keeping your company in touch with the people who buy your products and services, or may become customers in the future. In our social media age, customer response is easier and cheaper to acquire than ever before (a previous post discussed this in detail). However, simply asking for ideas or level of satisfaction may not be the best way to get the information you need.
With so many opportunities to engage with customers and gather their thoughts and opinions, there are certain pitfalls to be avoided. Not all customer feedback is created equal, so I want to talk about how to maximize the effect of your interactions with customers. In order for feedback to be productive, it's important to keep a few things in mind.
We often do our best work in competitive environments – whether we’re racing against our market competition, or competing in internal “innovation contests." Some of history's most important inventions were the products of intense competition. No fewer than 20 people claimed responsibility for the light bulb when Thomas Edison began marketing his invention. The telephone drew on the contributions of at least 10 individuals working over a period of 50 years, even though it is commonly credited to Alexander Graham Bell. This competition helps companies and individual inventors be on top of their game and avoid getting complacent.
“It’s not enough to create new value in your products and your services. You have to create new value in your customers and your clients.” – Michael Schrage, Author and MIT Fellow
Innovation breeds success. There is no question about that. Henry Ford reshaped the world when he created the affordable Model T, Larry Page and Sergey Brin brought infinite knowledge at the touch of a button with the creation of Google, and Steve Jobs changed the face of everyday communication forever with the iPhone.
In these examples, an innovative product matched with the desires of the customer to create major success. But, often times, “outside the box” ideas or products are misguided and leave customers confused and asking “Why?”
“The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more of our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work” - William James, Philosopher and Psychologist
Businesses succeed when new ideas are created. Innovative products and creative marketing strategies have vaulted companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft to the forefront of today’s global marketplace. As a result of this, creativity in the workplace is valued more than ever before. In fact, a recent study completed by IBM of 1,500 CEOs from more than 60 countries found that creativity was the most important leadership quality.
Creativity is a huge asset in the business world, but often the creative ethos runs afoul of traditional business structures. Without discipline, creativity can run wild, decrease productivity, and negatively impact teamwork. Harnessing creativity into systematic routines that direct creative minds towards a specific end is vital.
I've lost track of the number of product launches I've worked on in my career, and one thing I've learned is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for entering the market. Some products launch at the high end and move downward, some launch at the low end and move up. Some hit their niche immediately, while others need time to settle into their place.
To have a successful launch, it's vital to find the right fit between your company brand, your product, and your customers. Sometimes this intersection is obvious, but often it takes market research and strategic planning to find the best market space for your new product. Here are some tips I've learned along the way:
I recently came across an article on Entrepreneur.com titled "You Must Do Good For Your Brand to Do Well With Millennials". It caught my eye because for awhile now I've been aware of the increasing importance of social consciousness in product development and marketing efforts. Through my participation as one of the founders of the startup accelerator program SparkLabKC, I've met many young entrepreneurs who believe a "social good" is an essential ingredient to the success of a new product. They've shared many reasons, both personal and professional, for the importance of developing new products that connect with consumers who are looking for something bigger from their purchases, and I'm convinced.
At Eidson & Partners, we love Dr. Stephen Covey's admonition to "begin with the end in mind" when it comes to launching new brands or products. For new brands, that "end" is the ideal scenario at the time of launch to maximize the potential for success and build brand credibility.
Credibility is vital to a successful launch for a new company. If potential customers don't trust you or believe what you're saying, they aren't going to buy your product or service. It's that simple.