By Christopher Arthmann, New Business Creation Lead, NEC’s Innovation Division
Customer: “Very cool!”
Salesperson: “Thank you!” Does that mean you want to buy?”
As vendors and systems integrators, we love to hear when our target buyers are interested. Especially when we think they should be – all the time! However, unless being noticed is the ultimate outcome, “interested” doesn’t pay the bills.
The TV show Shark Tank has taught this lesson many times over. Entrepreneurs come to the Tank and pitch the Sharks on their business ideas. They tell the Sharks how people “love their product” and how well known companies are “interested” in making large purchases with them. When the Sharks ask about sales, the figure for those “interested” comes back “low,” and often “no.” The Sharks reply, “You have no business!” or “The market is telling you they don’t want what you are selling.”
With IoT, there are many “interesting” things we can do – in fact, so many interesting things that it can be a challenge to not be interesting. From connected coffee makers and ovens to home temperature control and activity tracking for pets, IoT is without a doubt – interesting. But, as organizations with finite resources, our intent is to move beyond “interested” and create products our target buyers “want” or maybe “need.”
Customer Focused Thinking
A merchant banker, and former sports agent for a legendary NFL linebacker, once said to me, “Arthmann, you know what Ivy League schools teach you that others don’t?”
“What?” I asked.
He answered, “W-I-F-M. What’s in it for me.”
I’m not sure if that’s true, but I never forgot the comment. His comment was my first exposure to Customer Focused Thinking. I later learned he was not alone in his thinking. Sales Professionals have long recognized that pain is personal. Buyers buy when pain is present and when they are motivated to remove the pain. In fact, many Sales Professionals will argue there is no such thing as a sale driven by pleasure, only pain, since all roads eventually lead back to removing pain, including the pursuit of pleasure. Others, such as Clayton Christenson, have formalized the discovery of target buyers with an emphasis toward product development, or a “Job to be Done” mentality. Clayton Christenson’s “Jobs To Be Done (JTBD)” methodology embraces the belief products have jobs to do and people hire those products to get the job done. In other words, what is in it for them if they buy your product? Getting that job done.
Although a risk-free approach to innovation does not exist, a customer-focused approach to innovation can increase our probability of success. The more assumptions we can identify and validate, about what is in it for our target buyers or what jobs they need to get done, the higher our probability of success.
Operational Impact of Customer Focused Thinking
The benefit of customer focus thinking extends beyond marketing and sales. Customer focused organizations recognize benefits in operational performance. Customer focused thinking enables firms to properly assess their own strengths and weakness, as they relate to delivering a customer outcome. With resource constraints and opportunity costs existing in a competitive market, customer focused thinking ensures organizational alignment across the value chain while enabling the most efficient use of assets towards a focused customer outcome.
It all starts with a mission
Simple, effective and overlooked, a customer focused mission statement sets the tone and direction for customer focused thinking. What will you do for your customer better than anyone else? What result or benefit will you provide for them?
An effective mission statement is not about you and is not your vision. An effective mission statement addresses your customers “WIFM.” There is a book called, “Selling with a Noble Purpose.,” by Lisa Earle McLeod. The book explains what an effective mission statement looks like and the long-term benefits for organizations choosing to support a customer focused mission statement. Accordingly, to Mclead, “Noble Purpose is like your mission on steroids. It’s the jumping off point for a strategic initiative that includes every facet of your organization.” Therefore, a customer focused mission statement will ensure your IoT innovations and organization are aligned with your customers WIFM.
Read more by Christopher Arthmann in the recent IIC Journal of Innovation.
- How technologies have historically increased productivity: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Productivity_improving_technologies_(economic_history)
- Bud Light super bowl ad; copyrights solely owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV and its affiliates; source: YouTube<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4tqdGPnVPg>
- Change Impact Assessment: http://www.arborsys.com/Change-Impact-Assessment-Part-1.html
- 2008 David Harkins; source: http://www.davidharkins.com/change-adoption-curve/
- The effects of logistics capabilities on firm performance: Customer-focused versus information-focused capabilities
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