After the corona pandemic is behind us (and no one knows how long that is going to take, ed.), I am wondering if we will see the emergence of a new set of unmet customer demands born by the pandemic – and the withering of others, we thought we needed until this new reality hit us all?
The pandemic is a giant reality check on what is truly important on our lives, and what we can live without. Some are already suggesting that society will be changed forever, when we reemerge on the other side. Personally, I am not so sure. But if it is, it will lead to a change in priorities and, with that, spending.
For some startups it will mean staying in a death spiral. For others it will be their big opportunity. Spotting and betting on the right ones will potentially be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for investors, while others will be left to reflect on their losses.
I often talk about the need to meet with customers and understand what their needs are. But I also often struggle in getting through with the message of what the real potential of doing so is. So let me try it a slightly different way.
When we sit down with potential customers, or we visit them in their natural environment, we get a chance to ask questions and – most importantly – listen. And when we listen, we get an opportunity to uncover the dreams of our customers.
Dreams are funny. They are for many people characterized by three things: First of all it is something we would really like (to happen), second the acknowledgement that I am not there yet and it is out of reach and third a lingering idea that maybe it will stay a dream forever.
Tuning into the dream will give you the same three things to innovation on: A clear desire, an opportunity to be relevant and – following from that – a chance of creating an epiphany moment for them that they will reward by not only buying, what you have created, but also staying loyal to it. What’s not to like?
What does it mean to have something of real economic value that customers want? Is it to have the best product within a category worth an extra charge, or is it to have a product that sits so well with the belief system of the customer that they are willing to pay a premium price for?
Luckily, it seems to be the latter. And it is great for a couple of reasons.
First of all, it vindicates those who strive for domination within a niche by building run-of-the-mill products that are just cheaper for customers to buy. Personally, I have never been a big fan of competiting on price because I don’t fance the end game; essentially free offerings. Second, I find it reassuring that despite everything else that is going on, customers are still looking to pay decent money for offerings that fits well with their personal belief system(s). This should be a welcome call-to-arms for everybody working on making customers better off.
The other day I spent a good chunk of the day browsing the web reading up on reviews on how current solutions address a particular problem we are looking at giving a new spin on at inQvation Studio. It was most illuminating.
Of course there is always the risk of you being biased by the idea(s) already in your head, when you do something like that. But no matter what getting insigths into what is already out there and why it’s (not) working is absolutely essential for early and very simple validation.
So, the next time you think about an idea and whether it has the potential to make a dent, start by going online and read up on those that went before you. Chances are that customers reviews, anecdotes and so forth will provide you with a much better starting point that anything you can dream up in that creative mind of yours all in your own. It’s real out there.