Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Do your customers know what they want?

The short answer? Typically not. It's astonishing how many companies today build products based on so little market research and customer feedback. Perhaps even scarier are those who do the wrong kind of research, and make product and business decisions on that.

A focus group, for example, is great, but is it really giving you an unbiased view of what your customers want? Too many focus groups are dominated by one very vocal member who gets the other heads nodding.

Even 1:1 research channels often encourage respondents to "make up" answers when they're not sure, or to try and sound smart with something that, at the end of the day, they don't really need and won't use.

I know it's hard, and it's not always cheap, but the best way to learn about your customers, and to truly understand what they want and need, is to watch them.

Microsoft has a team of anthropologists on staff who literally move in with their customers - and watch their every move. They don't interrupt, don't ask question. Just watch and learn.

Because most consumers aren't able to clearly articulate what they want, or what they need. But smart marketers and product managers can interpret current, unbiased activity by consumers, and translate that into product improvements and new product opportunities.

Are you asking your customers what they want, or watching them do it? How you learn from your customers could make or break whether what you do next will be of any interest to them.


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