A nice article on the Francis Moran & Associates blog called Customer surveys are great. Unless you ask the wrong questions reminds us that “If you are developing a new solution to an existing problem, it does you little good to ask your potential customers what they want to see in your new product. They can answer only in the context of what they already know.” That’s true, and the article is well worth a read.
But what if you’re not involved in developing products? What if you’re just presented with new products by head office, or manufacturers you represent, and you never get any say about whether your market actually wants that? I suspect most readers are in that position, and it’s one which marketing courses conveniently fail to acknowledge.
Judging from the “list of features” based marketing which is so prevalent on company websites and in advertising, I suspect that most marketers use the fact that they don’t get any input into new product development as an excuse not to spend time investigating what their market actually wants. I think this is a mistake.
Maybe you didn’t get to vote on whether you wanted the latest model to be faster and cheaper rather than, say, smaller and shinier. But if you know what your market wants, you know which one of “faster” or “cheaper” to focus on. And if you know that your market would much rather have had either “smaller” or “shinier”, at least you know that you’re going to have to come up with a more ingenious marketing strategy than ever.