So, it’s been a couple of weeks since I posed the question of who might be responsible for the ongoing disconnect in the marketplace – companies who design, manufacture and put products into the marketplace or adaptable, non-engaged, unsuspecting purchasers and end-users? I hope you’ve had sufficient time to ponder this question…and that you might be willing to share your thoughts in the comment section. I’ve shared some of my thoughts and some research I’ve done below.
As a business owner and consumer, I often find myself pulling on those leather pants so I can ride the fence of indecision and not get splinters. Committing to either side offers obstacles. So, I wonder if it might be possible that companies and consumers are each/both responsible for the observed disconnects?
First, it’s important to differentiate between intangible (services) and tangible (products).
As a long-time business owner (marketing consultant and freelance writer), I launched my service business with in-depth Business and Marketing Plans. The research undertaken during the process of creating and constructing these Plans illuminated my path to the viable work projects and type of clients to anticipate. As clients arrived on my doorstep, I clearly understood – and embraced and committed to – the importance of soliciting detailed input from each client. Their experience working with and alongside me would provide a guidepost for my future. As this information – input, feedback, observations – came in, I was able to determine whether what I was hearing and learning mapped to the “brand” and image I was putting into the marketplace. Periodically, I was forced to stop and ensure that service statements presented in my marketing tools (and my overarching Plans) aligned. Soliciting and processing this input was critical to my operation, success, and professional longevity. As well, reaching out to associates, referrals, articles, research, and other seasoned professionals helped me learn more about potential or unanticipated needs, desires, and overall marketing trends. Demonstrating a clear, concise understanding of the markets I serve – companies, organizations, agencies and individuals – allows me to offer, deliver, and provide VALUE to the marketplace. If at any time along this process I discover that communication or the presentation of my work style or intended deliverables has not been clearly understood, I stop, process the input, request clarification, express my concerns, and readjust future communications to avert potential misunderstandings.
Service providers – writers, artists, designers, and others – who operate in this intangible arena, must dilligently focus on the presentation of their style, approach, and deliverables in a way that is clearly understandable, embraced and accepted within the marketplace. This can be a challenge; however, adjusting as feedback is provided can be a simpler process than completely re-designing or re-creating a tangible product after the product is placed in the marketplace. Providing an upfront, honest, and genuine approach (with “modifications” for clarity and to meet needs as necessary) reduces misinterpretation or misunderstanding, and demonstrates a desire to COLLABORATE.
Tangible products, however, present a different type of challenge. In his book 10 Faces of Innovation, Tom Kelley suggests planting employees in the marketplace. These employees – affectionately titled “Anthropologists” – conduct hands-on field research. This research allows these “observers” to explore, unfold, and determine ways consumers are using tangible products. Information obtained during this process is captured, passed along within the company…and ultimately incorporated into product design. Mr. Kelly positions this “field research” as a replacement for customary and traditional market research.
This approach can be problematic…as it is void of critical elements useful to product design – including broader dynamics of customer use and varied real-time interaction with the product, the customer’s purchase experience (including price and location), and the marketplace (ecosystem) within which the product functions. A perpetual effort by companies to continually create and place “new and different” products into the marketplace without consumption input, usage parameters and/or consideration of environmental impact appears to have caused some companies to loose their way – and drift from solid fundamentals necessary to connect with – even embrace – their customers and end-users and their values.
As a seasoned marketing professional trained in the art and science of Marketing, I’m moved to wonder whether this attitude and perspective might be leading to the consistent disconnect observed in the marketplace between the buyers’, consumers’, and end users’ use, needs, and overall deployment of the product which they seem to be struggling with?
As succinctly shared by Mr. Kelley “there is no real reason to ask customers what they need/want – as they often don’t know.” Yikes!!@#
So, in closing, I ask…do you – as a consumer (or even as a small business owner) – know what you need/want? If so, what’s the best way to let these companies know? More on that next time…
© 2013 EMCarlock
The Write Resources, LLC™ – www.the-write-resources.com