I’m about to wrap up my series of blogs on the topic of DISCONNECT between products placed in the marketplace and actual needs of consumers/users.…and feel as if I’ve come full circle.
If you’ve been reading along, you may recall in closing Part 1 of DISCONNECT – The Company Style, I posed the question:
…do you – as a consumer (or even as a small business owner) – know what you need/want?
As I researched, pondered and wrote this series of blogs, Tom Kelley’s comment – “there is no real reason to ask customers what they need/want – as they often don’t know” – antagonistically bounced around in my head and massaged my thoughts. It wasn’t until early in the week, however, as I sat down to write that I felt pushed to honestly reflect (and deeply consider) my own question juxtaposed with Mr. Kelley’s comment. My appreciation for a true relationship between the two perspectives deepened…and encouraged me to ponder my own question with a more focused and profound intensity. The insights gained from that process motivated me to slightly shift my writing direction.
The complexity of my own question gnawed at me. The question I posed actually reached out for answers that invoked personal and behavioral responses. So as to actually participate in my own question, I stepped back and asked myself…
- Do I consistently have a clear understanding of my wants, needs, and desires?
- Even when I do have a clear understanding, am I actively able to articulate (put into words) and project those wants, needs and desires into the marketplace and world?
- If I’m not able to – either articulate or convey my needs – what restricts or inhibits me from doing so?
I then reflected on situations where I had been able to identify, articulate, and project my wants, needs, and desires into the marketplace…and, for the most part, the rewards for doing so were extremely positive – my needs and desires were met. During those times, I felt empowered – as if I had initiated or paved a direct path to getting what I wanted and needed. My life seemed richer, happier…more fulfilled.
For many of us, identifying, articulating and sharing our wants, needs, and desires can be a challenge. Learning to do so…and practicing…however, seems essential to a rich and comfortable human experience. If we choose to not participate in this way, it’s inevitable that others (i.e. Mr. Kelley types) will indirectly be granted permission to make decisions that push or force us – consumers and users – in directions we may not individually choose or want to go.
As I’m certain you’re aware from mingling with groups of interested others, consumers are now a powerful force to be reckoned with. Informed decisions are being made (based on shared experiences) about how, what, where, why and from whom products and services are purchased – oftentimes without engaging the respective company or organization.
This “conscious/informed consumption” trend has the potential to create frustration on both sides of the aisle.
Without on-going direct contact or solid interaction with consumers/users (darn, I miss those focus groups and surveys), companies now seek out ways to learn more about buyers’ needs so they can design to meet those (perceived or fabricated) needs. They accomplish this using “choice architects,” industrial and social engineers,” “human factor specialists,” and many others from the field of Human Factors and Ergonomics (HF&E). These professionals – intimately tied to technology, behavior models, and other tools/techniques – assist companies in “getting at” and/or artificially replicating (“visualizing”) buyer behavior/needs.
In addition to these design efforts, many companies now deploy new marketing programs and approaches that seek to “target” and capitalize on this “conscious/informed consumption” trend. These approaches and marketing programs are formulated to align (in order to “capture” marketshare) with specific key concepts such as perceived buyer VALUES, COLLABORATION desires, and interests to CONNECT and DEVELOP.
In his book Marketing 3.0, Philip Kotler suggests that companies establish – and commit to – a corporate “Mission” that incorporates “bonding” with the customer. He also encourages companies to consider the marketplace as “Whole Human with Mind, Heart and Spirit” since consumers/users now seek out companies that truly are making “the world a better place.”
Mr. Kotler’s suggestion to companies caused me to think of a recent experience I had as a consumer which I’ve shared below:
For years, I’ve been a committed Brooks Addiction running shoes buyer. The company regularly updates this shoe model (i.e. Addition 5, 6, 7, 8). The fit – for my feet/body – has consistently been ideal. When new shoe purchase time rolls around, I simply buy the next model in the series – without trying them on or considering the price (kinda like an “addiction”). This year, the company chose to make drastic design changes (with or without buyer input?) to their Addiction running shoes. So, I researched reviews online. All of the information presented by others was negative – especially from users who had similar foot issues. So, I visited a local store to try on a pair. I, too, experienced a fit that created pain in specific trigger points. To say the least, I was devastated…as now I would be forced to invest time and energy to find shoes that might work for me. Being unwilling to invest that amount of time, I drove to my to my favorite shoe store…as I trusted their long-time seasoned professionals. I conveyed my frustration…and explained issues I’d encountered with Brooks’ new design –and shared very specific needs I had for running shoes. Within minutes, Jennie appeared with a pair of New Balance shoes. She explained how my specific issues/concerns might be addressed with these New Balance shoes. When she laced them up and I proceed to bounce around the store, the feeling of nirvana came over me – almost as if I was in a protective cocoon. I experienced no discomfort on my pressure points, plenty of room to freely wiggle my toes (and not antagonize my bunion, plantar fasciitis or neuroma). Upon arriving home, I visited the New Balance web site…and here’s what I found…
The story of New Balance begins at the dawn of the 20th century (1906) in Boston, Massachusettes when William J. Riley, a 33-year-old English immigrant, committed himself to helping people with problem feet by making arch supports and prescription footwear to improve shoe fit…more
Not only am I delighted with my new, extremely comfortable, FUNCTIONAL pair of running shoes…but, I am proud to be part of a community that aligns with my VALUES, my desire to COLLABORATE and my need to CONNECT and participating in future DEVELOPMENT.
So, in closing, I must admit how glad I am to have pulled on those leather pants during my 1st DISCONNECT blog – as they truly helped me avoid splinters as I rode the fence exploring this subject. I hope after reading my last several DISCONNECT blogs you have remained splinter-free on the indecision fence with me and now agree that companies and consumers each/both own responsiblity for product/service disconnects observed in and around the marketplace…and that we each need to own and play our part…
My words of encouragement as a consumer/user
- Actively engage in dialogue with other consumers/users (plus do your own homework) to learn the “real” TRUTH about a company’s product or service;
- Exercise caution so as to avoid being manipulated, pushed (“nudged”) or sold a product or service that does not directly align with the needs, wants, and desires you’ve taken time to identify (and articulate) for yourself;
- Put pressure on companies to engage and perform in a way that truly returns VALUE – functional, emotional, and spiritual – back to their products and services; and
- Share ways you’ve participated…and made a difference…in directly letting companies know YOUR needs, wants, and desires
My thoughts as a small business/company owner:
- Demonstrate a solid understanding of the markets served…and offer, deliver and provide VALUE to the marketplace;
- Provide an upfront, honest, and genuine approach that reduces misinterpretation or misunderstanding – and demonstrates a true desire to COLLABORATE; and
- Consider the entire ecosystem (including the environmental impact) when placing products/services into the marketplace.
As always, thanks for joining me on this adventure of exploration.
© 2013 EMCarlock
The Write Resources, LLC™ – www.the-write-resources.com