Don’t Listen to Your Market

pyramid

Most companies ignore their markets – and they will struggle to survive.  Some companies listen to their markets – and they have an opportunity to succeed.  You have the opportunity to understand your market, and transform it into your market – but you can’t get there just by listening.

Don’t listen to your market, understand your market.

Zappos All-Hands Meeting

Thanks Thomas Knoll (@thomasknoll) for pointing out that Zappos’ all-hands meeting was being live streamed today!  [Aside - how cool is that?!]

Chip Conley (@chipconley) spoke to the Zappos (and Bellagio) folks about several things, including being customer-driven.  He was able to pull several ideas from his book, Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow, but one of them stuck out in particular as being critically important to product managers.

Transformation Pyramid

There’s a copy of this on slide 28 of this presentation on Slideshare, essentially an adaptation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, applied to customer relationships.  It is not clear if this is an approved (by Mr. Conley) posting, so I’m not going to include a fair-rights copy of the image.  You can find out more by reading his book, visiting his website, or dive right into an application of this model to Wall Street from Mr. Conley’s blog.

The basic idea (for focusing on your customers) boils down to this:

  1. At the base of the pyramid, you have companies that meet the expectations of their customers- they provide what customers expect (and no more).  In his presentation today, Mr. Conley pointed out that these companies will struggle for survival.  Good enough isn’t anymore.
  2. At the next level of enlightenment are companies who meet the desires of their customers.  These are companies Mr. Conley points out as ones who will succeed.
  3. At the top of the pyramid are companies who meet the unrecognized needs of their customers.  These companies, through understanding their customers, satisfy needs that people didn’t know they had.

In an earlier article on sustaining a market-driven competitive advantage, I wrote about listening to your customers (#2) and innovating in order to uncover the latent requirements.

You can argue that these problems were introduced because of innovative solutions, or that the problems were latent, and were only discovered because of the innovations.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is that these problems were previously unaddressable, and now solutions to these problems have value.

That article was written with an inside-out perspective – essentially answering two questions –

  • “Why should you innovate?”

  • “Why Should You Innovate Repeatedly?”

As you repeatedly invest in understanding your customers, you gain insight into their latent requirements and needs – and get an opportunity to address them.  When you do this repeatedly, you become a thought leader for your markets, which you can leverage as a distinct competitive advantage.

Conclusion

Mr. Conley is approaching innovation, with respect to customers, from an outside-in perspective – and reaching a similar conclusion.

When you understand your customers, well beyond meeting their must-have minimum expectations, and beyond addressing their explicitly stated desires, you have the opportunity to solve the problems they don’t realize that they had in the first place.

From my perspective, his insights make it even more important that you continually focus on what your customers really need, and let your market guide you.  Not to be confused with “give your customers what they ask for” – they’ll only ask for a faster horse.

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This article was published on Monday, April 26th, 2010 at 10:04 pm and is filed under Product Management, Uncategorized.
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5 Comments

  1. This is a great reminder of how the easiest thing to do is often the wrong thing to do. It is easier to just ask the customer what is needed, make a list, and give that to the development team.

    It is much harder to immerse yourself in the customer’s world and actually think creatively. Great product managers go the extra step.

  2. Interesting post.
    I am exploring this topic on my blog.

  3. Thanks, Jeremy – couldn’t have said it better. Certainly couldn’t have said it shorter :)

    Thanks also to all the folks tweeting and re-tweeting!

    @sehlhorst on Twitter

  4. Hello there, just changed into alert to your blog thru Google, and found that it is really informative. I’m gonna be careful for brussels. I’ll appreciate for those who continue this in future. A lot of folks shall be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

37 Trackbacks

  1. By bishoph on April 27, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Great post. Don’t listen to your market, understand your market: http://bit.ly/cy0CPO

  2. By Jim Holland on April 27, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Excellent post by @sehlhorst "Don't Listen to Your Market" http://bit.ly/a3iZ9u – You need to tweet and pass the link to ur #prodmgmt peers

  3. By Andrea on April 27, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    RT @Jim_Holland: Excellent post by @sehlhorst "Don't Listen to Your Market" http://bit.ly/a3iZ9u – You need to tweet and pass the link t …

  4. By Mukesh Jain on April 27, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    RT @sehlhorst: Don’t listen to your market, understand your market. http://bit.ly/a3iZ9u

  5. By Julie Hunt on April 27, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    RT @mukeshj RT @sehlhorst: Don’t listen to your market, understand yr market & meet unrecognized needs of customers http://bit.ly/a3iZ9u

  6. By Jeff SKI Kinsey on April 27, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Don't Listen to Your Market | Tyner Blain http://ow.ly/1DIe1

  7. By david hudson on April 27, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Don't Listen to Your Market: http://ow.ly/1DIsw Excellent @sehlhorst post as always – great reminder that nothing imprtnt happens in office!

  8. By April Dunford on April 28, 2010 at 2:38 am

    RT @sehlhorst: Don't Listen to Your Market http://bit.ly/a3iZ9u

  9. By Benedict Lau on April 28, 2010 at 3:27 am

    RT @aprildunford: RT @sehlhorst: Don't Listen to Your Market http://bit.ly/a3iZ9u

  10. By Chris Siakos on April 28, 2010 at 4:03 am

    RT @sehlhorst: Don't Listen to Your Market http://bit.ly/a3iZ9u

  11. By Yama on April 28, 2010 at 5:31 am

    Don’t Listen to Your Market – from @sehlhorst #prodmgmt w/ notes @chipconley & @zappos mtg http://ping.fm/O1tkL

  12. By Lynn Stetson on April 28, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Good stuff and oh so true! RT @sehlhorst: Don't Listen to Your Market http://bit.ly/a3iZ9u

  13. By Alan Kleber on April 29, 2010 at 7:07 am

    Don't Listen to Your Market http://bit.ly/a3iZ9u #agile

  14. By Jurgen Appelo on April 29, 2010 at 7:41 am

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  15. By Jose M Raventos on April 29, 2010 at 9:38 am

    RT @LeanProdDev: Don't Listen to Your Market http://bit.ly/a3iZ9u #agile

  16. By jeff mikres on April 29, 2010 at 11:46 am

    By @sehlhorst: Don’t Listen to Your Market http://bit.ly/anP0RD

  17. By Trevor Rotzien on April 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Nicely done, @sehlhorst Don't Listen to Your Market http://bit.ly/a3iZ9u (love the high value / highly concise visuals) #prodmgmt

  18. By Julien Grenier on April 30, 2010 at 1:52 pm

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  19. By Rich Mironov on April 30, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    RT @sehlhorst: Don't Listen to Your Market http://bit.ly/a3iZ9u

  20. [...] Don’t Listen to Your Market by Scott Sehlhorst on Tyner Blain [...]

  21. By copenhaver on May 3, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    You can’t get there just by listening: Don’t Listen to Your Market (understand it) http://ow.ly/1GgGD #in

  22. By Manuel Koelman on May 6, 2010 at 12:21 am

    Don’t Listen to Your Market http://j.mp/9awwpG

  23. By Andrej Ruckij on May 7, 2010 at 10:32 am

    By @sehlhorst: Don’t Listen to Your Market http://bit.ly/anP0RD

  24. By michaelrhopkin on May 8, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    By @sehlhorst: Don’t Listen to Your Market http://bit.ly/anP0RD

  25. By Steve Johnson on May 10, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    RT @sehlhorst: Don’t Listen to Your Market http://bit.ly/anP0RD

  26. By michaelrhopkin on May 10, 2010 at 12:54 pm

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  27. By Michael Ray Hopkin on May 10, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    RT @sehlhorst: Don’t Listen to Your Market http://bit.ly/anP0RD

  28. By lukehohmann on May 10, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    @sehlhorst: Don’t Listen to Your Market http://bit.ly/anP0RD RIGHT ON- UNDERSTAND YOUR MARKET through #innovgames

  29. By barbaragnelson on May 17, 2010 at 2:14 am

    Almost missed this post when I was on vacation: RT @sehlhorst: Don't Listen to Your Market http://bit.ly/a3iZ9u Good one for #prodmgmt

  30. By Mack McCoy on May 17, 2010 at 2:33 am

    Spot on. RT @barbaragnelson: Almost missed this…: RT @sehlhorst: Don't Listen to Your Market http://bit.ly/a3iZ9u … #prodmgmt #in #yam

  31. By Scott Willeke on May 25, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Don’t Listen to Your Market http://ff.im/-kTZ8R

  32. By Hugo Pickford-Wardle on June 14, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    By @sehlhorst: http://bit.ly/anP0RD – I think this can probably tie in with the concept of a brand pyramid – satisfy latent needs. Get…

  33. By Ariel Ben Yosef on August 6, 2010 at 1:05 am

    Don't Listen to Your Market! | Tyner Blain http://ow.ly/2lJxt #prodmgmt

  34. By Irina Menn on August 6, 2010 at 3:38 am

    Interesting concept. RT @ArielbYosef: Don't Listen to Your Market! | Tyner Blain http://ow.ly/2lJxt #prodmgmt

  35. By Ariel Ben Yosef on August 9, 2010 at 7:10 am

    Don't Listen to Your Market! | Tyner Blain http://ow.ly/2lJAP #prodmgmt

  36. By Ravi Akella on August 10, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Don’t listen to your market, 'understand' your market http://bit.ly/anPHm8 #truedat #prodmgmt

  37. [...] to a ‘faster horse’ approach which inevitably leads to an also-ran product. I’m reminded of this blog post from tynerblain.com that talks about understanding your customers instead of merely listening to [...]

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