When you design your product or service, who are you designing for?
When you market your product or service, whose world are you using as a reference for how useful the product or service will be?
B) Some objective view of what your customers see and want?
C) What you believe your customers’ world is like and how they see it?
D) The actual world customers live and work in and how they see it?
If you chose A or C, you’re pretty much like most organizations. If you chose D, you’re pretty different. In a good way.
Why? Well, let’s look at what it takes to get each of these reference points? Let’s start with B — an objective view of what your customers want. Doesn’t really exist. Wants and needs are socially constructed with the exception, of course, of basic biological needs.
A? Your view of what customers want and need? Easy to get. Occasionally valuable — when on occasion it actually aligns with what customers want and need. C? This is typically achieved through market research of some kind, including data mining and predictive analytics. It is an abstract or digest or reflection of how either you or customers interpret how customers see the world.
Now for D — the way in which customers actually see the world. Isn’t that the insight we want? If we had that, wouldn’t it become more obvious how we should design products and communicate them to our target markets?
You can get D. You can’t get there though by focusing on what you know or what you think you know about your customer. You can’t even get there by asking your customer. They don’t know. You get there by joining your customers in the course of their day, observing them, experiencing with them, and asking them about their thoughts, perceptions, and actions as they move about their world. You understand and map out how they see the world and why.
Your brand and products enter your customers’ world — this context — every day. As a business leader, product designer, marketer, or brand manager, your first priority should be to understand how it all works — for them. Then do what you do.