And to whom do you turn to for insights?
Who do you turn to for insights and direction? Your customers or your competitors.
Here's one perspective: Listen to Competitors - Not Customers, by Adam Hartung.
Adam’s clear. He writes of the:
... grave risk that lies in listening to customers--especially in listening to them about innovation and market shifts, which we've been seeing plenty of and which will surely not let up in 2010.In reality, customers rarely know what they want, beyond more, better, faster and cheaper. Customers, especially big ones who are locked in to your solution, don't seek out anything really new, especially if it means they'll have to invest in new tooling, systems or processes. They don't look for change. Mostly they want only to tilt the adversarial customer-supplier relationship in their advantage, hoping they can persuade you to help them save money. And you mostly just want to sell them more stuff.
Ok. That adversarial customer-supplier relationship...the one where you just want to sell them more stuff .. that is the elephant in the room. Ignoring your customers is a great way, maybe the perfect way, to create an adversarial relationship. Your greatest innovations will be ignored if you’ve ignored your customers to create an adversarial relationship.
An adversarial relationship does provide additional motivation for your customers to leave when the bright and shiny innovation of your competitors arrives on their desk.
An adversarial relationship does insure you would not know your customers may be interested in a bright and shiny innovation on their desk.
John Jantsch at Duct Tape Marketing may have a more nuanced, less black and white, approach. Stop trying to better than the competition. He writes:
What [businesses] should be doing is figuring out how they can simply be different than the competition.Creating your own special way to treat customers, creating an experience that’s unique, or creating a totally new and frictionless way for people to get a result is how you stand out from the pack, it’s how you create a difference that can’t be easily copied, and it’s how innovation comes to small business.
Why? Different is where the competitors aren’t. Different is where you are exclusive, unique, one-of-a-kind. Different is where the margins are.
In 2010, we’re going to need to listen a lot more, to a lot more sources. Customers, competitors, employees, employees, employees ( I listed them three times for their importance relative to the times they are ignored), management, our families, our communities, bloggers...They are the ones whose needs we serve. They are the ones whose needs remain unmet. And they are the ones who will give us a chance if...we listen.
What do you think?