Do You Really Know What You Want?

We all broadly know what we want, like and expect from things. My views on what makes something good or bad are probably completely different from yours and we often get it wrong. As an example my wife dragged me to the cinema last week to see a film she has been talking about for months, I didn't want to go and had already decided it would be rubbish. Turns out I was wrong and I really enjoyed it.

It's good to have opinions. If you are a product company then getting your customers' views into the melting pot are essential. However there is a catch; generally people don't really know exactly what they want.

Let me give you an example. I am sure most of us remember the Ford Scorpio, a car Jeremy Clarkson described as "the car that ended any argument as to which was the ugliest on the road". However Ford did its research; it asked focus groups to comment on and review early designs. Ford even specifically targeted customers of the more prestigious marques for feedback -- after all this was the market the Scorpio would eventually be aimed at. It was a complete disaster.

Conversely there have been other examples where focus groups have got it completely wrong and the product has gone on to be a huge success. The hit show 24 was universally panned by reviewers during pre-air screenings as people just didn't get the concept. 24 went on to be one of the most popular TV dramas of all time.

So can we trust our opinions, customers and focus groups at all, isn't it just a complete waste of time?

Thankfully not. The key is to ask the right questions and make sure you know how to interpret the answers correctly. The Scorpio was technically brilliant but failed as a product due to the simple reason Ford left its comfort zone and asked the wrong people the wrong questions (OK I grant you it was horrifically ugly as well). Ford proved the point: there is a gulf of difference between discussing an imaginary product and using it in real life.

My advice, if you have a great idea then stick with it. Talk to your customers and get their input, but make sure you are asking the right questions and be prepared to distil the answers.

Are you brave enough to stand by your convictions?

By Ben Dyer, Product Development Director, Sellerdeck. Originally published on BusinessZone

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