Another insightful post by Tara Gentile
Steve Jobs was famous for his disdain of his customers’ desires.Henry Ford distrusted his customers’ ability to express what they really wanted. Yet, they went on to create products that changed the very nature of their markets. So what gives? What allowed them to create massive market impact while effectively ignoring the express desires of their customers?
Of course, it’s not that simple. Both men had a window into the psyche of their customers. The good news is, you can peer through that same window.
Why Steve Jobs & Henry Ford Would Love The Customer Perspective Process
Steve Jobs famously created Apple’s most revolutionary products without customer involvement. He was happy to ignore what people asked for in favour of offering them something they couldn’t dream of.
Henry Ford had a similar view of innovation. He said, “If I would have asked what people wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Though, whether he actually said this is a subject of debate.
These great innovators may not have asked their customers what they wanted–you shouldn’t either–but they were masters of understanding needs, desires, and the potential meaning new products could have for the customers that made them wealthy beyond imagining.
Steve Jobs real innovation wasn’t the product–mp3 players were around before the iPod hit the scene–and it wasn’t the design either. He might have made great design mainstream but aesthetes were already purchasing products that looked as good as they functioned. Steve Jobs real innovation was that of meaning, as powerful a marketing device as any ever crafted. What new meaning would the iPod have in the lives of its owners?
Simple: Jobs suggested to customers that they could carry 1,000 songs in their pockets. He knew that, beyond better ways to buy music, better ways to store CDs, or better ways to listen to tunes, listeners would love the idea of having their music, on demand, wherever they went.
Jobs could easily have been a genius who died in obscurity instead of the founder and figurehead of the richest company in the world. The answer to this question–and the others he asked like it–was the foundation of his ability to create raving hoards of fans (and money-spending customers).
He took a clear understanding of the current conversation (because markets are really conversations), assessed it from his expert point of view, and shifted a small idea in a market-dominating product.
Ford, similarly, didn’t invent the automobile. Rather, he created the processes by which it could become a product that the vast majority of people in the 1st world must own by understanding, from his customer’s perspective, what was important. He made the automobile easier to drive and easier to produce. He streamlined the array of vehicles being offered.
Those small changes have changed the way we live, work, and play. That’s massive market impact.
Now, you’ve got a lot in common with Steve Jobs and Henry Ford. First off, you’re smart. And you’re incredibly skilled at what you do. You may lack confidence in marketing, pricing, or sales, but you know when you’re creating value for your customers you are masterful.
Second, you’re good at asking questions. You’re curious.
Third, you’ve got an exciting vision for your customers and the world.
All in all, this is a recipe for success. But something is getting in the way, isn’t it?
You might even find yourself asking, “My clients are some of the happiest, most satisfied clients in my industry because I deliver. So why can’t I find more of them?”
Here’s what gets in the way: you think with your expert’s brain 100% of the time. Why? Because it’s fun! It’s fun to feel masterful, it’s exciting to feel on top of your game, it’s energizing to challenge yourself and to be challenged. It’s not that you don’t care about your customers, you really, really do–and I believe Steve Jobs and Henry Ford did too.
What happens if you tune your curiosity to your customer’s perspective?
What happens if you see the world through their eyes?
What could you create if you understood why they express the needs they do?
Or if you knew what thoughts motivated their actions?
You could use your expert’s brain–just like Jobs & Ford–to create something truly impactful. It would take the best of your expert understanding and fuse it with the deep desires of your most valued customers.
Your product would suddenly speak the language your customer needs to hear to “get it” and at the same time be better than they could have imagined.
That’s what Henry Ford and Steve Jobs did. That’s the Customer Perspective Process.