Thursday, March 24, 2011

What customers want

Recently I was told that Richard Olivier (son of renowned actor, Laurence) uses Shakespeare insights to coach leadership skills. It just occurred to me that other literary figures have much to teach business, too.

I remember school studies on Chaucer's Wife of Bath. In her tale the queen famously tasked a knight with discovering what women want most in the world. The tale's answer, of course, is that women want to be in charge [of their husbands and lovers], to have the authority to make their own choices. Just like customers do.

(It's this insight that's leading our emphasis upon customer managed relationships rather than the more usual Customer Relationship Management.)

There's a great insight here for how to treat customers. Marketing is not about bringing a product we've built to the market and persuading people to want it; it should be about discovering what the marketplace wants and needs - and feeding the results to those in the business who can innovate a response. Everything else, as Peter Drucker said, is a cost of bringing the innovative response to fulfill the marketplace's need.

Yesterday I met a senior executive in the publishing industry. (Now that's an industry facing disruption from technology; new competitor entrants like Amazon, Apple, Google and more; the collapse of traditional retail sales through bricks-and-mortar stores, forcing mega-retailers like Borders out of the market...)

This executive told me he's taking exactly the Drucker (or Wife of Bath) approach: he's spent much of the last year immersed in his market, discovering end-user customer needs afresh, and beginning to innovate a response. I'd invest in him and his business rather than those hoping that change won't happen.
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