Do customers want “A” solution or “YOUR” solution? (You might be surprised)

Does the marketplace want YOUR solution?

When you validate your idea or product, you can accidentally fool yourself.

It is critical to take the time and effort to carefully validate your product market fit.

You need to confirm that customers want your particular solution. Not just “a” solution.
You can get excited when customers agree that they have a problem that you are addressing. But that’s barely the half of it.

Ask the right questions, be direct. Ask what features they need… does your product offer those features? Even with that questi0n, it’s a matter of a customer dumping a “wish list” on you. So you need to probe to discover what is a minimum need and what is a want, or a nice to have.

Don’t Get Fooled
It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that if customers agree they need a solution, that they want YOUR solution. Many companies have misinterpreted surveys, calls and focus groups. If what you are offering is unique and in a new category, the customer might not even know the difference between a need and a want.

I had that problem when we started publishing newsletters, books and videos for teachers in the K-12 market. It was 1994, and the Internet was new. Many schools didn’t have Internet connectivity, so they had to use dial-up connections at home. And time and again, when the marketing department turned in the results of the focus groups, the recommendations were disappointing.

The respondents (teachers, librarians, administrators)  indicated they weren’t able to buy our products due to budget restraints, they didn’t have Internet, the prices were too high, etc.  What they said they wanted was better dial-up connections to Compuserve, Prodigy or AOL.

So what was I to do?  (Well, I fired the marketing department researcher!) In that case, I absolutely KNEW that schools would obtain Internet and teachers would need our materials. Turned out, it was a good call: sales grew from $140,000 to almost $4 million in 28 months and we sold for $14 million 34 months after the day we started.

So it’s important to spend the time, energy and money to drill down to figure out if potential customers will pay you real money for the solution YOU are actually offering. Maybe what they think they want, isn’t actually what they need. If it’s a new product category, they could be wrong. As in our case, you may have to educate the prospects if it’s a new product category.

But if you take the time to carefully validate, ask and ask,  you will end up creating what your marketspace needs. You’ll avoid costly product design, marketing, sales and pricing mistakes. And, you will be much more successful, more quickly.

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