Discussing Outcomes versus Features and Benefits


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Robin Lawton book, Creating a Customer-Centered Culture: Leadership in Quality, Innovation, and Speed offers some valuable insights even though it was written 20-years ago. In a past podcast, I asked Robin about discussing outcomes versus features and benefits.

Related Podcast and Transcription: How Do You Listen to Your Customer?

An excerpt from the podcast:

Rob Lawton:  You got it. As soon as we do that, what happens is that it opens the door to innovation. We can go two directions. We can say, “Ah. If we know the outcome is X, and users or customers want it, and this is the product we’ve been giving them to get there. Are there things we should do to improve that product?’ If so, we’re going to use what I call convergent thinking. That is; we’re going to take an existing product, and we’re going to make some kind of either incremental or radical change in that product. But, we don’t significantly change the product as a concept in itself. We still have that particular product. We may have a buggy whip, for example, that doesn’t have a flexible end on it. It’s actually got a battery in it, and it buzzes. You hold it against the horse, and it buzzes, and that causes the job to occur. We’ve still got a buggy whip, but we’ve made incremental improvement in it.

On the other hand, we could use divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is focused on outcome. We could say, ‘Shoot. The buggy whip is a product, but what other products might achieve the same or better outcome for the customers?’ That’s what we want to do. If we think about innovations that we know of, I’ll give you one that’s a great example of how focus on outcomes can actually explain the success of certain companies. All of us are familiar with the iPhone from Apple. The iPhone started with the iPod. The name of the product itself is very important because there was no history on that name, iPod. The beauty of it is that it did not cause us to think of a specific thing when it was introduced. That meant we didn’t have intellectual, emotional, or experiential history regarding this brand or product. It’s not that the product didn’t exist in some form prior, because the iPod is simply a mp3 player. If we think about the iPod, then as a product, and we want to connect to outcome, we say, ‘Can we identify what the customer’s desired outcome was, regarding the iPod?’ In a second here, I’m going to tell you what it is.

Before we do that, let’s talk about the predecessor for mp3 players. We know that iPod springs from that. It’s a kind of mp3 player. Prior to the mp3 player, we had a company called Sony that had a product called Walkmans. The Walkman actually addressed the same desired outcome as the iPod. Prior to the Walkman, there was the boombox. All of these are products that have exactly the same outcome wanted by customers. That is, “feeling like I’m there.” That outcome, feeling like I’m there, like all outcomes at the strategic and macro level does not change. They are stable over time. If we think of all the things, customers care about; this is the only one that doesn’t change over time. In our world, when we have change everywhere, we desperately would like to find something that doesn’t change. This is it. Desired outcomes don’t change over time.

What the iPod did was enabled the experience of being there to be far more inclusive, because of what else the iPod brought to the party, which is iTunes. There’s a whole other set of things we could talk about. That’s how we connect products and outcomes. We can ask ourselves, and we should, ‘Is the product today the best product we could provide for the outcomes we have uncovered those end users of this product want to achieve?’ If the answer is no, then we need to pursue that and say, ‘Great. What else could we provide as a product?’ In fact, if we eliminated this product and started from scratch, what would we create?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


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