Talk to your customers; find out what they don’t want


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Bruce Johnson of Accelerated Growth Consulting recounts a terrific story that highlights the importance of getting out of the office and talking to customers.

While attending a conference years back, one of the guest speakers was Len Schlesinger (former vice chairman and COO of Limited Brands and who now serves as the president of Babson College in Massachusetts). At the time, Len was still teaching at Harvard, and one of the stories he told was about when he and some friends decided to test their entrepreneurial theories and open up a soup and sandwich shop.

A few of my colleagues and I decided to open up a soup and sandwich place near campus to put our theories to the test. During one of our brainstorming sessions about the menu, someone suggested, “What if we offered gazpacho?”

Since our clientele was composed of Ivy League students with a developed palate, we all thought, “Great idea. No one else is doing that around here. It’ll be unique.”

So we put it on the menu and guess what? It failed miserably. For some unknown reason, students in Boston during the winter don’t want to buy cold soup.

What we learned from that experience is that executives talking to other executives about what customers want is ridiculous.

The necessity of getting out of the office and talking to your customers can not be overemphasized. You may have a reasonable hypothesis on who your customers are and why they buy, but until you validate this by meeting with them face-to-face, all you have (at best) is an educated guess.

Here’s the takeaway: Get out of the office; talk to your customers; find out what they want; and most important…find out what they don’t want.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Patrick Lefler
Patrick Lefler is the founder of The Spruance Group -- a management consultancy that helps growing companies grow faster by providing unique value at the product level: specifically product marketing, pricing, and innovation. He is a former Marine Corps officer; a graduate of both Annapolis and The Wharton School, and has over twenty years of industry expertise.


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