Unmet Needs, Networks, Signals, Reputation


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I was reading a great post by my friend, and colleague, Brian Vellmure this morning (Network, Signals Reputation and Delight) and felt like adding to the discussion. Initially, I began to write a comment, but once it turned into a blog I reconsidered and posted it here.

Building a network and reputation is critical. Unfortunately, I feel as though the rapid emergence Brian mentioned can amplify your lack of competitive understanding of your customers. Like many of you, I’m concerned with crafting the right message and the right reputation. However, instead of worrying about all the tools and services empowering customers (and you) these days, let’s step back and look at things from the messenger’s standpoint. I know that sounds inside-out, but bear with me for a moment.

What matters?

Customers are simply not able to articulate what matters to them. They use the wrong language (wants, desires, benefits, ideas, solutions, specifications, delighters and exciters), and marketers pick that up and use it themselves. They all define needs differently, and this is what leads to feature wars and other types of hype; which adds little value. The only thing that really matters is an improved condition in the business, an outcome. How you get there is by understanding what customer needs they deem important and unsatisfied. Unfortunately, you can’t simply ask them. It takes some hard work, which must be done before you begin messaging and crafting solutions.

Take away: make sure you are building your reputation around something valuable. Customers are not articulating what’s valuable in VOC or listening initiatives. While these have some value, why shoot for a low success rate when you can target your efforts much better and achieve dramatic success rates?

What’s different?

What should be different is that your company should be focused on innovating around the unmet needs of your customer while continuing to serve the fully satisfied needs; even if that means shifting your core competencies. Anything else is inside-out. Here’s an example from my real life. I have a website (I won’t mention or link to) that started off on a niche theme. I did some initial research and had a good understanding of what my potential customers were looking for, and what was being underserved to them in the form of web content. It’s become a very successful site, but mostly because I continued to do the research and discovered that I was missing a huge related underserved market. Therefore, I realigned/added content to accommodate this area which required me to learn some new things along the way. That little adjustment quadrupled traffic to my site over the past year, because I began serving what those other visitors were looking for. Same works for any business. It’s just easier to research what people look for in the “how to” world of Google.

How can I and or my organization benefit?

Well, how your customers benefit is by you uncovering insights that none of your competitors have uncovered, their unmet needs. This will help them do their jobs better, or do more jobs – maybe you’ll find some new jobs along the way. Your company will benefit by capturing market share, gaining a foothold in new markets, or possibly creating a completely new market. Without understanding where these opportunities lie, what are you really broadcasting?

Where is the opportunity

Isn’t that the real question we’re all looking for? The one single question that leads to value at both ends and down the line? As the social craze explodes, and every kid and their dog is creating some social web service or consulting practice, it’s become even easier to avoid what really works. VOC doesn’t work, unless you are willing to have thousands of low value targets and and a low success rate. The social vehicle will work once you’ve done the harder work of understanding the jobs your customers are trying to get done before, during, after and around your product or service. The outcomes they use to measure how well you help them do these jobs become the opportunity you seek; once you know

  1. whether they are actually important to your customer, and
  2. how well the market currently satisfies them.

Unmet needs are important outcomes that are not being served in the market. Take this handful of opportunities and create a solution (or solutions), experiences, capabilities and messaging around them. Then begin building your network and reputation. The results will be much more delightful and you won’t waste your time with hype that serves you poorly.

What should I do now?

What you should do now is find those unmet needs which I talked about in my last post. The next thing you can do is find innovative ways to deliver solutions, innovative ways for your customer to consume those solutions and properly focused ways to talk about them in the traditional and social landscapes. This blog post does not target any unmet needs, at least not in the way I’ve written it. I just wrote it to add to Brian’s discussion because to me, it makes little sense to expand your network and reputation around unknowns and uncertainties and I wanted to make that point. Most companies probably believe that they understand their customers needs. But do they understand their customer’s unsatisfied needs? Do they even know where to look?

If you ask them a few simple questions, you’ll find that they probably do not. One day, I’d like this to resonate with more people, which will mean my message will certainly change to mirror those unmet needs I need to target. I still need to work on that part. So here’s the test…

  1. Does your company agree that the key to growth is through innovation?
  2. Does your company agree on what innovation is?
  3. Does your company agree that understanding customer needs is the key to innovation?
  4. Does your company agree on what a customer need is?
  5. Does everyone in your company share a deep knowledge of your customers’ important underserved needs?

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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