“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them.” — Steve Jobs, 1989
“We believe that customers are smart, and want objects which are well thought through.” — Steve Jobs, 2006
There’s a few perspectives surrounding the statement, “People don’t know what they need until you show it to them.” also attributed to Jobs.
In one corner, you have the customer searching for a solution to their current problem, but using their previous experience as a point of reference.
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” — Henry Ford
In the second corner, you have the service provider that simply delivers the “faster horses” solution. In this perspective, there is little to no research into alternatives — no discovery, no questioning of the customer base, only unwavering compliance with the initial request.
In the third corner, is the company with the solution to the customer’s problem — but it is not one the customer is expecting. This is where the real work happens.
Good ideas still need to be sold. This is the essence of all marketing.
A Little-Discussed Truth
Customers do not always recognize the solution to their woes the instant they lay eyes on it. It has to be presented to them in logical and emotionally appealing manner, so they take action. The ability to sell a solution to people who need it is what makes a business successful.
Good ideas will always have to be sold. Start by highlighting the problem being solved. Most customers don’t know or won’t admit they have a problem until it is revealed to them. Once they realize there is a pain point to resolve, they will need a solution. Steering them away from bad solutions and towards good ones requires persuasion, logic, psychology and empathy. If you know that your solution will truly help your customers thrive, it is your moral duty to point them towards that product or service.
Honor your client. Respect their business. Say ‘No’ to bad ideas and suggest better ones.
The Bar Has Already Been Raised
It is not enough to simply show up in a marketplace and expect business to come rushing in. There are too many products and services with no differentiation. How will a customer decide when all their choices look indistinguishable?
It is still not enough to be unique. You must sell the benefits of your product. You must sell the philosophy and story behind your product. You must show your customer that you are solving something that your competitors are not.
You have to give something for your customers to believe in — something about your product that they can latch onto.
For if words are powerful, then your words will play an instrumental role in convincing your prospects to buy. And victory will not necessarily go to those who are the smartest, the cheapest, the most durable, the most versatile, or first to market. Victory will go to those who can convince others that they are all those things. Victory will to those who can sell their ideas most effectively.