Stage One PDF Print E-mail

Understand your customers' Demand Landscape



"If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have asked for faster horses."

- Henry Ford



There is a fundamental principle of innovation you must master to be successful in business:

your customers seek to accomplish something, achieve something, feel something, be something in their lives;  

and, they don't want a product per se, and what they do want is far more human than just 'doing a job'.

I.e. your product or service is merely one choice they can make in their journey to their goals.

Recognize that a customer will pursue many goals simultaneously and often in competition with each other.  This network of goals and activities we call a landscape of demand.



Understanding what they want, not what they ask for


At the heart of what your customers want are the value systems that drive their dailiy lives.  Whether that's work life or home life, the decision made are driven by what they seek, but we are all well trained to ask for things, not explain our desires.  So Stage 1 is all about getting inside their heads and building a model of what the seek, the Landscape of Demand.  There is a method for doing this, one based in anthropologic science, and it will produce a valuable knowledgebase of what your cusotmers want, not in the context of your product but in the context of their lives.  



The details


Building a model of the landscape of demand is the first step in the path to innovation.

This can be done informally, like Henry Ford and Steve Jobs did.  Or it can be done formally, with anthropologic models of value systems and decision trees.  With the force of personality and resources behind them, Ford and Jobs were able to exert their own vision on the companies they had built.   All the rest of us must do it the formal way for a very simple reason - we must convince others of the validity of our the work.  Data goes a long way to instilling credibility in to any model.

The model can be built from values, goals, activities, and/or interactions.

The basic intent is to establish a deep, in-context of understanding of how/why your customers make the decisions they do.  A typical method is to examine both demand issues and supply issues.  In other words, look both at goals and at the resources or actions used to help meet those goals.  A particularly convenient supply dimension is the spectrum of frustration the customer experiences.  When you understand where they experience frustration, you understand where supply falls short of what they want.

But you must also explicitly seek to understand what they seek.

Unmet needs, as used in typical marketing lingo, don't get expressed by customers until after a solution is created that highlights the possibility to meeting the need in the first place.  There was no unmet need for an iPod until after there were iPods.   This simple truth is the reason why focus groups are so ineffective at generating "de novo" innovation.  To understand what they want, you must study the customer in the context of their lives and, at every point where there is a decision being made, ask them why, repeatedly, until you are satisfied that you have reached the root of the issue.

the Method of Five Why's.

Toyota found that you could get to root causes within five rounds of inquiry.  Obviously, the method can be carried to extremes and leave you with sweeping generalizations like "I Want To Be Happy".  The point is to keep the conversation to levels that generate useful granular information.

The stage goal is to extract detailed statements of goal and of emotion.

Each encounter with a customer generates data in two key forms.  The first are detailed Statements of Goal:  for example - [Need to have them talk directly with me], [Know they are really complying with my orders], [Have them feel comfortable with me], etc.  A typical interview of two hours can generate dozens of these statements.  Interviews of 20 subjects, then, will create 500 statements of goal.

The second key data form is detailed emotional status information, specifically Statements of Pain <...>, and Statements of Delight {...}, which are also easily collected in similar numbers during Five-Why interviews. <They hide their noncompliance>, <non-compliant patients waste my ability to help others>, <Lack of patients' progress>, {Deep pleasure when they heal}, {Like them to be comfortable with me}

Next, you must make sense of all these Statements.

The best way to make sense of the 500+ individual statements is with "sense-making" methods.  Cluster Analysis is the most useful here.  A nice discussion about how to do Cluster Analysis is at adaptive path.  Cluster Analysis uses a group of knowledgeable people to pool related items from the heaps of all the related elements and then name them according to the task at hand.  In the case of working with Statements of Goal, the names would be Themes of Goal.



Make sure it is complete and organized.

Make sure there are no holes or overlaps in the meaning.  Fit the themes in to relationships, they will be either parents or siblings to each other.  Each theme needs to be distinct from the others but missing themes will leave you missing out on opportunities later.  Fit the themes together in to structures that seem are relevant to your project.  Since customers' goals are comprehensive and simultaneously relevant, a concentric ring structure tends to work well to present it.  An example from small business managers:


Now, put it all together.

Congratulations!  Formally, you have built the goals section of a Demand Landscape.  It is a "perspectacle" of how your customers see the world.

Step back and look at what you have.  Look at how the customers' goals are indeed comprehensive and simultaneous.  Is there one goal theme that you have previously been focussing on to the exclusion of the others?  Are any of the themes surprising?  Are you surprised by how your Inside-Out perspective is different from the customers'?  Can you see how they see your product?  


And best of all, it's based on data, data you can use to convince your stake-holders that it's valid and valuable.


Try an experiment now - use your new Demand Landscape to examine your current product from the perspective of your customer. Is it all that you thought it would be?  Does it impair some of the goals of your customers?  Can you see improvements to make?


But, you are only part of the way there.  To succeed with innovation you must next discover where there is opportunity for you to deliver new value to your customers.  And to do that, you must look at where their frustrations intersect their demands.  And that is Stage Two.