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October 17, 2005

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Yvonne DiVita

Here's the thing -- listening between the lines is what works. Such as, customers who can't verbalize innovation, can answer questions or engage in dialogue (often with one another) and the smart marketer takes time to 'listen between the lines' to figure out what the customer is really saying.

Jonathan obviously has this down pat. Kudos to him. He allowed customer interaction even though it was a scary thing to do. Customers don't have to KNOW marketing or sales or how to build a better mouse trap. They only have to know what they like. WE have to figure out how to deliver it -- and what better way to find out than by bringing them together to 'talk.'

Talk, talk, talk...it's only cheap if you aren't listening.

Jonathan Dampier

I commented on customer involvement on my blog recently:
A big risk if you do it. A bigger one if you don't.
We recently invited 10 key, multi-million dollar accounts to a no-holds barred customer advisory/user group meeting. What's the big deal? Some LOVED us and consistently sang our praises while others would likely be calling our competitors come contract renewal time. Yet we encouraged open and honest feedback on what we were doing right as well as how we were screwing up. We also exposed our R&D concepts and asked their opinions.

At times it was downright ugly. We learned some of our ideas looked great on our white boards but simply didn't cut it with those we were hoping to sell it to in the first place. And the unhappy ones were, of course, the vocal ones. It couldn't have gone better.

Those who LOVED us coming into the session continued to do so, remarking on our openness, candor, and transparency. They felt now,even more than ever, that we were a business partner they could see themselves with for the long haul. We even converted some of the others from the dark side. As it turns out, the happy customers came to our rescue, often in side-bar conversations between just the clients themselves.

Bringing together clients with various feelings about our company was a risk. The unhappy could have influenced the others. Our supporters could have wavered under the peer pressure. And we could have looked like fools opening ourselves to criticism in front of them all. Yet, we saved large amounts of money and other resources killing projects deemed to be turkeys. And we'll generate more future revenue by bolstering the burgeoning product lines we now know will sell.

So, yeah, it was a risk. But future profits will show it was a risk we had to take.

fromthemarketingtrenches.typepad.com


RemaTherne

Gatorade's "Be Like Mike" campaign from 1991 is a good example of marketing that had a surprise connection with customers.


Darren Rovell's new book, "FIRST IN THIRST: How Gatorade Turned the Science of Sweat into a Cultural Phenomenon," profiles the campaign and Gatorade's branding victory over Coca-Cola because of it.


You can read an excerpt of the book, and hear an audiocast, on the Brand Autopsy blog:

http://brandautopsy.typepad.com/brandautopsy/2005/09/first_in_thirst.html


--Rema

DUST!N

Jennifer, great to see activity on your blog again.

I think one of the most objective ways a company can gain insight in needs and opportunities is to actually observe their product in use. There are logistic issues to work out, but why not actually go to the customer's home/office and observe?

You'll see how they use your product, what they use it with, and maybe how they wish they could use it (opportunity).

Uncle Julios (I think in Fort Worth or Arlington, TX) restaurant has the best flour tortillas I've ever eaten. My wife and I doggie-bagged several and they made incredible enchiladas at home.

Jim Seybert (on FoolsBox)

Fresh Tortillas -
You haven't eaten tortillas until you have them fresh off the flat grill at a taco stand in Mexico. OH MAN.
Freshness really makes a difference. To me, tortillas are a pretty basic staple, and I'd be rather off-put by sheets of plastic between them. Heck - at about 99-cents per dozen, I don't mind tossing out a couple of stale ones at the end of the package.
Oh - and you might try storing them in something other than the fridge - it tends to dry them out.
Hmmm - sounds like I should be on the Food Network.

Olivier Blanchard

Great post. I was almost done writing a blurb on innovation when I ran into it. I couldn't resist quoting you. :)

As soon as I can get past some technical snags, I'll be sure to trackback so you can get your rightful props.

:)

Rick Turoczy

Jennifer,

Always great to see responses to comments; thanks for responding to mine. To continue the conversation...

I'm assuming the tortilla selection in your neck of the woods may be a little more diverse than the selection here in the Pacific Northwest, so I'll coalesce to your market research on the slipsheets. I don't get those up here with the ones I buy, but maybe the rain keeps tortillas from sticking.

Most interesting thing about your comment to my comment? Whole Foods as environmental. Good positioning there, in so much as your associating that chain with environmental tactics. I'm not sure how environmental chains of that size can be, but they've done a great job of proffering themselves as more eco-friendly than the other big markets.

Who knew that sticky tortillas could ignite such an interesting conversation? Oh wait. You did.

jennifer rice

I got an email asking me to define "breakfast burritos." If you haven't had one, you're missing out! Scrambled eggs, cilantro & mex sausage in a tortilla, with salsa on top. Yum. (Altho I've mostly stopped eating red meat, so I use veggie sausage.)

jennifer rice

Good conversation here! David, I agree; Clayton Christenson writes the best innovation books. I'm currently reading "what's next"... great book.

Rick: agreed, I'm often not the target. Altho re: environmental, I usually get the plastic sheets in the tortillas I buy at Whole Foods. I noticed that suddenly a lot of tortilla makers are starting to insert plastic sheets, which eliminates the tears and holes in the tortillas. Without the sheets, I end up throwing half of them away.

Jim, maybe it's just a fresh thing, I don't know. But re: your comment about whether the customer knows what he/she wants... absolutely. They just don't anticipate the form in which the solution will take. I'll write a follow-up post on this using the ideas from "what's next."

Jim Seybert (on FoolsBox)

Thought provoking -

First thought - you must have bought tortillas that were not fresh. I buy Mission tortillas and they only stick if I've left them in the fridge too long. I'd say it's the store's fault, not Mission.

Innovation - not sure the customer even knows what he/she wants. Truely innovative ideas transport consumers to places they've never been with products they'd never even considered. Getting consumers to say - "WOW, I wish I'd thought of that" is the real measure of innovation.

Jim Seybert (on FoolsBox)

Thought provoking -

First thought - you must have bought tortillas that were not fresh. I buy Mission tortillas and they only stick if I've left them in the fridge too long. I'd say it's the store's fault, not Mission.

Innovation - not sure the customer even knows what he/she wants. Truely innovative ideas transport consumers to places they've never been with products they'd never even considered. Getting consumers to say - "WOW, I wish I'd thought of that" is the real measure of innovation.

Rick Turoczy

As always, you got me thinking. Now, admittedly, I'm likely lacking in self-confidence (ahem), but the thought that often crosses my mind in an instance like this: maybe I'm not the target market.

Perhaps, Mission thinks they stand to gain more ground from a different market (one of which you're not a part)? Maybe they're concerned about the environmental market who doesn't like those little slipsheets? Or maybe the the conjoined tortilla market is larger than the separatist tortilla market?

In any case, just because we don't like something, we can't always assume that we're the target. I don't especially like speed metal, but I'm not going to tell any of those musicians they're playing the wrong music. Mostly, because I'm afraid they'd hurt me, but you get the point...

David Foster

One of the best books on this subject is "The Innovator's Solution" by Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor. They point out that the same product may fill different needs for different people, or even the same people at different times..viz, a milkshake for breakfast (awful thought!) is doing a different "job" for the customer than a milkshake purchased several hours later for the kids.

jbr

this is almost too funny or too sad....

from the Mission foods website...http://www.missionfoods.com

touting their 2004 award!!!


"In an industry battling negative trends, Mission Foods has cracked the code, gained valuable insight into consumer desires and applied that insight to the marketplace with much success."

now, you can send them a letter ( with real stamps!) or you can use their "interactive email tree" to understand the rationale fo the missing sheets. no statement of when they will reply, but you can send email.

come on Jennifer, take the Mission challenge and take us on a journey to find the valuable insights that Mission has gleaned....inquiring minds want to know!=]

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