What's the Big Idea?

from CMO Magazine: Conventional wisdom holds that great marketers, like great companies, stay ahead of the curve by following one simple rule: Listen to your customers, and then give them what they ask for.

Our advice is to forget what conventional wisdom says. If you're looking for new ideas, customers are often the last place to look, because most don't actively seek the cutting edge or the next big thing. Customers couldn't have told you they wanted an iPod, for example, but millions bought one. They wouldn't have asked for a $4 Caramel Macchiato before you gave it to them. If customers were the primary source of insight, you'd still be puzzling over the value of this thing called the World Wide Web.

Prompted for fresh ideas, most customers simply tell you what you--and your competitors--already know. They don't want to think about it. They figure that's your job.

And they're right. Instead of giving customers what they ask for, the innovative CMO gives them what they want before they want it.

Read more in CMO Magazine.

What's really needed is to observe problems in the market. It's not about solving problems that people don't have but identifying existing problems that no one is solving. The rule for discontinuous innovation is that technology can solve problems for our non-customers; continuous improvements are usually for existing customers. Check out Building Tomorrow's Products Requires Listening to the Potential Market by Barbara Nelson.

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success. 

Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.


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