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My product's great, but...

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

It’s great. I know it is. My customers know it is. The end users give it the best ratings possible. We’ve cracked it...surely...haven’t we?

Having the most awesome product is, unfortunately for those of you with an awesome product, only part of the story. I was reminded of this during a recent visit to the toilets (please bear with me) of Pizza Express in Harrogate, in which I had the pleasure of using the Dyson AirBlade drier to dry my hands. It wasn’t the first time I’d used this awesome machine, but it was the first time for quite a while that I’d used one, and I started to wonder why.

For those of you unfortunate enough never to have used this awesome machine, I’m going to briefly fill you in on what you’re missing. Normally, and let’s keep this between us, I’m one of the people who, on leaving public toilets, tends to use my trousers or shirt to dry my hands rather than a conventional air drier. Despite the obvious downside of then having to walk around with handprints in sometimes strange places on my clothing, I prefer this to the sheer frustration of a combination of the following:

The Dyson AirBlade (I don’t, and have never worked for them!) removes all of these frustrations. Put your hands in, take them out again, and they are dry. Quickly, efficiently, cleanly. I am in no doubt that this is, by miles, the best system for any toilet, anywhere, and yet the market is still saturated and dominated by crummy, poorly designed pieces of kit. How, in a sensible world, can this possibly be? And what can we learn from it?

I’m going to leave the Dyson example now, as I know nothing abut their commercial set-up, or the reasons why they don’t completely dominate this market, but I’ll make a few general points that this situation brings to my attention.

One aspect of brilliance is not enough

Being a master of one trade can be a wonderful thing, compared to being a ‘Jack of all trades’, but even being a master of one takes a range of skills, not a single skill. Being a great plumber who is incapable of turning up for a job on time is not enough. Being a brilliant salesman who is incapable of the admin necessary to ensure delivery is not enough. And, in my case (I hope!), being a wonderful (!) trainer who can’t persuade others that you are is not enough. Even in very large organisations, we need a range of capabilities, not an exclusive focus on one, too narrow, aspect of brilliance.

Customers and consumers are different

The end-user (consumer) of the hand drier is not the person who makes the purchase decision (the customer). Your product or service needs to be right for the person who makes that decision as well as the end user. You might not be able to please all of the people all of the time, but this is one of those times when you simply have to.

Being different can be challenging

Inertia is a frightening thing. It makes cracking new markets and customers hard. It can slow down or even prevent decision making. And it can undermine the very different brilliance of what you do. The question to ask is how can you make the transition to something new as rewarding (or pain free) as possible for the person you are wanting to change.

Some markets are more responsive than others

Many years ago, whilst working for Shell, I was taught a very profound lesson.They firmly believed that their fuel (particularly the premium versions) was better than others on the market. The real challenge was persuading others that this was the case, on a product they rarely saw, never (hopefully) tasted, and generally had very little interaction with. My colleagues contrasted this with food and drink, where (a) it is far easier to demonstrate the differences between products; and (b) people interacted with the products far more directly, so took far more care ver their choice.

Very few people (I imagine) choose their restaurant on the strength of the performance of the hand driers in the toilets...

Take a long, hard look at your product or service. You might think it is brilliant, but that is simply not enough. It’s time to be:

“Brilliant +”©

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