Put on your Sherlock Holmes hat to reveal latent needs

Under the Sherlock hat resides a skill for finding clues to endusers’ latent needs.

In my customer research projects, some endusers will make a puzzling remark near the end of our conversation. They will say, “You know, the innovation behind your client’s product concept may solve a little-known, need we have.”

Following up on this clue, I ask “Help me understand why you think this solution is desirable.” The enduser then reveals their tacit knowledge supporting the need. Knowledge that, if they and the client work together, both can use to build successful new products.

Then like Holmes, with this first clue I find other clues. Putting them all together supports the idea of joint development of a solution. In my final report I recommend this option to the client.

As in the case example, my client and the enduser decided on joint development. Four years after introducing their tweaked product, the client had:

  • Raised the product group margin to 85%.
  • Become #1 in share of the market for the product group.

Case example

The Adventure of the Marketer Badgered by Techies

Alvin must change the technology group’s non-collaboration attitude.

In Alvin’s firm, the ruling culture is:“We know what is best for the customer”.

An example of the techies’ attitude:

  • On a sales call the participating techie’s job was to support Alvin’s marketing strategy. Instead, he talked about an untested, paint thickener idea the techies favored.

Alvin hired me to find out if the techies’ untested concept was useful to customers.

I gathered, and analyzed, 30 interviews with knowledgable endusers in the paint industry.

1. No interest from respondents in the techies’ paint thickener concept.

“Cost to us to qualify a new thickener — assuming it’s completely compatible with our formulations — is at least $150,000. We have ten development projects that would give us a return on investment 10x more than a new thickener.”
     Dr., New Technology … The Sherwin-Williams Co.

2. Strong interest in a little-known need.

“George, if your client could tweak thickeners so that we could lower the pigment grind step in our paint production it would remove an energy intensive and time-consuming step.”
      Chief Chemist … Benjamin Moore.

Quick action on this new knowledge …

Alvin and the techies worked to:

  • Tweak thickeners so 1. Customers’ pigment grind step is eliminated, 2. Tweaks were completely compatible with customers’ formulations.