Forget getting customers to buy from you; ask them to design your product as well!

Times have certainly changed; there’s a new cool breeze blowing through marketing and it’s sweeping away the old guard. People are finding better ways to do things and harnessing the immense power of technology that every business – and yes, that includes YOU! – have at our very fingertips, right now.

You’ve possibly heard about the revolution that’s known as Permission-Based Marketing. As far back as 1999 Seth Godin and his team identified the fact that new ways of thinking about marketing could turn the traditional method of ‘spray and pray’ on it’s head. Seth explained that we could ‘turn strangers in to friends and friends into customers’. Welcome to a new dawn in the story of marketing.

Despite the fact that this idea has been about for over twenty years, I still come across people who refuse to accept there could just be a better way to spend their marketing budget. They continue to flog the proverbial dead horse by sending out marketing that is dull, completely irrelevant and to people who really have no interest in how many sheets of paper a photocopier can spit out in a minute.

Only a year or so ago I met someone who suggested the idea of using facebook for marketing was going to damage their prestige brand and, after all, facebook was just for kids! Sadly this mediaeval perspective still exists in some dark corners today. Thankfully other companies, the smart ones, are making hay while others sleep.

I’ve read today that Papa John’s, the American pizza company, is using facebook to recruit fans and then asking them to come up with a winning pizza recipe! Talk about engage with your target market! This stroke of genius is simple, fast and has already caught the attention of our pizza-loving friends. Over 6,500 people have entered the Papa’s Speciality Pizza Challenge and the facebook application has been loaded over 80,000. Oh, and I think they’ve sold a few more pizzas too!

Now, your business may not be operating on the same scale as Papa John’s but there’s a clear and simple lesson to be learned here; engage your audience and find out what they really want and make them feel part of your team. The fatal flaw that can be found in so many businesses is that they’re designing products and services they like the idea of and want to sell; instead they should be asking the customers what they actually want and create it for them.

So I’ll leave you with a few challenging questions:

  • How do you engage with your target customers to find out what they really want
  • How do you know that what you’re selling today meets the needs and desires of others?
  • What could you do, within the next fourteen days, to turn your business into a customer magnet?

And… What’s your combination for that killer pizza on a Saturday night?!

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