I read a few dozen blogs every week, and Seth Goden recently had an interesting post on the fact that most people don’t care about your product, won’t take any action, are too cheap to spend money and are likely to ignore your product, your blog post, your ideas. However, some people will buy, act, participate and pay attention, and those people are your best customers.
But what compels some of those people to be your best customers? I’ve been working for or in small businesses for 20 years, and I still know of only three ways that people become good customers.
1. You provide a new solution to a new problem.
You may not realize it, but every day there are new problems arising. For example, remember the first smart phone you purchased? Some of the first models (think early Blackberries) had plastic screens, but later versions like PalmPilots and then iPhones came with glass screens that were touch-sensitive.
Of course, soon after the first glass screens were introduced came the first broken glass screens. Initially, if you broke your screen you probably had to buy an expensive new device. But as smart phones became more ubiquitous (and more expensive), people started to seek out ways to get their broken screens fixed. Hence the demand for smart phone screen repair services … a new solution for a new problem.
Granted, new problems aren’t as common or easy to identify as old problems, but if you can pinpoint potential new problems in your industry (often stemming from new technologies, processes or systems), you may have a nascent idea for a new solution.
2. You provide a new solution to an old problem.
Commonly called “innovation”, new solutions to old problems is how most businesses generate their revenues. The progression of solutions typically evolves in a stairstep fashion (e.g., from flyswatter to flypaper to insect spray to electronic bug zapper) and can include many variations, such as:
- A better/more intuitive approach or innovative take
- A more effective process
- More attentive service
- A better/faster/more efficient performance
- Less expensive
- Better combination of features or more options
- Cooler or genre-challenging design
- Variation for a particular niche audience
Because many industries have already experienced decades of innovation, the new solutions that companies are developing now for old problems often have to do with fine tuning a product/service or adapting it to a new niche or industry.
3. You create a new pastime or diversion (aka “artistic innovation”).
The previous two ways in which you can appeal to customers involve solving problems or responding to challenges. This one involves creating something that had no underlying problem, issue or challenge (other than “I’m bored and want something to entertain me”).
Often these can involve works of art or creativity, like developing a new game, writing a book, scripting a movie, developing a TV show or creating a piece of art. There was no problem to be solved, but you were the midwife of a creative product that nobody knew they wanted until they saw it.
You could argue that this is a variation on #2 above, because there are pre-existing mediums (like movies, TVs, books, video games, etc.) and new versions or offerings simply slot into pre-existing forms of expression. But it simply feels different than coming up with a new way to eradicate flys or inventing a new flavor of ice cream, mainly because these new pastimes or diversions usually open us to new experiences, new ways of encountering the world or new methods of expression.
With all that said, now take a 30,000-foot view of your business and think about which of these apply to you now and/or what you could do to offer something even more interesting, valuable and sought-after by your customers.