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All they wanted was a faster horse! 23 January, 2015

Posted by varoom in Business Plans, Strategy.
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In my many meetings with early stage entrepreneurs and later stage companies I hear many say that they plan to ask their customers what they want and just go ahead and develop a product that satisfies that request. It is dangerous to purely depend on your customers having the best vision of the future. Henry Ford was quoted as saying…”If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse!”
You need to have a clear vision of the future needs of the market even ahead of what the market demands today. Many revolutionary products and businesses launch products that are truly original and not what the market would have envisaged for themselves.
Steve Jobs once revealed “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” This recognises another side of the problem, time to market, as the marketplace and customers needs are changing all the time you risk always being behind the market if you simply build what you are told the customer needs.
The best approach is to figure out where the market is going or what a potential, unforeseen, problem will face customers in the future. Then conceive of a product strategy that will enable you to launch a product that satisfies a future need just at the right time, hopefully catching your competition out. This has been done many times before and many businesses have succeeded with this approach.
It is a risky strategy, building something that no one is asking for, but if you believe in the future need and can build a business case to go after it. Then go for it.