Do you begin by articulating the features of your product or solution? Do you present architecture diagrams showing how your product can integrate into the customer’s network? Do you talk about the great things that your company or product can do and include a lot of technical spiel with a sprinkling of ‘ilities’ … reliability, flexibility, usability? Can you talk at length about how performant your product is, how well you support the customer when they find a bug and what a fantastic user interface you have?
At what point in the conversation would you start to talk about the customer?
Many companies struggle to talk about the market that they are targeting and the key problems or needs that they are solving for that market segment. Often they have little understanding of the buyer personas in the target market – what jobs they do, what motivates them, the difficulties they have in doing their job.
So why are technology companies generally so poor at representing the customer in their value proposition?
In my opinion, it is because they feel more comfortable jumping straight to the “how” without trying to articulate the “what” and the “why”. Technology people just want to make things – they love to create new things and to apply cool technology in interesting new ways.
Technology companies are often not so good at understanding or articulating the problem they are trying to solve for their target customers.
Even when companies do take a stab at describing the customer, they struggle to provide evidence that they have ever validated their hypothesis with existing or prospective customers. They rarely talk to customers about their needs or wants. They often operate in broadcast mode – selling the latest feature or attempting to upgrade the customer. If they listen to their customers at all it is often in a support role where the customer logs bugs or issues with the existing product.
If you base your product strategy around incrementally adding new features to your product, without a clear understanding of how these features benefit your target customer segment, then you run the risk of having a complex product searching for a problem to solve!