I have to focus hard not to roll my eyes when I hear for the umpteenth time about how customers buy holes not drills…

Even with this knowledge drilled into me for years as a development engineer and later as a product manager (thankfully no holes), it is still so easy to fall into the rut of defining products based on how the customer need is currently satisfied instead of focusing on the customer need. This narrow focus can limit you to incremental product improvements and blind you to substitute products.

Take a look at the laundry care market.  It’s quick to think of laundry in terms of the traditional processes of washing and drying.  If you are a laundry detergent manufacturer, this thought process could limit you to liquid formulas and products that work in the conventional washing machine.  But if you dig deeper and think about why people wash clothes, you see that consumer needs in addition to cleaning (which scarily means different things to different people) include: removing stains, removing odors, removing wrinkles. Focusing on these customer needs expands your product set outside of traditional laundry detergents.

Take a look at P&G…

P&G is currently test marketing an offering for college students and young professionals that want to extend the time between launderings but still meet the core needs of removing stains, removing odors, removing wrinkles, and “freshening” clothes (the youthful definition of clean). See how P&G is getting customers to Swash it out

If you focus on your customers’ core needs instead of the current process or offering, how does it change your product/service portfolio?

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