Moving the Needle, Part I

January 06, 2009

Posted in Marketing.

Henry Ford is rumored to have said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

So don’t listen to customers.

Henry Ford has also long been rumored to have said that customers can have any color car they want, as long as it’s black. (Or something along these lines.)

So don’t offer choices.

But you should listen to your customers, right? Create products based on what they want, and not what you think they want.

So you should pay attention to your customers.

Yet companies like Apple routinely design and develop products in a vacuum, hitting home runs and ignoring the pleas of customers who insist they need a 3.5" floppy drive or a QWERTY keyboard. How do you explain their success?

So you should…uhh…wear a turtleneck.

When I was in school, I spent a lot of time reading and writing. I found that my writing was heavily influenced by the authors I read. It’s a good thing I never cared for Dickens, or my blog posts might be much longer.

As I read more and wrote more, I learned to absorb without being too influenced. I grew my own identity and stabilized my style.

Reading business books and blogs can sway you too much. It happened when I read Good to Great. It happened again after The Tipping Point. Now, I realize it happens with pretty much every book, and I’ve learned to push back a bit. To learn and absorb without donning a white cloak, shaving my head, and drinking the Kool-Aid.

Platitudes and the metaphor du jour can be quite dangerous. Read, learn, and move on. Do something: move the needle.