Understanding what Users Need

March 13, 2011 | By More

This jade bangle can probably be an heirloom.

中文

Do you know what is the product you should be developing and promoting?

A piece of jade as a polished rock is a product on a showcase. It may be worth something, but a healing bracelet or a cultural ornament is going to be worth much more, especially if there is some mystical charm associated with it. Successful merchants know this and always highlight these values.

The product that the Lego company makes are very versatile coloured blocks of varying sizes, but not sold and promoted as such. With a few additional customised shapes, they can be Star Wars spaceships, or Bionicle robots, Toy Story cars and trains, dolls houses, and so on. Each packaged in colourful individualised containers to be collected and reassembled in the dozens by teenagers the world over. Although the ‘product’ is ‘merely’ plastic blocks but their real ‘product’ has become “educational, learning and construction toys”!

Lego is no longer selling coloured plastic bricks.

So what is the product you will be marketing and promoting?

Understanding what users really want to do with your product is key to market success. It is much more than merely designing and developing your idea of what a product should be. You have to imagine what the user really want to use them for and why they want to buy it – and then you have to consider whether you have provided all the important features.

Let’s look at a simple drill bit. People buy it to make a hole, period. It is to make a hole in stone, wood, concrete, whatever. How complicated can it get? But from the user’s perspective, the hole they want may be in building concrete, in which case a hammer drill may be needed. Or for fine carpentry – then a high performance one is needed. Or for metal work, it needs a stable drill stand and other accessories. The rise of home improvement in developed countries gave rise to a new category – the DIY enthusiast – products that look good, macho and still functional.

 

You buy holes with this product, but packaged in many ways.

What if you are designing an innovative heat dissipation device? Do you know who will use it? How?  Who will buy them?  They may be different from people who use them.  Where from? Why?

The questions are the same for software as well as hardware products. If you have just developed an innovative mobile payment system, how will the users use them? Will they like it? Who will make it possible for them to use the system? (Read more about StreamMedia.)

Prior to Apple’s iPod, there had already been at least 20 companies producing MP3 players. Sony with the Walkman had previously shown that the market for music on the go is huge. But these MP3 player manufacturers, some in US, Europe, Korea and many in Taiwan, each struggled to have any significant success in that market – until Apple came along.

The most successful MP3 player in history because of the Apple App Store.

Apple understood what the user really needed in addition to the hardware is to be able to access the music seamlessly. It is just as important to provide an easy to use interface to download the music, just as there was a ready market for music cassettes with the Walkman.

The Apple App Store made it simple and seamless to load music to the iPod. In doing so, Apple completely killed music cassettes and the Walkman. Sony simply did not see it coming.  The MP3 player companies had partially understood what people needed for music on the go, but did not understand the user also needed a seamless easy way to load the music to the player, or perhaps they did not have the approach to make it happen!  (Read more about Apple’s Strategy.)

Make sure you truly understand the user needs for your product before you can consider that your product is ready for market release.

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Category: Marketing your product, What's Next?

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About the Author ()

EngTong, pioneer and innovator. Graduated from Imperial College London with an MBA from Cranfield School of Management. Lived in Scotland, England, California, Beijing and led teams in Italy, France, Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia to do the impossible. Now based in Singapore and believes the future is to blend the sophistication of western management practices with the strength of Asian Values. Trained as a Chartered Engineer. Member of IET, Associate of City and Guilds and a certified SixSigma Champion.

Comments (3)

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  1. PS says:

    “Understanding what users really want to do with your product is key to market success. It is much more than merely designing and developing your idea of what a product should be. You have to imagine what the user really want to use them for and why they want to buy it – and then you have to consider whether you have provided all the important features.”

    In this regard, women are more successful 🙂

    Cheers,
    PS

  2. TheKris says:

    Hi Eng Tong:

    Great post, very practical and accessible. I always suggest that would-be entrepreneurs try to become – to the extent possible – part of the “community” of those they purpose to sell to. This helps them understand the needs, “language” and trends of these buyers. Ultimately, it also builds crerdibility and responsiveness.

    • Error: Unable to create directory uploads/2017/10. Is its parent directory writable by the server? ET says:

      Absolutely right. One of the reasons HP was so successful in the early years was their concept of “next bench” when they designed their electronic test & measurement instruments – where HP first started. Their products were always in demand because they were developing products that engineers themselves want to use.