What if Customers can be Created?

Traditional wisdom states to find a need or pain and then offer a solution.  Those who desire the solution enough to trade money for the solution are customers.

This traditional wisdom is great most of the time, well actually only some of the time.  As this wisdom only applies for that which we know we need or or recognize our pain.  Like the fact that I would give anything for Mi Ranchito  enchiladas right now or the back pain I feel from being 6’8″ and leaning over the computer!

But doesn’t take into account the other reasons and solutions for my back aches.   That is an example of what is encompassed in the common entrepreneurial wisdom “you don’t know what you don’t know,” which pretty much encompasses everything around our dreams, aspirations, goals, and the obvious we don’t want to admit is true.  This wisdom applies for the needs and pains the customers have not yet realized or don’t perceive to be relevant.  (To Clarify that is a HUGE market!)  Just think of when the Apple iPod first came out, the day before it was revealed was there a need for it?   Sure a smaller device would be nice but to the masses it wasn’t considered technologically possible at the time.    So apple had to create those customers!

Another example: when StartKC first set out to purposely build entrepreneur ecosystems a decade ago; entrepreneurship was considered a natural phenomenon and not something that could be fostered.   Most leaders we pitched thought we were either over-caffeinated or smoking too much of something!  In either case there was not a need or pain that currently existed…yet.  So we began to try to create customers.   While we made mistakes…lots and lots and lots and (well you get the picture)…we did figure it out.  In fact it worked so well then that leaders and entrepreneurs actually pay us to this day to foster entrepreneurship AND create customers.

Here are the 3 basic steps in the Customer Creation process (using the iPod as a reinforcing analogy):

1) Assess “New” Target Customers. – That is the desired customers.  Who are they?  What are their current Needs and/or Pains?  Why would this “NEW” solution be valuable to them?  What “New” pain and/or need would it solve?  The target customers for the iPod were happily buying Walkman’s and other disc players.  These customers were happy with their current devices, even though they were bulky, because the players read people’s large CD collections.

2) What Need and/or Pain must the Target Customer realize to Create Demand? –  Think of the iPod commercial that shows the silhouette of dancers dancing with white iPods.   These dancers moves were unimpeded by the bulky disc players of the time…which everyone had experienced in same fashion.  This visual experience made people realize the need and pain of bulky disc players andcreated the demand!   Essentially every customer (and every person’s) thoughts and actions are based largely on previous experiences.  So a potent new experience has the power to trigger a customer to think and buy in new ways.  The trick is to identify the Need and/or Pain the customer needs to experientially realize.

3) Build the Experience. – Once the need and/or pain is identified, it is time to build the experience.  This part will take some creativity and requires looking at the problem forwards and then in reverse.  For instance I suspect the advertising agency for the iPod knew current music players at the time were bulky and restricted free movement, which was a pain the new device would solve.  So in this example reverse the statement into an experience: An image of people freely moving while listening to music on a device would create a visual experience.  That experience as we know it caused Millions to buy an iPod.

This customer creation process worked extremely well for StartKC in helping us create new customers and is being used by other innovators for similar purposes.  This method works so well EvisThrive, the most recent evolution of StartKC, often enters new markets without any preexisting customer activity.  However by employing these steps we always create the customers we need in short order to reach our goals.

Let me know your thoughts on Customer Creation! if you have ever used a similar process?  Has it worked for you?