Are you really listening?

Innovation is certainly one of the buzzwords of the day.  Business leaders are wrestling with how to create a culture that inspires innovation and expecting their R&D team to create the new wonder product.  But, it’s not just R&D’s job.  Anyone can be innovative.

Patricia Seybold makes this point over and over in her blog Outside Innovation.  She contends, and I agree, that our clients/customers will innovate for us, if we let them.

How do you start?  I think you start by listening. Really listening.  I think your customers are giving you all the clues you need, if you’re tuned in.  Want an example?  Let’s take a product that’s in the mature phase of its marketing life cycle.  Toilet paper.  Really, once we got past the one versus two-ply, there hasn’t been a lot of innovation in this product line.  Until recently.Images_11

You can now buy toilet paper with paw prints on each square. The paw prints lead to a puppy.  That’s how the kids know how much toilet paper to use.  If you have ever unclogged a toilet because your child used half a roll, you know how brilliant this is.

This was a problem that consumers of toilet paper have complained about for years.  It wasn’t enough to make us stop using the product but it was aggravating.  And then one day, voila, someone at Cottonelle was listening.  And looked at the product in a new light.  Hello jump in marketshare.

What are your customers grumbling about?  I’m not talking serious complaints, but minor irritants or frustrations. It probably seemed so small that you just dismissed it.  Or as in the Cottonelle’s case, it wasn’t really your product’s fault at all.  It was really user error. 

They didn’t dismiss it.  They listened.  And now they’re innovators.  It’s time for you to follow suit.  Pay more attention.  Listen more intently.  Wonder a little.

Ask yourself…what could you put paw prints on?

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