When Kleenex was introduced in 1924, it was marketed as a disposable face towel for removing makeup. Customer feedback and research conducted two years later showed Kleenex was being used as a disposable handkerchief by most customers. Knowing this, the company started marketing the product as a handkerchief, doubling the sales.
This is just one example of how customers may think about products and services differently from the company. Brands acknowledging and responding to this behavior can spur innovation and growth for their organizations.
Sure, every brand starts out with something to offer, which is positioned to serve a specific purpose or need. But it’s the customers who ultimately decide how they want and need to use a product or service, and that can be a wild variation from the original intent.
Here are a few reasons why considering these differences can be worth it for your company.
1. You can better serve your customers’ needs – and delight them: Maybe your customers aren’t using your product the way you intended, but they have found a new and better way to use it. Tune in to these signals because it marks a potential departure from your original positioning and marketing; a departure that can expand your audience and revenue – while making customers happy. If you don’t know how people are using your product, then it might be a good time to solicit feedback from them by way of a website survey or asking questions via email or social media.
2. You can expand your reach to new audiences: Facebook began as a social network for university students; in fact, an email address from an institution was required to join at the time. The brand soon realized, however, that connecting with friends and family was something that appealed to more than just the student population. Today, it serves billions of users across all age groups. The brand expanded to a larger, more diverse audience because it paid attention to how people were using the service and acted accordingly.
3. You can grow your brand’s offerings: Once you start thinking about your products and services differently, you may find you can grow the type or number of items your brand offers to customers. For example, a SaaS company might start out with a subscription service for a small number of licenses or accounts, and later recognize customers are responding with a need to scale up or scale out these services. At that point, the company could decide to grow their subscription service and, consequently, their sales – all while keeping customers delighted and even expanding to new audiences. You can see where this is going.
4. You can decide what to do next: Do you know that the hazard signal in vehicles was first created to communicate an emergency? Yet, in many countries across the world, it is used to thank other drivers for their courtesy. Nowadays, you can find the switch on the dashboard of most vehicles, where it’s easily accessible to drivers for this “other” purpose. Just like the hazard signal, your product or service can adapt to customer needs to make their lives better.
5. You can increase your sales, subscriptions, sign-ups, or other types of conversions: Ultimately, when you can think about your products or services differently and listen to customer feedback, what you want to experience is an improvement in your performance. Whether that’s in the form of sales, product demos, or newsletter subscriptions, the results reflect how well you can respond to what customers are saying and showing you about your offerings. You will possibly expand to new audiences, grow your offerings, or make your next move – all with the aim of improving your business.
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