Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Touching a Nerve

From this month’s issue of Context Magazine:

Kentucky riflemen in Daniel Boone’s day said they knew they hit their target on hunting trips when they heard a squawk from the bushes where the game was hiding. Executives trying to find the right target market should look for that same kind of sudden outburst from customers.

Such a response comes only when a company touches an exposed nerve— some frustration so deep, some need so visceral that, when presented with a solution, the customer reacts out loud. Finding that sensitive spot isn’t easy, but the effort is worth it. Hitting an exposed nerve will generate a surge in demand far beyond what most products experience.

Spent a day out today with one of our sales reps. Met with three prospects, none of whom had ever seen our product. Two VC firms, one private equity firm. Two out of three hit the nerve. One guy actually said: “This is phenomenal. In five years here, I’ve never seen a product so squarely focused on what we need. I’m impressed.” Going in, we were led to believe he was the skeptical one.

(I’m relying heavily on the good karma coming from these meetings as I sit helplessly in the Admirals Club at Laguardia hoping that the air traffic gods see fit to let me see my wife tonight…)

Towards the end of the article:

Interestingly, but not uncommon, the nerve we had hit had the lowest economic payback for customers. If we had assumed customers were completely rational and had focused on delivering them the biggest benefit, we would have missed the exposed nerve.

I’ve seen a couple examples of this recently. The higher up in the organization I talk to, the more likely it is that the exec wants to solve just one problem. Solve that problem well - they can qualify it, rationalize the effort, and commit. That other problems get solved is often incidental. Odd how the strategic thinkers seem more pragmatic on this particular subject – it’s the tactical ones who often get paralyzed by the enormity of a project and try to find the thing that will solve all their problems.

Which leads to a separate, but related quandary: positioning a strategic sale to a tactical organization who wants everything. That’s for another day.

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