Monday, December 14, 2009

This product can't miss!

I was once involved with what I thought was a "can't miss" product, a 100% rubber booty for horses, kind of a “spare tire” for use on the trail if a horse threw a shoe.

My partners and I thought it was a great concept and guaranteed to be the next hula hoop. Why did we feel that way? Well, the market had no such product. "Soft Shoe", as we named it, was incredibly unique. We owned the rights to distribute the shoe in the twenty-five states east of the Mississippi. The shoe wasn’t expensive to manufacture or difficult to warehouse and we already had contacts with major distributors of equestrienne equipment and large tack shops. We greedily multiplied the number of horses east of the Mississippi by four hooves and salivated! We saw ourselves as wealthy business people.

In our lust, we saw no problems with our product. We were in love with it. Rubber booties seemed a more humane way to shod a horse than with nails. We felt we had great selling points. To wit: Very few products are made of 100% pure rubber. Even your car tires are synthetic. A farrier/blacksmith invented our product. Veterinarians used our rubber horseshoe in their treatment of horses; the vets loved it. If they had to sedate a horse, our booty was ideal for the moment the horse regained consciousness and struggled to its feet. It was perfect for horses on concrete, on parade, or on show in a mall.

We were psyched. We saw dollars signs everywhere. We tested the product with the Amish and acquired their endorsement. We printed glossy brochure with a sexy, young woman on a horse. We were counting our profits before we sold any product, making plans to buy summer homes in Belize and new Hummers. In other words, we were greatly subjective.

Unfortunately, after months of trying to hustle the shoes, we found that no one wanted to buy them. We were dumbfounded. What had we done wrong? Well, for one thing we didn’t invest in any research to find out the values, attitudes, behaviors and beliefs of our potential customers. We learned the hard way that people who own horses weren’t ready to give up on thousands of years of traditional shoeing. We would have known that if we had not been so much in love with our own creation, so subjective. We wasted a lot of time and money.

What does this mean to you? More than anything it means you must understand the customer and give him/her something he/she wants/needs. It means that you must be objective, not subjective. You must learn as much as you can about the values and motivations of customers. If you don't, you, too, will end up with a "can't miss" product or service, one that you love but no one uses!

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