Who you want your customers to be is different from who do you want as your customer. Who you want your customers to be is about evolving your existing customer, and its a question you need to ask to spur innovation and make your existing customers more valuable. It seems to be an obvious question, but many of us never ask it.
In an environment of open source, crowdsourcing and social media, its important to look at innovation as an investment in our customers, as a way to add value to your customers, not just for your customers.
Most innovators ask, “How can we create new value for our customers? How can we do things that allow customers to do things that they’ve never done before?” Now innovators are starting to ask, “How can we transform our customers?” That is the question that Steve Jobs asked when Apple developed the iPhone. It’s the question that Larry Page and Sergei Brin asked when they developed Google. More importantly, they were able to answer it.
The question is not a new one. Henry Ford asked it when he developed a way to mass produce cars. He asked what he wanted his customers to become. His answer was that he wanted them to become drivers. More than that he wanted to create customers that took driving for granted, not as something that was just for the elite few. Ford was ahead of his time, and most of us are just catching up. It’s not enough to create new value in your products and your services, you have to create new value in your customers and your clients.
By definition, any business is trying to change their customer. They want to improve their customer, make them better. Business is about transforming customers, making their lives easier, with the ultimate goal of having them come back so their lives can be even better and easier still. So to create something new for them, to innovate our companies, we should be asking who we want them to be.
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