Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How to Succeed in Business… Just Ask!

 Ask whom, you might wonder? The answer: your customers. Often businesses try to tell customers what they want rather than asking them what they need, and then fulfilling that need. Companies that do not listen to what their customers are saying can suffer grave consequences, as evidenced by the recent bankruptcy of the Eastman Kodak Company. How could a venerable company like Kodak that has been around for over 132 years, come to such an end? The answer: not listening to its customers. Kodak’s film business was its cash cow, so when customers began moving away from film and on to digital photography Kodak was concerned that if they moved with them it would cannibalize its film business. This concern made the company reluctant to embrace the new technology, even though Kodak invented it back in 1975. Other camera companies, like Cannon, listened to their customers, saw the opportunity and quickly began to address the needs related to digital photography. By the time Kodak realized that its future was not going to be selling film, it was too late. Their competitors had left them behind. In contrast to Kodak, the Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. listened to what its customers were saying and made the move to digital publishing. They recently announced that they will no longer offer the 32 volume encyclopedia in a printed format. The company said it had been exploring digital publishing since the 1970s and published the first online encyclopedia in 1994. Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, didn’t come along until January 2001. Customers don’t always know what they want and they may think they want something they don’t need. So don’t ask them what they want; ask them what they need or ask them to identify their biggest challenge. You just might be able to provide them with a solution. What do you think?

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