2 Key Ways to Let the Customer Lead You To New Ideas

Jan 25, 2018 10:30 AM by Aileron

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Several years ago, a customer came to Promotional Spring asking for point of purchase signage.

(Promotional Spring is a company that creates experiences and solutions that help organizations to promote their products and services.)

Even though they had asked for a specific deliverable, after further conversation, leaders at Promotional Spring realized the customer had 4 different pain points. Those challenges they were trying to solve included: 

  • Inability to know information about their leftover signage
  • Inability to seamlessly ship new signs to stores when they needed to do so
  • Difficulty in creating an organized list to ship all signs (and related materials) to their various stores
  • The cost of shipping was hurting the company’s overall and campaign-specific budget

It turns out much of the problem for the customer didn’t have to do with printing at all. They may have thought they needed a specific solution, but after discovering more about the real problem, Promotional Spring was able to come up with an entirely different solution—not just printing or signage alone.

Dennis Riggs, Promotional Spring’s President and CEO, says there are 3 main factors that help his team members prioritize their customers' pain points: 

  1. Working closely with customers over a long period of time
  2. Effective listening skills
  3. Practicing empathy

Here are two tips on how they empower their customers to lead them to great ideas:

1. Discover your customers’ pain points 

As displayed in the previous story, when customers come to Promotional Spring with specific requests—such as a direct mail campaign or a point of purchase campaign—the Promotional Spring team will often reframe the conversation around the larger, more strategic goals.

That means instead of narrowing in on a specific idea or solution immediately, they follow a process that allows them to find more innovative solutions. “We'll try and focus on what we can do, not what we can't do,” adds Dennis.

“We are trying to answer those larger pain points, and customer needs, which may not at first be articulated by our customer," explains Dennis. "We find that more and more, customers want one partner to go handle multiple facets of their marketing campaign, and that's why we do what we do.” 

Using these pain points to identify solutions requires suspending judgement and asking open-ended questions. It helps to stay curious during all conversations.

get intentional about solving customers pain points.jpg“We aim to be intentional about trying to get to these pain points [in our interactions with customers]. Instead of leading with what we think they want, we try and listen more than we lead,” says Dennis.

Over the past 3 years alone, at least 80 percent of Promotional Spring’s growth has come from the ability to uncover a business problem—a problem that isn’t printing, but that Promotional Spring could help solve. “We are a printing company, but the pain isn’t always the printing,” says Dennis.

2. Show your customers prototypes along the way

Dennis’ team also takes advantage of prototyping to accelerate the conversation with customers and to show solutions to customers. “Sometimes we do prototyping in the physical world, and sometimes we do it in the digital world,” explains Dennis. 

This early build-out, design, sketch or sample helps customers envision a solution. It can also be used to help build confidence or validate ideas or concepts.

Getting that feedback can be extremely helpful and it can even streamline the innovation process. It also helps teams experiment, fail fast, and cultivate a learning environment where you can quickly adapt to your customers. 

Delight Customers & Solve Their Most Painful Problems

Are you looking to uncover your customers’ true wants and needs, and how your organization is uniquely fit to serve them? Knowing your customers' needs and pain points is crucial to your success. Attend the upcoming Value Proposition Workshop to craft a compelling and truly unique value proposition for your organization. 

Learn more about the  Value Proposition Workshop

A version of this post originally appeared on Forbes.com.

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