Don’t forget to ask the simplest question of all before you develop a new product or service for customers: What’s the unmet need?
If you fail to learn the answer to that question, even the best salesperson will have trouble pushing a product or service into the market.
A story about Boudin Bakery in San Francisco drives the lesson home. This bakery has been using the same sourdough starter since 1849.
In those years, the bakery’s delivery boys used a horse-drawn delivery cart. Even after automobiles became the preferred method of transportation, the bakery’s delivery boys stuck to the old-fashioned cart. Why?
Imagine you’re a delivery boy. The car was faster, but you would have to start and stop the engine between each delivery. With a cart, though, the horse keeps moving ahead slowly, even as you dart from cart to doorstep with your loaves.
Within the time span of the delivery itself, the cart proved more efficient. Before delivery, the horses would need to be harnessed and fed, but there was time to do that while the bread baked. Efficiency and speed during the delivery window were the bakers’ priorities. The car couldn’t compete.
Automobile makers weren’t solely marketing their product to bakeries, but if they had been, they’d have missed the mark.
Lesson: Understand the motivations and unmet needs of your target audience before you unveil an innovation.
— Adapted from “From the Horse’s Mouth: Why new products fail,” Katie Konrath, Get Fresh Minds.