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Identify Irresistible Forces by Taking the Measure of Your Environment

Mar 23, 2008
When you visit your primary physician, someone will take a number of your measurements including your height, weight, temperature, blood pressure, and results of blood and other tests. From this information, your physician draws a base line for comparing your current situation with your past, how you compare to others similar to you, and what would be desirable for you in the future.

Similarly, a business needs to sample its history, current situation, and desired future along a number of dimensions. These perspectives include understanding what is happening with customers, employees, suppliers, those who help distribute the products or services, partners, investors, regulators and the communities in which you operate. In the same way that a fever can alert a physician that an infection could be present, shifts in trends affecting these audiences can similarly warn your business to the presence of important irresistible forces.

Take Me to Your Users

The best uses for many products are often discovered only after the products have been tried out in different ways by customers. Arm and Hammer baking soda is often used now to deodorize refrigerators, a benefit that consumers originally discovered for themselves. Church & Dwight capitalized on this application with advertising, and greatly improved sales of its product.

Many intended uses will also turn out to be unimportant. For example, relatively few Sports Utility Vehicle owners regularly drive their SUVs on unpaved surfaces. Optimizing that feature would probably add costs while not improving sales very much. The successful and unsuccessful experiences of those who use your products or services constitute irresistible forces that you ignore at your peril.

In many businesses that sell through a distribution channel, no one has direct contact with those who actually use the products. Observing what customers do with a product can be a real eye-opener.

Jell-O's marketing and test kitchen personnel spent some time in kitchens watching parents and their children making Jell-O. Many parents mixed up highly concentrated Jell-O and then used cookie cutters to create shapes their children could play with as well as eat. This observation led to the famous Jell-O Jiggler program that improved Jell-O sales.

The first semi-moist dog food, Gaines Burgers, was produced to look like a hamburger patty, in nice round forms. The competition quickly noted that when users got ready to feed their dogs, they had the messy task of breaking up the "hockey-puck" patties into bite-sized pieces, especially for smaller dogs.

The competition then came out with a semi-moist dog food that resembled uncooked ground beef and was packed loosely so that the dog owner only had to open the pack and pour out the contents. No more messy handling! Users switched in droves to the more convenient form of the product, which, incidentally, was also less expensive to produce than hockey pucks were.

Let's move on to the car lot. Buying a car has always been like a wrestling match. The buyer was pitted against the ever more savvy car salesperson who wanted to move "iron" at the highest possible price. The buyer often failed to negotiate on price, or did so poorly.

But an irresistible force has built up. Many people don't want to feel as if they had lost their birthright or become helpless victims in a macho bargaining process whenever they shop for a car.

They simply want to pick one out and be sure that they get a fair price. Voila! Saturn came along and offered that opportunity to all, and soon Saturn dealers were outselling Chevrolet dealers in similar locations by more than five to one (despite having many fewer types of cars to sell). Other GM divisions began thinking about switching to the Saturn approach.

More recently, car buying services have arrived on the Internet. You indicate what kind of car you want to buy, and dealers who have or can get that car for you in your area bid for your business.

With no negotiating involved, you simply pick the lowest bid. Use of these automated services has exploded. Now that's a breakthrough solution for car buyers and the Internet intermediary!

The car buying services are responding to the same irresistible force that is helping the Saturn dealers, the purchaser's desire for no-stress car buying at a fair price. This irresistible force in the car business has probably been around for quite awhile, but no one noticed the opportunity it held until recently. Talking to customers just after they bought their cars and thinking about what they said would have turned up this opportunity long before now.

Go to the consumers and distributors directly and pay attention to what they have to tell you as a start to recognizing the irresistible forces in your industry.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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