Henry Ford & Steve Jobs were right about customers

Many start-ups face the same problem that both Henry Ford and Steve Jobs faced - the customer didn't know that their technology existed or why they would need it.

If you are building a better mouse Trap, that is easy, everyone knows what a mouse trap is and what it is designed to do. Yours may have some additional options to make it prettier or faster or more durable, but what if you were trying to explain the wheel to a cave man? 

We like many others, provide a product that solves several pain points – the problem is that potential users don’t know they are in pain in the first place!

It is very much akin to Henry Ford asking his customers what they would like and them replying ‘a faster horse’ – giving little thought to the pain of; feeding, cleaning and general well being of a live animal, let alone the other points of carrying luggage or extra people and being able to travel long distances – all points that were taken for granted because no one knew there was a better alternative.

In the case of Steve Jobs, Everything — the business, the people — were subservient to the mission: building great products. Rather than listening to, or asking their customers what they wanted; Apple would solve problems customers didn’t know they had with products they didn’t even realise they wanted.

Steve Jobs quoted; “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” This with the Henry Ford quote both justify that if your product is so revolutionary that the consumer has no concept of what it is or how it will benefit them then asking them what they want is going to have a negative result. So in this context you can't listen to customers.

I know Ford and Jobs were right from first hand experience.

Our own product is intangible to most – “of course you can't have more than one phone number on your smartphone, and if you could the problems it solves so profound that it is unthinkable” - yet when demonstrated there is an 87% conversion rate! 

In our case, we have a patented solution that puts multiple phone numbers on a single mobile phone, but because potential users are not in physical pain with the issues they currently have, they don’t know they need it, much like horses of old being used for all types of transportation, people didn't see the need for anything else!

If you think of 'Big Business' and their telecoms, they would not dream of using a mobile phone number as their main head office switchboard number, yet nearly every start up or sole trader we come across slaps a personal mobile number on their business cards and web site, unaware of how small this makes them appear and the true pain this actually causes them.

However, if I was to advise them to stop using their mobile number as their primary business contact number, they would likely be offended, regarding how they communicate as being just fine and not in need of change.

The reality is they are in pain, but don’t know it.

They are losing business. They are losing business every time someone compares their publicity to a competitor with a local landline number because they simply look small and their competitor looks more able to handle the business. They lose business every time they ask someone to leave a voicemail via their mobile service or go on holiday, have days off or are simply unable to pick up the phone.

Carrying two phones around with you is a pain. It’s a pain keeping both charged, remembering how to use each and where you last left them. Some will tell you they like having two phones because it keeps things nicely separated, but if you could separate everything on one phone then that nicety quickly goes away.

Being able to sit at your desk in your executive chair, pick up a desk phone handset and call anyone, is great. The modern desk phone revolutionised office calling, displacing the switchboard operator and making calling to anywhere in the world a breeze. It’s almost perfect.

 I don’t know where you are right this moment while you are reading this, but if you were to receive a call right now, or needed to make a work related call right now, which phone would you prefer to use, your Desk Phone or your Mobile? Many will say desk phone for sentimental or robotic reasons, but the majority of you will say mobile phone!

Many of you won’t be any where near your desk, and so your mobile is the only device at hand, some will be heading out the door and so mobile is simply a more practicable choice and for others it’s the ability to interact with an up to date contacts list or simply have freedom of movement while on a call, that puts the mobile phone first.

The fact is that the mobile phone provides a far more convenient and efficient means of communication than any desk phone ever can, yet many companies don’t realise how significant this is and still insist on strapping their employees to a desk. Additionally, they don’t realise the significant cost savings involved in discarding the desk phone in favour of mobile phones, money which could be put towards other parts of the business.

Pretty much every survey conducted points to employees being more efficient and more productive when utilising a mobile phone for communications and with the advent of new Bring/Choose Your Own Device (BYOD/CYOD) schemes, those businesses that recognise the pain point, are taking advantage and switching from desk phone to mobile centric communications.

We often hear the phrase ‘be local to your customer’, and this has never been easier for companies with the ability to utilise city based numbers within their communications, yet many fail to realise that they are losing a huge amount of business by not appearing local.

Many people will not pick up their phone if they don’t recognise a number, but figures improve significantly if they recognise the phone number as being local. For companies, adding inexpensive additional phone numbers to their communications is simple and with significant increases in ‘call pick-up’ it is easy to see how this pain point can be overcome.

The percentage of unanswered calls rises significantly for international phone calls, yet simply adding an international phone number and being ‘internationally local’, creates huge benefits.

Customers of today want the ability to choose how they contact your business. They may choose, voice, but are just as likely to want to use, web chat, IM, SMS, email and even social. If you are not giving your potential customers these means of contacting you and your employees the tools to handle any these inbound communications you are losing business, and as time goes on, the percentage you lose will get greater. The mobile phone is the optimum tool for quickly and succinctly handling any form of communication even interacting with company contacts and CRM. It is always to hand no matter where an employee is and always ready for action, it just needs the company to understand the pain they are in and how they currently constrict employees abilities to communicate efficiently.

These are just a few examples of where corporations, small businesses and sole traders are in pain, but don’t realise it.

The reality is that as soon as a business realises they are in pain and takes action they will benefit – making themselves more efficient, saving money and creating a better environment for creating and handling client engagement.

If you are the creator of something radical or something previously inconceivable, keep going.

Focus on getting it to market and then focus on driving sales from your ‘low hanging fruit’.

 Don’t expect sales to come to you, just because you have the ‘latest must have’ in your own mind, and unless you have deep pockets don’t go for world domination. People simply don’t know they need your product let alone know that it exists.

Take small steps with your development and even smaller steps with you marketing and focus on getting sales. If your product is that good, there will be a tipping point, a point where you start to get noticed by those that matter and where you start to be taken seriously.

If you believe in your product, then follow that belief to the very end, be prepared for set backs and naysayers and the need to change tack over and over, but most of all be prepared for a long journey – things take a lot longer than you think to become reality.

Ultimately if your belief is strong enough you will overcome every obstacle and you and your product will prevail.


RIPTec developed the patented RIPHub technology which allows mobile users to make and receive HD mobile cellular calls, messages and SMS, from any quantity of phone numbers on one single mobile device.

RIPHub is available to corporate, small business, sole traders and consumers in either pre-pay or contract form – more information is available from www.riptec.net or www.tizyo.com

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