Anthropology Customer Relationships Product Marketing

When did customers become irrelevant?

Written by Paula Gray

When Did Customers Become Irrelevant?
by Paula Gray, AIPMM

In the AIPMM webinar “The Lessons of Launch”, Mark Carr of CMG Partners stated that 54% of businesses do not involve customers in the new product development process. Carr said that most businesses listen to someone’s “gut” in determining what customers wanted. He stated that only 1 in 10 of those new consumer products succeeds, and only 1 in 4 B-to-B products succeed. That is a tremendous correlation. Statistically, the “gut” has only a 10% success rate in consumer products and a 25% success rate for B to B. Perhaps businesses would be more successful if they listened to the ultimate purchaser of the product, the customer.

I was recently at the Procter & Gamble headquarters to conduct on-site training. P&G is tremendously people-focused and I consider them one of the great successes in applying anthropology to business. They frequently utilize anthropology consultants and ethnographic methodologies in their new product development process in addition to many other applications. They get it. I doubt they bring a lot of “gut” to the table; rather they elevate the customer to their rightful position, at the head of the table.

Ask yourself how deeply you know your customers and what they want. Do not relegate customers to the status of “data”. If you do not get to know your customers well, your competitors will.

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About the author

Paula Gray

Paula Gray is an anthropologist and the Director of Research and Knowledge Development at AIPMM. She has traveled the globe to work with companies throughout the US, Europe, Africa and Asia-Pacific to help them gain a deeper understanding of their customers. She is featured in Linda Gorchels' book The Product Manager's Handbook and has contributed to several books on product management including The Guide to the Product Management and Marketing Body of Knowledge (ProdBOK). She is also the author of numerous blog posts and papers including Business Anthropology and the Culture of Product Managers.