Customer-centric vs. Product-centric

I was talking to a veteran marketing executive today and he reminded me of a basic marketing principal that’s worth remembering.  He said that many companies use a product-centric approach to marketing.  They ask, “How can I sell my product to more customers?” or “How can I sell more of my product to existing customers?”.

This is the wrong question to ask because it starts with the product rather than the customer.  The right question to ask is “What unmet needs or wants do customers have?”  This customer-centric approach looks for solutions to problems, while the product-centric approach often results in a solution looking for a problem.

The reason companies — even smart ones — fall into the trap of being product-centric is that they’ve already got products that have had some measure of success.  So the natural tendency is to think about extending those products to meet additional customer needs (and generate more revenue).  But the danger is that you end up with a half-baked solution that doesn’t really meet the customer’s need.

As the old saying goes, “If all you’ve got is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail.”

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3 thoughts on “Customer-centric vs. Product-centric

  1. Okay, so can there ever be too many solutions? What went so horribly wrong with the invention of the cell phone that now we have a device that can bring down government entities? I know where you stand on this because you’re an iPhone junkie.

  2. I think human nature is to maximize what you got. Instead of the building the right product, companies attempt to make their product work. This is viewed as more profitable.

    This is fine for small stuff, but it’s the kiss of death when you’re competing at a high level (like Google or Apple).

    It’s also risky to build something new, when you have complete control over what you’ve built already. A lot of it comes down to $$$$.

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