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July 5th, 2016

How to Beat the Big Guys—All You Need is Love

Yes, the “Big Guys” have all the resources and money to spend on R&D, skunkworks facilities, personnel, in-house prototyping, research and testing in multiple markets, agencies, photo shoots, big launch campaigns…and let’s not forget their leverage with distribution and/or retail. But, do they spread the love?

In our experience, even with all their apparent advantage, there are only a few big companies who are really loving their end user in a big way. Only a few are centered on their end user in a way that puts them at the head of the pack, not only in brand love, but in performance and shareholder returns.

These companies have been lauded for fully embracing the process of design. Not the “make the product look better” kind, but the “make the product, brand, and business better” kind. The “make my customers love me” kind.

As a moderate-sized manufacturer, you can still do better than most bigger competitors. Because you can love your end user more than they do. And with the right tools, processes, and experts, you can make your end users love you too.

Rather than getting stuck on just innovation, cost cutting, or squeezing out the last drop of efficiency in your processes, get passionate about your end user. How?

Get to know who they are—intimately.

  • Why do they behave the way they do?
  • What motivates them?
  • What are their values?
  • Their concerns?
  • What makes them happy and energized?
  • What keeps them awake at night?

Spend time with them when they’re using your products.

  • Study them.
  • Watch them.
  • Video them.
  • Talk to them.
  • Analyze everything. Every detail. Every movement.

Great product developers are trained to do this—so don’t just listen to your salespeople; send professional researchers, industrial designers, and design engineers.

In creating the Kobalt brand and designing the tools, packaging, retail presentation, and marketing—we spent nine months doing research with professional mechanics, trade mechanics, and homeowners who “tinkered.” We knew the pros wouldn’t buy their shop tools at Lowe’s, but we also knew they had a set at home and we wanted to know what, in their mind, made a pro-quality tool. What would a tool have to be, to be better than Craftsman (remember, this was back in 1998)? If we could meet their expectations, and have a Kobalt tool chest in the back of their garage, then we could shout out the brand as Setting The Standard In Pro Quality Tools, Available Every Day. Which we did. And Kobalt is now a billion-dollar brand.

We can’t claim all the credit for this, because the brand has been consistently built through new products, sports marketing, and a consistent brand presentation. But by focusing intently on the end user from day one, and by being passionate about them as our primary consumer AND customer (i.e., loving them), the foundation was laid for sustainable growth and success.

Having the best mechanics tools at retail was a glint in an EVP’s eye 18 years ago. Just a hypothesis to be explored. And look at it now.

Of note:

  • DeWalt did the same thing in power tools.
  • Dyson did the same thing in vacuum cleaners.
  • Ridgid has done the same thing as a contractor grade brand in Home Depot.

So, “What if?” Because it is possible to create products and experiences—from your company—that people will love. You just have to focus like a laser on those people, and put them first as you seek the insights to reach that position.

Love them and they’ll love you back.

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