The newspaper this week reported a story relating to a glowing review of an extendable paintbrush holder posted on Amazon. (Appliance of Science Twists Amazon Reviews, The Times 1.2.18) This amusing story serves as a reminder to think outside the box when considering who your customer is.
Bennett, the paintbrush manufacturer responsible for the product, seeks to understand the specific demands of each customer. However, it cannot have second guessed the usage of its product in the world of academic marine studies in Manitoba. Its product was given 4 stars and a great review for its use in gathering nasal mucus from beluga whales; apparently very tricky to do.
I am not suggesting that companies should exhaust all possibilities when looking at the market it is actually in, but thinking purely product and conventional use may limit market opportunities and diminish returns over time. New entrants will undoubtedly enter traditional markets and will come up with alternatives and substitutes. This may be in the form of more innovative products to do the same thing more efficiently, or new processes or ways of doing business, or they may creatively maximise opportunities left on the table by companies stuck in a rut of what they have always done, and buyers they have always served.
Bottom line is new customers do not always mean more of the same. Ansoff’s matrix identifies 4 quadrants in his product/market growth matrix. Two of these involve new customers; new customers for existing products and new customers for new products. Though these are more difficult to access, and often more costly to develop, the longer term cost of NOT addressing these quadrants in market growth strategy can be very costly indeed.
Meantime, Bennett’s may well be thinking about what their market is – is it for paintbrush holders or for accessing hard to reach and awkward places?