For the best advice, ask your customers…

Right now I’m preparing two sessions on innovation for delivery at the Irish Management Institute (IMI) and want to talk about where great ideas come from. Look in the obvious places! Customers are one of the greatest sources of ideas. But for real insights, we often need to look at our brands ‘in the wild’, as they are used in our customers’ everyday lives.

The head of Heinz, William Johnson, tells the story that he discovered –  in his own kitchen – that the squeezable Heinz Ketchup bottle should be sold ‘upside down’. His wife had to explain to him that the upright bottle got a crusty rim around the top so she always stored it the other way round. The researchers hadn’t come up with this obvious solution. His lesson from that experience was that you have got to get as close as you possibly can to your consumers so that you can observe their behaviour and find out what customers like and don’t like. As a marketer it’s up to you to come up with clever solutions to crusty problems.

Talk to your Fans!

One final tip on talking to customers: remember to talk to your advocates, not just unhappy customers. You can get great and generous advice from people who already like what you’re doing but would like you even more if you made some changes. Just think of the impact that can have on your loyal customers. South West Airlines even used advocates to help recruit new cabin crew staff.

People are flattered when you ask them for advice.