We love buying when we are excited. Yet, we buy a lot of things we are indifferent to buying, usually for a purpose or to meet a need. I don’t know anyone who looks forward to building products people are indifferent to. We all want to build products people are excited about. Imagine a world where every purchase excites you.

That is a long way off… so we better get started. First, when are buyers excited? Often it’s when they get high-value, more benefit than what they perceive it is costing. One hack is to give it away for free or put an item on sale for much less than usual.

Both of those present problems for businesses. Businesses aim to make money, so they can’t give everything away for free and to have a great sale, a “usual price” must be standardized.

Recently, Amazon got into a bit of legal trouble for not verifying list prices. Giving their shoppers the impression they were getting deal all the time. This is a convenient trick that can be employed at the end of product development cycle. But not a moral decision. So, let’s find legal ways of creating that good feeling for buyers.

A less common, hard to copy (a competitive advantage), way to excite buyers is to deliver value far exceeding expectations. How do we deliver value exceeding expectation? It starts at the beginning.

In product development, we hear a lot about building for the “why”. Simon Sinek says “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. We also hear sayings like “people don’t buy your product, they buy better versions of themselves”. If we are to get customers excited, we need to tap into this “why”.

How do you determine the “why” you should bring to market? And, how do you build products (and culture) around that “why” to meet your customer’s needs to create better versions of themselves?

In simple terms, you carefully ask your potential customers.

  1. Curiosity. Ask questions before you start developing anything.
  2. Open. Create a context where customers understand that truthful answers will benefit themselves. Avoid leading customers to giving answers that please the interviewer. Atmosphere should be calm, safe, and trusting.
  3. Empathy. Be empathetic to their emotions and work past them. You want to hear about what isn’t working for them in their lives. This manifests in many emotions, but you’ll see trends in the facts of what isn’t working (and you’re eventually solving what isn’t working, not emotional council).
  4. Curiosity. Ask about their lives and their needs, not about your product, your ideas, nor your solutions. Steer the conversation clear of their own solutions too. Your goal is getting information about them, not about solutions.
  5. Empathy. Listen from their shoes. Insights often come from getting outside your usual world of listening. Try to listen for the world they live in. Listen (or look later) for what they are not saying as well.

Often product teams start asking questions way too late. The genesis for great products is curiosity and probing from the beginning. The result is a natural evolution of the marketing message and product development that will land with the market. Moreover, the product will align with the customer’s needs in ways that exceed their expectations through nuance and by meeting their needs in ways they never dreamed.

For a long time, when a new version of iOS was released people were excited to discover the little ways it just got it right, “how did they know?”. Or how did they know everyone would want an iPad? Maybe you’re like Steve Jobs and you have incredible insight into what everyone wants. Especially when they don’t even know it themselves. Maybe Jobs had that skill or maybe he worked hard and just created that public persona. Regardless, if you’re like most people, you can get the same results by doing the work and listening.

Coach. Leader. Manager. Passionate about helping people. Curious about problems, especially customer. Create environments for delivering software people love.

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