Yesterday during the “attention scarcity” discussion at the 2006 Innovative Marketing Conference, the idea of customer value came up — in that case, in the context of exchanging customers’ attention for something you provide that’s of value to them. In today’s panel discussion on “Models for Innovation: Creating New Products and Services That Work” this notion came up again. Panelists, especially Anthony Ulwick and my colleague Gwen Ishmael — were talking about *how* to get to customers’ unmet needs (now that everyone seems to understand that this is what underlies successful innovation). Gwen talked about talking with customers to discover their unarticulated needs. Ulwick talked about talking to customers about what jobs they need doing and how they measure the value of getting those things done. To me, this notion of the value customers attach to getting things done *equals* unarticulated need.
In any case, both of these panelists agreed that talking to customers about solutions doesn’t get you to any of what you need to hear — the underserved needs and values of the customers. It’s not such a big leap to come up with a solution that gets at these needs and/or jobs — the leap is innovating a solution that your customers will value and therefore, adopt.