Product Focus Matters More Than Customer Focus

I can’t stand the words “customer-centricity” or “product-centricity.” They’re ugly and counter to their intention. I would prefer to say customer focus or product focus. That said, Gord Hotchkiss is correct in his presumption that product-focused leadership matters far more than customer-focused leadership:

Here’s a shocker, coming from me. The more I think about it, the more I don’t believe customer-centricity is the key. It’s not a goal, it’s a by-product. It comes as part of the package (often unconsciously) with another principle that is a little more concrete: product-centricity. Product-centric leaders, the ones that are obsessive about what gets shipped out the door, are customer-centric by nature. They understand the importance of that magical intersection between product and person, the sheer power of amazing experiences. The iPhone is amazing. Disney classics are amazing. My first search on Google was amazing. Steve, Walt, Larry and Sergey wouldn’t have it any other way. They focus attention on the importance of that experience, and know, somewhere deep down inside, that if they get it right, the revenue will take care of itself.

The other thing about product-centric leaders is that they don’t have to do extensive customer research. They may, and many do, but they already have a gut instinct for what their customers want, because they are their own customer. Larry and Sergey invented a new search engine because the old ones were fundamentally broken and they were fed up with them. Walt built Disneyland because he was tired of sleazy, grimy amusement parks. And Steve knew that some people need a lot more than a beige, generic box because he’s one of them. They have user-centricity baked into their core, because they’re building products they want to use. They don’t compromise in the drive to create a product that’s good enough for them. It’s a happy coincidence that there are lots of other people who also love the product. It’s an intuitive connection that 99.9% of corporate leaders can’t imagine, let alone do.

I commented to Gord:

I kept thinking of Ford Motor Company…its founder’s wisdom still holds true and rings in that famous quote: “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Of course, he had personal intuition and customer insight to understand what customers REALLY wanted: a product to get them there faster and more reliably, and with cache.

As you underscored, customer focus is a given. But customers don’t care about customer focus — they care about the PRODUCT EXPERIENCE. And if innovation, passion and authenticity are missing from product and brand experience, it will show like a sore thumb.

Great thoughts, Gord.

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

Leave a comment