Listen and Adapt to the Customer for Success in Launching New Products

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Focus on customers and not ourselves, Arno Langbehn, CEO, B. Behr's Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, told us in a Pre-Conference Workshop titled Extraordinary Examples for Marketing, Product Development and Sales and How to Implement Them Successfully Into Your Publishing House at SIPA 2019 last month. That video is now posted here—it also includes Kiplinger President Denise Elliott and marketing director Chris Moffa talking about emails and renewals.

You can greatly motivate customers by avoiding pain, Langbehn said. Losing $50 is more pain than the joy of finding $50. Find out your customers' problems and pain points and address those. "We are not in the coffee business serving people," Starbucks' Howard Schultz once said. "We are in the people business serving coffee." 

Here are more takeaways from Langbehn:

1. Listen. "Wait for statements from the interviewee and hold back your knowledge," Langbehn said. Let "the interviewee determine the content. Be quiet and listen. Place the interviewee in the center of attention." This was echoed in a talk I heard last week from Kate Super, founder and executive producer, Sidford House Media. "Make space for quiet," she said. "Ask a question and give them a minute; people will sometimes fill in and answer further. And finish with, 'Anything you think I should ask you about that I missed?'" Let the person talk.

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2. Meet in their place. Langbehn suggested that, when possible, to meet customers "in their office not the boardroom," so you can see what's on their desk, what they're working on, what they're reading." Robin Crumby, founder of Melcrum and now Novatum Group, added something similar last year. "When was the last time you sat opposite a prospect and listened to their objections?" he asked. "When you come to make recommendations about changes, it's so powerful to be able to quote customers. If it originates with the customer, it has so much more power."

3. Give strategic choices. Langbehn cited an Economist sales sheet where it cost 59 euros for digital, 125 euros for print and 125 euros for print AND digital. The obvious choice for people was the 125 for print and digital—it looks like free digital. When they took away the print-only choice, more people chose just digital. We all want a deal.

4. Be careful about discounts. Langbehn is not a big fan of discounts—it can burst your pricing structure as he demonstrated by puncturing a balloon. He gave many examples, including the play Mousetrap, one of London's longest-running plays ever that proudly never offered discounts.

5. Be the "est." "We want to be the best," he said, and work with the best. He cited many examples of the highest and deepest and longest, companies figuring out a way to proclaim themselves #1 at something. "We'd rather be first in the village than second in the city," he said. "Customers don't usually recognize the difference."

6. Offer more options early. "Our early notices have multiple options for delivery at different prices," Elliott said, agreeing with Langbehn about offering that print/digital combo as the same price as just print. "They can see the value. If you haven't responded close to expire we'll whittle the choices down."

7. Second that emotion. Langbehn talked about the power of emotion in marketing, where "the product [should] give me a good feeling. And use all opportunities to get information from clients."

8. Learn the pain points and work on the solution. Quoting Steve Jobs, Langbehn said, "It's not the customer's job to know what he/she wants."

9. Don't confuse seriousness with boring. That may go without saying but it was still good hear him say that.

Again, watch the video here.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…