Who is the customer?

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I was speaking with a fellow manufacturer the other day and he asked me an interesting question: "what are dealers looking for today?"

He wanted to know what products he could design that would get a dealer excited enough to buy it. This was a really odd concept to me, but one I hear a lot.

When I think about it, there are three basic customer groups companies design to: retailers, end users, themselves.

Designing for retailers. A dealer sees a trend such as too many remote controls for one system and shares the need with a manufacturer. The manufacturer gets the idea to design a universal remote to replace all the customer's remotes and a new product category is born.

Designing for end users. Customers would just love to be able to access all their music stored on their iPods and send that music to a good sounding DAC. A clever company like Wadia figures out how to design the product and then get permission from Apple to sell it. They sell a lot.

Designing for themselves. I am frustrated that my hi-fi system sounds different in the evening than during the day. I figure out why and build the first product that solves the problem - the Power Plant. A new product category is born.

Each design motivation has its up and downside. The challenge for any designer is to know who they are designing for.

I design products I would want to own and hope enough people agree.

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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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