Chapter 6. Developing Relationships with Customers and Stakeholders

Developing Relationships with Customers and Stakeholders

Customers want to “hire” a product to do a job, or, as legendary Harvard Business School marketing professor Theodore Levitt put it, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

 --Clayton M. Christensen

The greatest weakness of contemporary information-development organizations is the almost total absence of customer contact. Although information developers generally espouse the importance of knowing the customer, they are often content to speculate about the customer or to take the customer profiles provided by product marketing, product development, subject-matter experts, customer support, and others at face value. Unfortunately, the information coming from the so-called experts is rarely based on a systematic analysis of customers as users of information. Sometimes the customer profiles represent the best guesses of product marketing about who might be buying the product or service, sometimes they are based on actual market research into buyer characteristics. Sometimes customer profiles are built on a set of assumptions based on individual encounters with certain customers, usually those that are innovators and early adopters who are actively involved in defining requirements. Sometimes customer profiles are defined by those who call for assistance or are encountered by field ...

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