In business, all roads lead to the customer. Whether you’re selling fabric softener, alarm clocks, or electric vehicles, this is true. Last week, GreenBiz ran an article describing three ways that plug-in EVs (electric vehicles) could make it in the mass market. Reading it made me realize that all three of their recommendations could be boiled down to overarching challenges green (and even non-green) products face. And below them all remains the point that can’t be said enough: Always focus on the customer, not the product.
How the mass market will adopt green
Leslie Guevarra (whose work I’ve commented on before…I’m a fan) laid out three ideas for electric vehicles. I’ll explain each of her ideas, and then show how they each correspond with a lesson that all green products should take to heart.
Idea 1: “Fitting in” – Here she explains how EVs shouldn’t look like space ships or weird little buggies like many of them do, they should look like cars. EVs need to “fit in” with customer expectations, she argues.
Lesson 1: Exceed expectations – All products need to at least meet the expectations that customers already have! If there isn’t a good reason to go out of your way to differentiate, then don’t. Take a desk chair, for instance. Customers want a chair that is comfortable and sturdy. Greener computers and desk chairs work and look just the same as or better than the conventional ones. The “fit in” with what customers expect of any chair or computer.
Idea 2: “Tackling Range Anxiety and Charging Challenges” – EVs need to find a way to alleviate consumers’ worries that they’ll end up stranded when the juice runs out, she says.
Lesson 2: Always perform – Green products need to perform as well or better than their non-green counterparts in order to achieve mass adoption. EVs are almost to the point where they’ll be able to say that (that is, perform the way the mass market demands), but until they do, they’ll remain a fringe good. To be truly competitive, green cleaners have to clean better, green clothes have to feel better, and green food will have to taste and nourish better than conventional products already in the market.
Idea 3: “Investing in Innovation and Sustainability” – Electric vehicle makers need to keep improving their products to keep their customers satisfied and interested.
Lesson 3: Keep it fresh – Customers have short attention spans. Americans, especially, are always looking out for the “next big thing.” So always be ready to meet your customers’ next need. This doesn’t mean you should create planned obsolescence. It means that you should continue to innovate and make your products even better and more exciting…or else others will make them obsolete!
Green = value
Green products have to play by the same market rules as non-green ones do. The test is, will they be able to deliver? My money says that green products will be the only ones that can make it in the near future. What do you think?