Give Your Customers What They Want — and More


Everyone has heard Marshall Field’s famous admonition: “Give the lady what she wants.” Making sure your customers get what they want is, of course, a respected practice. But another Chicagoan had even better advice. Samuel “Roxy” Rothapfel strongly suggested that Field didn’t go far enough.

“Giving the people what they want is fundamentally and disastrously wrong,” Rothapfel asserted. Rothapfel said businesses must give customers something better, which is exactly what he did when he created the Palace Theaters.

Before Rothepfel’s movie theaters, with their plush seats and chandeliers, movie-goers watched short productions as they sat on hard benches in small rooms.

Rothepfel’s premise was simple. People don’t know what they want until some smart business person shows them what is possible.

What the Client Wants Isn’t Enough

This concept was more recently expressed another way by marketing and advertising executive Harry Beckwith in his book entitled What Clients Love.

“Never mind what people say they want,” wrote Beckwith. “No client ever asked for ATMs, negotiable certificates, heated car seats, Asia de Cuba, traveler’s checks, Disneyland, Cirque du Soleil, or Siegfried and Roy, and no one outside a few thousand techies asked for home computers. Clients never said they wanted any of these things.”

The point: relying on customers to tell you what they want is the surest way to fall behind the times.

Successful companies like Apple Computer explore new ideas of their own. They delight their customers by taking them down new paths. They create the next big thing, which often is something their customers never dreamed of.

Getting Excited About New Ideas

It is not that you can’t make a living providing the mundane. But is this what you really want from your business in photography, design or image distribution? Does a mundane approach motivate you to get out of bed in the morning?

Ask yourself some important questions. When was the last time you really were excited while executing a new idea? Do you take risks?

Have you ever seen a customer’s eyes light up because you provided something better than they had a right to expect? Do you ever ask yourself how to turn a boring assignment or image request into something special?

If these questions make you cringe a bit, you might want to do some thinking about your business.


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