Know your customer and your technology

In this month's cover story on emergency management, Bruce Walker of Northrop Grumman Corp. offers advice that applies far beyond the world of first responders.

The key to persuading customers to adopt a new technology is to provide features they will find irresistible, to paraphrase Walker.

Don't let the simplicity of his advice fool you. Don't make the mistake of assuming everyone knows that.

Dig a little deeper and think, "How do I deliver it?"

When my parents were still running the restaurant they owned in Luray, Va., my mom tracked everything: how many servings of which items were sold, what the weather was like each day, what other events were going on and what other restaurants were doing.

She knew breakfast and lunch customers didn't have a lot of time. Dinner and weekend meals could be a little more leisurely. In short, she knew her customers, and she understood the world they lived in.

The idea Walker expressed so simply is that you have to know what will thrill your customers. Unfortunately, your customers often can't tell you what that is until they see it.

A risk in the technology industry is the dangerous lure of the gee-whiz factor. It is easy to get caught up in what the technology can do. Just remember that it better apply to a customer's problem or make his or her job easier.

As Walker told staff writer Alice Lipowicz, if you are just delivering call forwarding and voice mail to first responders in the field, forget it.

Instead, give them accident details, phone numbers and addresses via their handheld devices and you'll make a bigger sale. The more value, the better.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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