Demand: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: October 8th, 2011 by bobmorris

Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They wWant It
Adrian J. Slywotzky with Karl Weber
Crown Business (2011)

How to create a demand-creating culture

Many books published in recent years offer excellent advice on how to create and then sustain what I call a hyphenated culture: quality-driven, customer-driven, innovation-driven, results-driven, etc. The given objectives are eminently worthy and I have no quarrel with any of them, nor does Adrian Slywotzky. The fact remains, however, that an organization must have compelling appeal to those on whom it depends for success: employees at all levels and in all areas with talent and skills as well as character and commitment who create great value for customers. That’s precisely what Herb Kelleher always stressed when asked to explain the extraordinary success of Southwest Airlines: “We take great care of our people, our people take great care of our customers, and our customers then take great care of our shareholders.”

Slywotzky’s latest book is a “must read” for business leaders in organizations that are struggling to answer any/all of questions such as these:

• “How can we get our customers to buy more of what we sell?”
• “How can we convince more of our competition’s customers to buy from us?”
• “How can we convert fence-sitters into buyers of what we sell?”
•  “How can we attract, hire, and then retain the people who will create the greatest value for our customers?”
• “Meanwhile, what must we do each day to improve the quality of life in our workplace and increase the appeal of what we produce there?”

In each instance, the challenge is to create and then sustain demand.

Whatever its size and nature may be, every organization must be led by what Slywotzky characterizes as “demand creators,” people who “spend all of their time trying to understand people …They try to understand our aspirations, what we need, what we hate, what gives us emotional charge – and, most important, what we might really love…They seem to know what we want even before we do. They wind up creating things people can’t resist and competitors can’t copy. Yet they almost never succeed on the first try…These demand creators recognize the huge gaps between what people buy and what they really want – and they use those gaps as the springboard for a process of reimagination that you might call the demand way of thinking.”

There are hundreds (thousands?) of books now on sale that offer advice on how to increase sales, how to market with “a bigger bang for the buck,” how to improve customer relations, etc. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first book – certainly one that is most cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective – to explain “how to create what people love before they know they want it.” Dozens of real-world examples are provided to illustrate key points. They also suggest all manner of practical applications. It should also be noted that the wealth of information, insights, and recommendations that Slywotzky provides are relevant to almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. Moreover, after reading and then (preferably) re-reading this book, almost anyone can become a highly effective demand creator.

As Slywotzky explains, “Demand creators have a hidden advantage. Many of their rivals are `anti-demand’ organizations – organized in disconnected silos. Focused on meeting yesterday’s demand, and often remarkably immune to the signals that customer behavior is trying to send us…Great demand creators are special, in part, because they understand that the things we buy and the things we actually [begin italics] want [end italics] aren’t always the same…Great demand creators eliminate or reduce the hassles that make most products and services inconvenient, costly, unpleasant, and frustrating.” With relatively minor modifications, these attributes of demand thinking insofar as marketing and customer relationships are concerned could also be said of recruiting, hiring, and training the talent needed as well as of creating what Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba characterize as “customer evangelists.” It is no coincidence that employees of the most highly admired organizations, “the best to work for,” are also their evangelists and refer to themselves as such.

Adrian Slywotzky has written a book in which all this is explained so well that the reader is well-prepared to become an effective demand creator. Then, after reading this book, I think that one of the first tasks at hand is to convince one’s associates to develop a sense of urgency about knowing whatever is required to help create “what people love before they know they want it.” Demand creators cannot do that alone. They build and excite great teams that effectively reach thousands or millions of customers. And by doing so, they seem to have a lot more fun in their business than many of their rivals do. Meanwhile, highly-valued workers do not leave; on the contrary, they are among the primary reasons why other peak performers and high potentials are eager to work with them.

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