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Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become? (Audible Version)

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This was a good ROI book because it was quick and insightful.

Quick Intro

This book is only available in audio and is two hours and 47 minutes long.

It is described on Amazon as follows,

“In this latest HBR Single, Schrage provides a powerful new lens for getting more value out of innovation investment. He argues that asking customers to do something different doesn’t go far enough – serious marketers and innovators must ask them to become something different instead. Even more, you must invest in their capabilities and competencies to help them become better customers. Schrage’s primary insight is that innovation is an investment in your client, not just a transaction with them. To truly innovate today, designing new products or features or services won’t get you there. Only by designing new customers – thinking of their future state, being the conduit to their evolution – will you transform your business.”

So, what are three things that we can use from this book?


3 Things You Can Use


1. Framework

The ask, who do you want your customers to become, is a framework, an organizing context for your strategy, marketing, branding and innovation.

The foundation of a business is innovation. Michael Schrage states that innovation is about designing customers, since innovation’s real impact is transforming customers.

One example of how this ask is important, is seeing what the innovation of self-checkout was asking customers to become. It was asking customers to be their own baggers, to add work to their shopping experience — to go backwards. They didn’t appreciate that and self-checkout never took off the way that companies anticipated.

On the other hand, with Starbucks, the goal of the ask is to have customers become “sophisticated connoisseurs of complex coffees who will treat every Starbucks cup of coffee as a special experience,” furthering and improving the customer in that sense. This landed well not because it improved the life of the customer but because it improved who the customer was.

Another example is with Amazon, who’s intrinsic ask led to shoppers becoming “information-rich consumers who share real-time data and reviews, cross-check prices, and weigh algorithmic recommendations on their paths to online purchase.” Again not only improving the experience of the customer but answering the ask with an improvement in the actual customer.

Once you have made clear who it is you want your customers to become, build out from there the framework for the rest of your customer operations.


2. Design for Yourself

“Market research is what you do when your product isn’t any good.”

-Edwin Land

Using the principles from above, designing to improve the experience of customers is not enough. It’s not about making what customers want.

Take for example something Henry Ford said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses’.”

Steve Jobs puts it well when he says, “It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want.”

Design for yourself and design with the ask in mind. Does your innovation answer the ask in a way the improves the customer?


3. The Dark Side

Anticipate and manage the dark side of the ask.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Michael Schrage uses the example of Mcdonalds and supersizing. If Mcdonalds had answered the ask Schrage thinks they likely would have said, “Value-conscious consumers happy to pay a little extra to get a disproportionately bigger and better meal.”

What really ended up happening, as opposed to asking customers to be more value driven was asking customers to, “pay a little bit more to become fatter.”

Mcdonalds improved the customer’s ability to be more value-driven so much that they over-indulged to a point of excess. That is a dark side to the ask.

After you’ve gotten your ask configured, put on your cynical hat and evaluate what your answer may lead to and what your customers may negatively become. Take that perspective and try to manage or regulate appropriately by asking questions like,

“Does the ask surface or exploit, rather than ameliorate customer weakness?”




Who do you want your customers to become is a framework for your innovation. Ask how you can improve who your customers are relative to your business and you will have a starting point towards leading your industry.

For real innovation skip the improvements and adjustments of existing things and stop asking what people want, because they don’t really know. Design your product so that you use it and have a focus on your product improving the customer.

Take the time to consider what negatives your ask can lead to and protect your brand and your customers by managing and regulating appropriately.

The Capco Journal of Financial Information does a great job getting at the gist of this book, simplifying it into a few sentences.

“The better we know and understand who customers want to become – their expectations, values and aspirations – the better we can develop the innovations that transform them. It’s about shifting the focus from extracting value from customers to investing in their capabilities and competencies to raise their skill levels – and teach them new skills – to help them become better and more valuable customers. That’s the key.”

I liked this book. It’s short, it’s a new perspective and it cited a lot of business strategy literature that I had never heard of, that I am going to look up.

I hope this comes in handy for you,

Thank you for watching/reading, see you next week!

Want to Read it?

Audible Free Trial (get this book for free!)

Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become? (Audible Version)

(disclosure: ^^^ these links give me a commission — at no extra cost to you! They just give me a little bump if you decide to use them. Thank you!)




  • Punching Sounds (in video) by: Mike Koenig