disbelief bride

Today I find myself cursing Steve Jobs again.

Don’t get me wrong…Steve Jobs was a brilliant man. I have tremendous admiration for his accomplishments, his creativity, his brazen independence. The world would be a less wonderful place without him.

Except. He made a statement that holds entrepreneurs back. Wedding vendors swarm over it like rats aboard a sinking ship.

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”

I love you, Steve, but how I wish you’d never said that!

This one statement is too often used as proof that the customer knows nothing. They don’t know what they want, so why bother asking them?
It reinforces that Us vs. Them mentality: it’s Us, the hard working wedding vendors feeding our businesses with our sweat and the very blood from our veins, struggling to get Them, those clueless brides and grooms, to “get” why they need us.

When the couples don’t buy, when they choose over our competitors instead of us, it’s not our fault. They just don’t know what they want because they don’t have the sense to listen to us.

How his words have been twisted! Just today I came across a new product for the wedding industry. Sure, it’s cool, it could be useful, but is it filling a need in the market? NO. And it sure isn’t innovative enough to create a need where one doesn’t exist. It’s obvious that this company did not ask its customers what they wanted.

And because of this, the business is doomed to fail.

Steve Jobs Mis-quoted

Steve Jobs wasn’t telling us not to give our customers what they want. He wasn’t telling us not to ask them what they want and need.

He was explaining that our customers don’t know the features they want in a product or service until they’ve seen it. They simply don’t have the knowledge and experience to know what will solve their problem. For a company like Apple, if they’d waited until their customers figured it out, they’d never be able to outpace the competition.

Ever notice how when you ask a bride or groom what they want in a DJ, a florist, a photographer, a planner, most of the time they don’t know?

Steve Jobs was right; your customers don’t know what features they want. There’s no use asking them if they prefer Package A or Package B, Price 1 or Price 2, Shiny Object X or Shiny Object Y. They don’t have a clue.

But there is one thing your customers DO know, and you need to understand it intimately to make sure that your wedding business is giving them exactly what they want makes them open their wallets…

Your customer knows her pain. She knows her underlying need. She knows that burning emotional WANT deep inside.

For brides, it isn’t our photography, our music or our flowers that she wants. That’s why she can’t tell you which features she’s interested in.

What does she want? She wants to feel special. She wants an unforgettable wedding day. She wants her guests to talk about how awesome it was for years to come.

Start With the Customer

Steve Jobs also said this:

“You‘ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.”

Steve Jobs was intimately connected to his customers. He’d climbed inside their heads. He knew what they really wanted underneath it all.

Jobs wasn’t just coming up with brilliant products and then brainwashing his clueless customers into buying them. He knew his customer well enough to create products that made an immediate connection.

Everything was always about the customer. The focus of design is the customer interface. An intimate understanding of the customer is what inspires Apple’s legendary customer service experience.

Too many wedding entrepreneurs hear quotes warning against heeding the opinion of “fickle customers” and use that as an excuse to stop listening. It’s the biggest mistake you could possibly make.

The best way to create a wedding business that is irresistibly attractive to brides and grooms is to understand exactly what they REALLY want and to communicate it better than they can.

Jobs was right; your customers can’t tell you what they really want in your product or service. But you can figure it out. And when you do, that knowledge will make you unstoppable.

What do you think about asking your customers what they want?

Photo Credit cropped

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Stephanie Padovani

Stephanie is a Hudson Valley wedding insider, blogger, writer, and wedding business coach. Want to book more weddings at higher prices? Quit dealing with price shoppers? Transform your wedding business so that it supports the life you really want? Look her up! They don't call her the Wedding Business Cheerleader for nothing. :)

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14 thoughts on “Why Steve Jobs Was Wrong”

  1. Steve was right on. ANTICIPATE the needs of your customers and build your product based on it. What a concept! Other companies don’t even have a feedback option for customers to give input. Seems so backwards in comparison.

  2. Steven says:

    I just feel like saying that I think you’re misquoting Jobs. When he said customers don’t know what they want, he was right. But to which customer was he referring? The one in the bridal market, or the one in the technology market? I’m not trying to discredit what you’re saying, as I’m sure it’s sound and logical, but I feel you are trying to compare apples to oranges in this article.

    1. Hey, Steven. I’m not trying to compare technology customers with bridal customers per se; they are obviously quite different markets and the bridal industry doesn’t require anywhere near the same type of innovation that made Jobs famous. Steve Jobs was trying to convey the idea that his customers don’t know what they want because they don’t want it YET and it doesn’t even exist yet. His specialty was anticipating the needs of the market to stay on the cutting edge.

      The point I’m trying to make with the “wrongness” of this statement is that it’s too easy for us as wedding pros to say, “Brides don’t know what they want,” or “They don’t know what’s good for them,” and let that be an excuse for us to do whatever WE want instead.

      It’s true; most of our couples don’t know exactly what they want, especially at the start of the planning process. However, it’s our job to help them discover it and connect what they DO know with the service or product we provide. It’s dangerous to take the attitude that, “My customers don’t know what they want so I’m going to do it my way,” because it can easily lead us down a path of wasted time and money offering products no one wants. When you let your customers determine what you sell, you’re much more likely to succeed.

      It’s not the truth of Jobs’ statement that I’m arguing; I just don’t like that this quote is often used to reinforce damaging attitudes in business.

  3. Steve Jobs was not wrong, but he was only right in certain situations, which of course he found himself in all the time. If you are an innovator, by definition you are creating something new. If you had asked customers if they wanted iPads before they were available they would have looked at you sideways. Now iPads are multi-million unit sellers.
    I have actually gained a lot of inspiration from Steve Jobs and this quote in particular. Misinterpreted it can be dangerous, ignoring customers is not the best policy, although Steve was known to do that too. However his advice should cause you to find new ways of doing things. At my company we have turned the whole selling process on it’s head, for the photographer, by innovating a new approach. It is working, slowly but surely. Steve Jobs did not give me the idea, but his philosophy forced me to find it.

    1. Stephanie Padovani says:

      Admittedly, saying he was “wrong” is a bit strong. Of course, it makes for a title that begs reading, which I’m always a sucker for. :)

      I have the greatest admiration for Steve Jobs, innovator extraordinaire. He had his finger on the pulse of his market, which allowed him to predict what his customers would want before it even existed.

      Most of us are NOT innovators, not in the sense Steve Jobs was, and listening to our customers is the truest course to guide our actions. Steve Jobs listened to them, too; he just made it his job to read their minds and anticipate the future.

      Lorin, I’d love to hear about your innovations of the sales approach, if you’re open to sharing them.

  4. Steph, I loved Steve Jobs too, but I couldn’t agree with you more! I just got done doing a coaching session with my clients on Positioning Your Packages to Sell Themselves and one of the key items in it was learning to pay attention to the “gap” you’re filling. What brides and grooms really, really want that no one is giving them. The lesson? LISTEN 😉

    Great post Steph!

  5. Rebecca says:

    And they know what they don’t want too-even if they can’t quite describe it! A large segment of our wedding business is based on referral-they have attended and event or wedding at our venue and know someone who has.

    Have had brides tell us, “I loved my (sister’s, brother’s or whomever) wedding, but I want my wedding to be different than theirs.” Keeps things fun!

    1. [quote name=”Rebecca”]And they know what they don’t want too-even if they can’t quite describe it! [/quote]
      Absolutely! They usually know what they don’t want much better than what they do want, at least at first.

  6. Sandy Keller says:

    We do a lot of customization and jump through hoops to give our customers what they are asking for. Sometimes we have to drop other things we are working on to accomodate the urgency because they wait until the last minute and then want custom items. We make it happen, and just do our best to give 110% to every customer because we know they can always go elsewhere. Maybe Steve was working in a world where it took a year to get something to the stores, where we can turn things around with the hour and that’s where we differ.

    1. [quote name=”Sandy Keller”]Maybe Steve was working in a world where it took a year to get something to the stores, where we can turn things around with the hour and that’s where we differ.[/quote]
      Good point, Sandy.

      In the technology industry, especially when you’re an innovator like Apple, you HAVE to stay ahead and anticipate your customer’s needs before s/he can.

      Small businesses like ours can move a lot faster.

  7. Chuck says:

    Nicely said Stephanie! I was reluctant at first to click on the link and read it thinking “Steve Jobs was brilliant AND right most of the time so how could his success or what he said be nitpicked?”. ALas, I clicked on the link and found the article informative. It reminded me of what I need to communicate to the bride and groom clearly!

    1. [quote name=”Chuck”]I was reluctant at first to click on the link and read it thinking “Steve Jobs was brilliant AND right most of the time so how could his success or what he said be nitpicked?”. [/quote]
      Okay, Chuck, I confess: my intention was to tempt that click. 😉

      I also really feel strongly about this too often used quote.

  8. “Your customer knows her pain. She knows her underlying need. She knows that burning emotional WANT deep inside.”

    I spoke with a bride on the phone Saturday after “making her” fill out my “form”. Into our phone call, she said to me that she now wished she had taken more time to answer my questions rather than blowing through it, trying to get to the “send” button at the end.

    She said it was obvious to her now that I asked the questions because I really cared to know her answers, and that I actually made her cry when she realized that I did know just what she wanted, and was able to put that into words for her, even with the very little bit of information she had shared. That bride booked herself right that very minute.

    Ask your questions so you can get to know your couple, not to make the sale. They do know what they want, even when they think they don’t. Ask them, and listen for their answer. If you do, you and your couple will both find it.

    Thanks, Stephanie

    Rev. Sherry Mullins
    A Joyful Celebration! Weddings

    1. [quote name=”Rev. Sherry Mullins”]”She said it was obvious to her now that I asked the questions because I really cared to know her answers, and that I actually made her cry when she realized that I did know just what she wanted, and was able to put that into words for her, even with the very little bit of information she had shared. That bride booked herself right that very minute.[/quote]
      What we all want, and rarely get, is to be understood. You gave that bride a tremendous gift, and she “booked herself.”

      That’s exactly the power of understanding your customer. Thank YOU for sharing, Rev. Sherry, and brava!

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