Have you ever heard "Necessity is the mother of invention"?
Often, the people who develop a product or service are not necessarily experts on the topic, but customers of that market that understand best how the product or service will be used and could be made or delivered better.
We all remember Sy Sperling's trademark phrase "I'm not only the Hair Club President, but I'm also a Client!", right?
Sy's catchphrase stuck for a few reasons. First off, it was ridiculous. It made viewers chuckle and spawned thousands of parodies. It was simple. There was no question that Sy was saying he believed in his product. And, it was real. Sy wasn't a pro pitch-man - and the story goes HCM had come out of the gates with a slick professional ad campaign that bombed before throwing out Sy's cameo and taking off. It came from Sy - a bald guy who'd found the answer- to another: "here's a product that works for Us".
It's not that people like to buy things from people who are like them.
Frankly, people like to buy things from experts. Being an expert, or having an expert to vouch for your product or service is certainly important and useful - however, when it comes to product creation, it all comes down to who best understands the need, not the application. I call this person the Elite-User.
This isn't that uncommon. Look at celebrity endorsements as a great example of Elite-Users in action. Professional athletes aren't necessarily full Experts in the design and manufacturing of the equipment they sell on billboards and tv - far from it. But they are, however, Elite-Users of the equipment in application. Lance Armstrong may not know how to engineer an entire professional racing bicycle, but there's no argument he knows how to ride one. Lance didn't build the product, he uses it. Lance's status as a Successful Elite athlete combined with the image of him using the bicycle suggests the same success will be had by the target audience. Sy Sperling's TV ad showed him with a full head of hair (success) contrasted with a portrait of him as bald (user). At some level, they're all Customers, and are or were once just like us, the target audience.
So we've talked about Customers, Experts and Elite-Users and product creation, design and marketing. So what's it all mean?
In short it means the best person to sense a need and create a product is a Customer, and the best person to perfect and authenticate a product is an Expert, and the best person to develop and market a product is an Elite-User.
Final thought: While I love a good celebrity endorsement, the real hero of this story is Sy Sperling. "... I'm also a client." Has genuine meaning when establishing a level of understanding with your market: It's important to be a member of your market. Whether you're in the phase of selecting a product, or working to establish a better connection with your existing leads, you'll do well to remember Sy's advice.
Here's a great video on Sy's story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHpZPaQB9KE