Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett
Muscle Cars, not Sedans for New Saudi Women Drivers: Why Saudi Car Dealers Missed the Mark
When Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on women drivers on June 24, 2018, Saudi car dealers expected the new traditionally dressed drivers to want brightly colored small cars with small engines. As a result, dealers stocked affordable - and sedate - mini-SUVs and sedans. To the dealers' surprise, the new drivers "are embracing not only driving, but driving fast and loudly" in large "guy" cars, such as the $50,000+ Audi RS3. While the Saudi dealers prepared by hiring female salespeople, they apparently had not asked the new drivers what cars they wanted to buy.*
Like the car dealers, many companies make assumptions about prospective customers without consulting the prospects themselves about their preferences. Instead of basing decisions on what the business expects customer will do, businesses should first ask the customers what they want or need; what they plan to do; and why. In other words, find out what customers are likely to do, not what businesses think that customers should do.
When B2Bs Do Not Test Assumptions about Customers
Business-to-business companies sometimes neglect to do their due diligence until they have spent a great deal of time and money developing unworkable product ideas. Two product tests we worked on for software companies revealed that the product developers did not understand how their prospective customers operated or how difficult it would be for the customers to use the new products.
The first product combined mapping data from multiple sources during disasters. The company eventually learned that technology used during a disaster must be turnkey. Their new product required complicated data manipulation, which took too much time during a disaster. The second software product provided medical information that prospective customers did not want and did not know how to use. And it was unsuitable for use during medical emergencies.
Proceeding with product launches before thoroughly testing the market can result in failed products and high opportunity costs.
*"Saudi Arabia's Women Are Driving, And They Want Muscle Cars", Margherita Stancati, Wall Street Journal, 7/19/18, p. A1.
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