I was reading the article about Howard Shultz and Starbucks in the August 17th issue of Business Week (ok, I’m a little behind in my reading), and found two ideas that he shares with his team that I have been talking about for more than 15 years and are discussed in my book, It’s Not Rocket Science: Using Marketing to Build a Sustainable Business (updated again last year).
Howard apparently is not a big fan of traditional market research. He believes, as do I, that you can learn most of what you need to know by just talking with your customers yourself. In fact, I believe that too much reliance on market research misleads many companies. Not to suggest that all research is bad, just a total reliance on it, rather than face-to-face with customers. Howard visits 25 stores each week. I have been encouraging CEOs to spend more time with customers to understand how they think. Howard apparently agrees.
An exercise I also discuss in my book that I have used with clients is this: If you were to create a new business to compete with your existing business, what would it look like? Starbucks is opening some new concept stores in Seattle this year. The first is called 1th Ave. Coffee and Tea. The store concept came about from this question that Howard asked a select group of employees: If you were going to open a store to compete with Starbucks, how would you do it?
Smart guy that Howard, and I have said that before I knew he agreed with me, because I agree with him … a lot.