Introducing the Bell Curve
When mass production rules, everything else has to be done in a mass–mass marketing, and mass media come to mind. In the mass production era, the best and probably the easiest way to success is to find the one right product and price to target the average customers or consumers.
That’s why most businesses assume that the “bell curve” or normal distribution is the way to go. You need to target as big a number of consumers as you can to sell your one best product at the one best price. If you chart the customer distribution compared to price, you get a bell curve that looks quite like the one below:
Flipping the Bell Curve
Problem is that the bell curve is losing touch with the reality. Take cell phones or mobile devices for instance. You can now get a phone for free with subscription to a mobile carrier’s services. If you choose to do so, you can also get a premium phone that will cost you more than 500 bucks in some cases. What’s wrong with this picture? It ain’t no bell curve any more.
Now you need a different persepctive altogether! You need to flip the bell curve to meet a new curve: the Warshaw curve (dubbed after Doug Warshaw, TV producer and founder of a video-sharing site, motionbox.com).
Years before I caught a glimpse of this transition–flipped bell curve–but didn’t know what to call it. Then, in recent months, I googled a term called “inverse bell curve,” and voila! There it is–the Warshaw curve. It’s good to know that you’re not alone to come up with a new perspective.
Living Warshaw Curve
In the age of affluence, or the Long Tail marketplace a la Chris Anderson, you can get exactly what you want when you want it. Forget customer loyalty programs! You gain loyalty only when you deliver the value your customer expects to get from her interaction with you. That’s why you’ve got to have a keen interest in user experience.
In the Warshaw curve era, the consumer distribution looks more like two hills and a valley in between. This means that there’ll be (a) land of free; (b) valley of mediocre; and (c) highland of premium. My advice? Don’t stand in the middle–you’re highly likely to be a roadkill!
Free-mediocre-premium. Depending on where you choose to do your business, you need to apply different business models for each land. Free land requires that you offer free product as a platform to sell your services or other disposable products to. Examples include: free mobile handsets and mobile phone calls; cheap printers and disposable cartriges; and razors and disposable blades, a la King Gillette.
In the Premium highland, you need to cater to your customer’s demands, fulfill their desires, and complete their experience. Take iPod-iTunes-Starbucks trio, for instance. All that matters is comprehensive user experience. You buy an iPod to enjoy music (and sometimes video). You want to get any songs you like the moment you hear it at Starbucks.
Entering the Land of And
In a nutshell, my recommendation to you today is this: “Connect the dots!” We’re living in an “all-for-one” world, leaving behind the “one-for-all” world in the process. There’s no one best product or one right price, or one big chunk of profitable customer segment. Focus on users, customers, or people–whatever you call it. You need to connect whatever you and your network partners have to deliver to your customer.
As Warren Buffet once said, “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”
Deliver value to your users, customers, people–be they from Free Land or Premium Highland. In the Land of And where everything gets more valuable when connected, you can deliver more comprehensive value only when you connect to others.
P.S. You can download a PDF copy of this article here. Thanks.