Letting Your Customers Give you Ideas

For many businesses the communication goes FROM the business to the customer. We (the business) are the kings and queens and dispense sage advice, counsel and products to customers that we hope buy from us over and over again.
However, what if you started selling customers things THEY told you they wanted. What if you started selling them accounting solutions customized for needs they TOLD YOU about.
What if when customers walked into your print shop they sat on couches they recommended you buy? A shoe store, soda maker and others are doing this quite successfully.
The New York times writes how many businesses are successfully implementing solutions wherein customers are giving them ideas that are working.
Over the last few years, though, Mr. Fluevog hasn’t just been presenting ideas about shoes and style to customers; he has also been soliciting ideas from them ¬? encouraging brand enthusiasts to submit their own sketches for leather boots, high-heeled dress shoes, even sneakers with flair. He posts the submissions on his company’s Web site (fluevog.com/files_2/os-1.html), invites visitors to vote for their favorites and manufactures and sells the most promising designs. He calls it all “open source footwear.”
“Customers want to express themselves, to be involved with the brand,” Mr. Fluevog said in an interview at the John Fluevog Shoes boutique on Newbury Street in Boston. (His company, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, has shops in nine major cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia.) “For so long, people would hand me a drawing of their personal design for a shoe or ask if I had considered an idea they liked. This program is a natural outgrowth of that desire for connection.”

It might not be easy to solicit customer information over the phone or via comment cards (it is easy if the input is not big) but it’s pretty easy to do using the power of web input. Customers could upload sketches, verbal input (recording via MP3 or wav files) or just vote on a array of options.
The point is listen to customers and get their input. In the end, you’ll find yourself selling them things THEY told you they would buy!