Did you know about your invisible customers? They are not the ones you are talking to right now. These are the real customers. In my previous articles/blog posts I talked briefly about publics in the semi-conductor industry. Publics are people gathered around collective action technological or social. While this definition is modified rip-off from the philosopher Dewey, it is a good platform to have a product design discussion. Here, we use the term public in the context of different groups of individuals the companies design products for.
The EDA industry has assumed the semiconductor industry to be the face of the actual customers (the engineers) and fell into the trap of designing for the wrong public. When the EDA products are designed, market research is done and people in different companies are interacted with. However, the catch is that, only the people with purchasing power are asked about the needs. Typically, the customer research would involve talking to executives and CXOs, and through conference presentations. Very rarely, the real user (engineer, in this case) is asked for his/her opinion. This is a classic case of flawed information on which the product is based. The psychology of a company is to make profit and the sales engineers are evaluated by how many products/licenses they sell. It is only natural that they talk to people who can close the sale; and these people they talk to be typically at the top of the food chain.
In his landmark book “The fortune at the bottom of the pyramid“, C.K Prahalad talks about marketing to the bottom of the pyramid customers. Prahalad argues that the dynamics of the bottom of the pyramid customers are significantly different from those at the top. He highlights several case studies where technology made its way to the bottom of the pyramid customers when it empathized with their day-to-day problems. We can draw parallels from this work. Why not employ such an approach for product design? Wouldn’t amazing products be created if the companies started empathizing with the users, who are apparently invisible because they are the bottom of the food chain with no purchasing power?