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Voice of the Customer: Trick or Treat for Your Product Launch?

by Tim Riesterer  |  
October 29, 2012

Have you heard of the phenomenon of "declared preference" versus "revealed preference?" If you haven't, you may be in for a scary surprise this Halloween season if you are using voice of the customer (VOC) research to drive the positioning and messaging for your product launch.

I was recently invited to help a company that had suffered the indignity of a failed product launch. The folks there gave me pages upon pages of focus group results and customer interviews to help me get up to speed on its product.

Here's what they had done. First, they had asked decision-makers to review the "elevator pitch" and marketing messaging. They also asked for input on the top features and benefits and how they should be positioned, and they had literally invited customers to tell them how the value propositions should be worded to create the most impact.

Next, these customers were polled on which features should be in the various service levels of the new program, and what price they'd be willing to pay for each of those levels. The information was then used to create all of the marketing campaigns and sales tools, including presentations, for the product launch.


That's not an acronym. It's the sound the VOC research made when I printed it out and dropped it on my desk to review—and the sound the product launch made after the research had gotten into the hands of salespeople and the story was told to customers.

How did that happen? The company had done everything by the book. It had gone to great lengths to wrap its efforts in market research and VOC data points.

Well, a crazy thing happened on the way to customers' actually putting their money where their mouth was. Those customers choked. They stuck with the status quo. They weren't willing to make the change to a new approach. None of the positioning and messaging convinced them to make a change or do anything different.

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Tim Riesterer is chief strategy and marketing officer of Corporate Visions Inc. He is the co-author of Customer Message Management and Conversations that Win The Complex Sale,

LinkedIn: Tim Riesterer

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  • by Samantha Mon Oct 29, 2012 via web

    This is an excellent article! I'd really like to walk through an example though to be able to grasp it better. Can you lay out an example of this process in action?

  • by Jun Tue Oct 30, 2012 via web

    I wished I read this article before we thought the VOC idea was great 2 years ago.

  • by J. Geibel Wed Nov 7, 2012 via web

    What is curious here is that sales was never involved in the discussions.
    Had the approach been to have sales team make at least three prospective sales (call them beta users or whatever), prior to the formal launch, all this would have been revealed.
    Never fails to amaze me that sales is not involved in anything that requires getting the customer to make a commitment that involves parting with their money. Professional sales people can sniff out in a heartbeat the customers who are just 'talking the talk' - it's called qualification.
    That's why I use a technique I call the Sales Autopsy [sm] - diagnostic interviews with customers and sales team - both sides of the buying process. If the client won't let me talk to sales - I know there is a problem.
    If no one has bought it - well - you have no commitment - big warning flag right there.

    If interested -

    Jeffrey Geibel
    Geibel Marketing

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