Joseph von Fraunhofer lived a short, difficult life, but that did not stop him from becoming one of the world’s most talented makers of optical glass and an expert on the dispersion of light. According to Wikipedia, he was orphaned at age 11. Fraunhofer then went to work as an apprentice for a glass maker. When the glass maker’s workshop burned down, a German prince who was overseeing the reconstruction of facility, befriended Fraunhofer – providing him access to education about the making of fine glass. Eventually this led him to study glass making at a monestary, where he honed his skills and became the authority of his day on optical glass.
Fraunhofer Diffraction describes why light coming from a distant object is blurred. The human eye has limited ability to see objects in the distance. In order for our eyes to be able to see further, the pupil, or lens, must open wider. However, this opening lets in light from other directions, creating blur. This can be overcome in a few ways. One could simply move closer to a distant object until it was more clearly visible. Another solution might be to use a tool such as a pair of binoculars, with a lens larger than the eye, to more clearly see a distant image.
From a marketing perspective I view this principle as illustrative of the importance of being close to your customers. If you only have a few close customers, it may be easy to understand exactly what they desire from you. Still as the base of customers grows in size, their needs, and your ability to satisfy them may be blurred. This can be compounded as a business may add employees who might not “see” the customers in exactly the same way. Bigger can be better, but not at the expense of proximity to the customer.
Thus, it is critically important to remain close enough to the customer to truly understand what they want from you and how well you are doing at delivering for them. This can be done on a small scale by just asking them. Good old fashioned conversation. “How are we doing?” “What do you think about x, y, or z?” And, just like the human eye, the human capacity for asking and listening can be expaned through tools. In this instance I would suggest a tool like an online community. Create an online space where you can incent your customers to offer their feedback. Let them help you to see what it is that they are looking for. Reward good ideas that help to better focus your business. Incorporate ideas, ask for clarification, fix problems, offer new products and services, and use technology to bring distant customers closer.
In doing so, you will filter out the blur of guessing what the market wants from you. Rather than having to blindly guess about a niche service or spread yourself too thing by trying to be everything to everyone, gain focus from your customers by using technology to more clearly view their future needs.
What do you think? How would you apply Fraunhofer’s teachings to Marketing?