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Identifying the client

Although this may sound like a very simple question, a question that is so obvious that it should not be addressed, this is perhaps one of the most profound questions that any innovator has to deal with. Behind the word client they are many kinds of players: the end user, the payer, the consumer and a business partner. This is enough to be very confusing to many innovators.


Our first insight on the question : “Who’s my client?”

What comes first to our mind, when we think of who our client might be, is the person that will be using our product or service. Very often, we forget to address, as incredible as this may seem, the question of who will be paying for the product we’re developing. Many innovators are so in love with their solution and so dedicated to helping the end user in his daily tasks that they forget to address the question as to who will be paying for their product.


Identifying the client means looking for who’s ready to pay for the innovation

Identifying the client - The Innovation and Strategy Blog
Identifying the client – The Innovation and Strategy Blog

This is compounded by an investment culture—very present in the Silicon Valley—where venture capital leaders advise their entrepreneurs to focus on improving the user experience, above all. I remember distinctly, when I was visiting startups in the Valley, a number of entrepreneurs presenting their solution. I thought it was really great so I wondered what their business model and pricing strategy were. But they told me that they didn’t have a pricing model and didn’t have a business model. Their investors really wanted them to focus on getting the user experience right first. And they had been working at it for at least two years. Two years of about 15 people working on a daily basis to improve the user experience, full-time. This is an expression of a key insight predominant in the Valley. What matters, above all, is the end user and the “user experience”.


Clients and users can be different people: the example of Facebook and Google

In addition, they are huge digital players, such as Facebook and Google, that have based their entire business model on this critical distinction. The user is the one that is searching for information on Google’s search engine; the payers are the businesses that pay for ads on the sidebar of the search engine.

On Facebook, the user is the person that has a Facebook profile and is uploading pictures and life experiences; the payers are the businesses that put up ads on the user’s feed. The same distinction between the user and the payer also applies to twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and many others.

Clients can take on many forms: internal clients, business clients,

In large corporations, corporate innovators are also struggling with the question of who your client might be. And here, finding the answer the question is even more difficult, in many cases.

  • The client might be an internal client like the CEO. He/she may need to be convinced that investing in innovation is the right thing to do in terms of capital deployment and return on investment.
  • The client might be the end user, that is inside the company and that is working in some operational activity. In this case, the corporate innovator will be trying to increase the company’s productivity and decrease its costs, all along the value chain.
  • Corporate innovation might focus on a business partner such as a supplier or a distribution partner.
  • Finally, in some other cases, the corporate innovator may focus his attention on bringing value to the end client.

In any case, it’s always extremely important to understand who’s paying. You can’t use the innovation matrix without knowing who your client is.

The simple answer to : who’s my client? The person willing to pay for your innovation.


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  • Very nice point Guillaume !
    My experience in Purchasing underlined the importance of taking care not only of the ‘user’ but also the ‘purchaser’ (experienced salesmen know they have to feed his negotiating skills and cost reduction KPIs 😉

    Blue Ocean supporters would also mention ‘non-clients/users” ?

    And there are many other people to take care of !
    A successful innovation should answer the needs and requirements of all stakeholder across the product/service life cycle : distributors, transformers (in B2B especially), maintenance & repair, suppliers and their workforce, environment and their supporters …

    Luckily, Value(s) methods help checking all these stakeholders, and -this is probably the most critical part- help them shift from asking for a solution (which cannot be innovative) to expressing their real needs !