Did the people really want ‘a faster horse’?

If Henry Ford had bothered to ask the people what they really wanted, they almost certainly would NOT have asked for ‘a faster horse’… contrary to his famous quote!

To suggest that his prime audience were so shortsighted is just plain ridiculous and greatly deludes many business owners into believing that market research is a waste of time because Henry Ford gave them permission to overlook the importance!

If Henry Ford had indeed bothered to ask the people what they wanted, they would surely have said ‘enough money to buy a motor car’. The motor car had been invented don’t forget (and was quite common place at the time), but simply wasn’t an affordable option for the common man. This was the insight that Henry Ford capitalised upon.

Henry Ford listened to what the market place demanded, recognised he had the resources to create an affordable supply to meet demand, and correctly spotted that he could steal a march on his competitors in the process. That’s why he’s a genius. Because he did listen to what the people wanted and utilised the opportunity to his advantage.

So what can you really learn from Henry Ford?

  • Taking the time to tune in and listen to what customers really want can be the difference between striving and thriving in a competitive market place.
  • If you take market and customer feedback on face value you won’t necessarily get a direct and simple answer or insight. However, whether the people had asked for a ‘faster horse’ or ‘enough money to buy a motor car’, the evidence and the need was still the same. They wanted something they couldn’t conceive was possible given the current available options.  This evidence presented a market opportunity for someone to exploit – which is exactly where Henry Ford stepped in!
  • Exploring key market insights needn’t cost the earth to uncover. Henry Ford for example, didn’t need to spend millions asking the people what they wanted, it was in plain view for all to see. Henry Ford just needed to pay attention where others simply ignored the evidence and/or couldn’t conceive of a way to make it possible.
  • It’s healthy to stop, question and challenge status quo and preconceptions. It’s healthy to question what the competition are doing and what you could possibly do better. It’s healthy to ask yourself whether you really understand the inherent needs of your marketplace?

Henry Ford was a genius because he correctly understood what the people were indirectly asking for and made it possible. He pioneered the mass production of a cheaper motor car.

But if there wasn’t a need and he hadn’t paid attention to public demand, the Model T Ford would not have been a success.

And that’s my point. Too many businesses overlook the importance of market insights and boldly, and blindly strive on without questioning the validity of the market need or the available opportunity. There is no point pioneering the mass production of the motor car if your mass market are quite happy to settle for a slower horse!

So don’t liken yourself to Henry Ford lightly without first considering whether you truly are in tune with the needs of greater public opinion, and secondly whether you do truly possess the resources to satisfy this need better than anyone else. Otherwise your simply deluding yourself and potentially heading for a very costly waste of your time!