Growing a business relies on keeping customers, which in turn relies on making sure products meet customer needs.

Last week saw Eastman Kodak, the company that invented the hand-held camera, file for bankruptcy protection.  Kodak’s name has been synonymous with photography since its foundation in the 19th century.  At one stage, the company sold 90% of the photographic film in the US along with 85% of the cameras.  It appears that Kodak failed because it did not respond to the changing needs of its consumers, particularly with the rapid move from film to digital photography in recent years.  (BBC, 19th January 2012)

Portakabin, the UK manufacturer of factory-produced modular buildings, has seen steady growth in sales and customer satisfaction.  This is due to its focus on identifying and responding to the features and benefits that customers want and need from its buildings.  Its range of new products called Essential Business Solutions (EBS) provides elements of added value for customers.

Through market research Portakabin found out that its customers wanted more than a building simple structure.  Therefore EBS adds value by incorporating elements ranging from data cabling and internal climate control to security systems and interior furnishings.

The Kodak company had a long history of invention – it pioneered roll film in 1886, followed this with the first Kodak cameras and developed the first mass-produced colour roll film.  In 1975 Kodak claims to have invented the world’s first digital camera – although it had a resolution of 0.1 megapixels and the camera was the size of a toaster!

However, Kodak’s heavy reliance on film photography and cameras allowed rivals like Canon and Sony to rush into the fast-emerging digital arena.  Former Kodak vice president Don Strickland said: ‘We developed the world’s first consumer digital camera but we could not get approval to launch or sell it because of fear of the effects on the film market – a huge opportunity missed.’

The recent bankruptcy filing gives Kodak time to reorganise itself without facing its creditors and ensure business as normal for customers.  The company has recently moved away from cameras to focus on making printers, in order to try to stem its losses.

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