Is it worth to make a big bet on user opinion? On the one hand, the famous phrase "the customer is always right" certainly has a reasonable base. The client knows what he wants, but whether he realizes what he really needs?
Henry Ford said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would ask more fast horse". We are not sure that Mr. Ford really owns these words. But if he pulled his potential buyers (who used any service for feedback) than "fast horse" would be the most popular answer. Steve jobs kept the similar view on the problem "A customer doesn't really know what he wants until we won't show it to him"
There are many examples of successful products in business history, based not on a "response to customer request" but understanding what the client really needs, often unconsciously. If you rode horses during the whole life, you can’t imagine any driving without a horse at all. Interviewing clients, you need to understand that they think in categories, which are already known to them.
Is it a good idea to let customers and potential buyers define the direction of development of your company?Of course no. If you try to meet the needs of each of them, then be ready for failure.
On the other hand, to see a good idea and decline it because it is not correlated with the original plan is very reckless. So, does the "Golden mean?" exist? Of course, it does, but it is very difficult to find. In fact, if we knew how to find that "perfect balance" between customer needs and the company’s needs, we would be working on a "new approach" of some Big Brand at least $500 per hour.
Try to give the customers what they need (not always what they really want) is a good start, but you need to focus on what actually brings profit. Remember, your most ardent critics can be not your customers. Yes, taking risks and going against the crowd is not easy, but, as Armin Vit says in his article about the new logo of Instagram, "people have very short memories": "It's only a matter of time — about three months till people will start to identify this and recognize as a logo of Instagram".
If you will be able to capture at least a small part of this success, you will be able to understand how it works even if your customers believe that your innovation is not needed.