This article is a follow-on to what I discussed last month in Developing Product Concepts. In it, I presented ideas about new product development and focused on the product itself. This month I will present some ideas about how best to include the customer in the process of developing new products.
The current customer base offers the best chance for a rapid return on the investment in the product. The buying habits, delivery preferences and cost models of these customers must be addressed when developing the new product and program.
Buying habits are composed of what your customers buy, when, how they buy it, and how much they will pay for it. The goal is to match your program to the customers’ habits and patterns as closely as possible. By matching your program to their business needs and patterns, you make it easier for the customer to spend their money on your products.
Helping Your Customer Succeed
If you wish to strengthen the connection with your customers, then create a product or program that helps them make money, not just save money for them (or you). The new program could address the following:
– assisting them to grow their market share
– growing your market share in an underperforming region by better engaging current
– provide nationwide coverage to support national customers
Periodically, ask your customers what changes they see in their marketplace and what would they like to have in place to take advantages of these changes. Evaluate their ideas for validity and profitability and then provide it to them if your research proves it worthy.
This is a challenging and somewhat risky strategy because it puts you at the front of the market, and therefore a leader. This position makes you the defacto innovation leader, and as all sled dog teams know, the view from the front is much better than from the middle of the pack.