New product development doesn't have to be a slow tedious process like in most companies. It should be exciting and vibrant as you search for new ways to develop business opportunities and new strategies to open up the consumer's skeptical heart.
One of the reasons the process takes so long and is fraught with failure is that companies come up with a product they can make and try to sell it to someone. That's backwards. The best way is to find what people want to buy and then make it for them. There are many situations where a company needs to develop new products to keep machinery moving or to rid a company of surplus products. Perhaps you want to develop a flanking brand or enter a new category. These can -- an should be consumer driven, too. One company called me several years ago when they had an inventory of what they called "edible onion material" (the stuff left over when the make onion rings.).
Whatever the reason for your new product hunt, your job is to create something that people want to buy. Here's how to do it. Quickly and efficiently.
The key is to use Concepts in Context.(I thank Bob Stevens, retired Researcher Extraordinaire, for the phrase). A concept in context is an entire product story wrapped up in a total selling package. People usually cannot understand a product idea unless the idea is in the context of an entire selling proposition. The best and most effective ones look like ads, because ads are twentieth century communications. But you can create storyboards, brochures, product mock-ups even faux store layouts to learn what will turn on consumers. The reason behind creating concepts in context embodies the new product development mantra -- paper is cheaper than prototypes -- and failure. These concepts in context spell out your putative message, benefits, imagery and positioning.
But we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves. Before you develop a concept, you need to create a an inventory of hypothetical product ideas and putative product positionings. This is not that hard, even for left brained people. As a marketer -- especially if you're a new products marketer -- you think of ideas all the time. Your mind is always on overdrive. Just allow your mind to relax and keep a note pad with you. You can even set up a brainstorming session with your people.
The strongest ideas -- a judgment call at first -- should be developed into concepts in context. You now have the backbone of your new product development plan in place. Pretty quick, isn't it?
Take these out to a local mall that has a consumer research facility. Have the staff buttonhole consumers and show them the concepts. Never allow respondents to read the concepts -- a great many people are embarrassed over their reading ability and many won't be able to comprehend the message. Instead, read them aloud as you show your concepts. Watch for your respondent's reactions. I'm not going to denigrate your intelligence by furnishing you with questions to ask. Your naturally marketing savvy should take care of that. The main purpose of the mall intercepts is to get red flags about your concepts so you can change them accordingly.
Once you've made your changes, take your ads out to interactive groups (focus groups) in whatever market your selling in. Yes, I know, I often say that focus groups are the most misused research tool in marketing today and I'm not going to take that back. But your goal is going to be different than in most groups. You're not going to ask consumers what they want. You're going to show them what you can make. Your going to make your respondents react to your concepts. Each groups should be a the microcosm of the shopping experience.
After these groups, lick your wounds and modify your concepts. Throw out the bombs. Modify the ones that received lukewarm interest. Add new concepts based entirely on the reactions from he first group.
Then show them to new groups of consumers in a different area of the country (wherever you hope to sell your product).
Revise the inventory.
Show the revised concepts again. If your concepts were good you'll have a winner.
Here's how the whole WORKFLOW process for a typical new product.
FIRST WAVE: BROAD OPPORTUNITY ASSESSMENT
Initial concept development and ideation. One-on-one interviews, two focus groups. OBJECTIVE: Identify broad scale areas that have potential
Week 1: Start-up meeting, business recap, ideation
Week 2 : Creative review.
Week 3: Concepts in context completed.
Week 4: CONSUMER REACTION
One-on-one interviews to eliminate red flags and get a preliminary reading of market and assessment of concepts.
After consumer reaction, refine concepts.
Week 5: Review findings;
Begin refinement of probes in selected opportunity area; delete and add to inventory. Discuss areas to pursue, areas to stay away from.
SECOND WAVE: CREATIVE AND PRODUCT REEVALUATION
OBJECTIVE: Identify broad scale areas that have potential. Expand on areas that have merit. Further define areas of opportunity.
Week 6: Review of new and revised probes.
Week 7: CONSUMER REACTION
Week 8: MID-PROJECT REVIEW
Review all concepts that received negative reaction as well as positive reaction. Work
with R & D to fulfill successful products/concepts.
Week 9: Modify concepts, add to inventory if needed.
THIRD WAVE: ADDITIONAL CREATIVE MODIFICATION, EVALUATION AND REFINEMENT
OBJECTIVE: Continue evolutionary process, identify hot and cold areas. Zero in on strongest concepts.
WEEK 10: CONSUMER REACTION
Optimization of strongest concepts. Consumers can compare tangible aspects of products, packaging and positioning for concept fulfillment.
FOURTH WAVE (FINAL): CONCEPT VERIFICATION
OBJECTIVE: Verify and optimize all products/positionings, names, products, communications impact and key sensory performance characteristics. Fine tune all work to answer any questions concerning products strengths and positioning. the specific consumer hot buttons and target market. Optimize concepts and purchase triggers. Develop broad scale user profiles and define strength of market.
WEEK 12: CONSUMER REACTION
The results? You're ready to execute the strategy and product or place the products and concepts into quantitative tests. You now have products, positioning, key product benefits, consumer purchase stimuli needed, target market definition, key communications.
And five minutes is all this article took you to read.