In today’s age of invention, businesses are constantly looking for the next big idea or solution that will have consumers lining up at the register and sharing their praise with their friends and followers. But with this eagerness to hit the jackpot and discover the hottest new trend, there are sometimes missteps – new product developments that miss the mark or worse, are openly criticized across social media channels.
In their quest for innovation, business owners and entrepreneurs can lose sight of the first rule of product development and marketing – products should solve problems. Clearly understanding your consumer’s problem, and solving it, typically leads to a successful launch. Without this knowledge, you’re simply guessing as to whether or not your latest development will be received positively by customers.
The recent installation of ‘smart coolers’ in many retail stores is a good example of this unnecessary adoption of innovation. The clear doors of the refrigerated and freezer coolers are being swapped for iPad-like screens that use sensors and cameras to display what’s inside, along with product information, pricing, coupon offers, and yes, advertising. The latter factor is likely what has drawn these retailers to implement this new technology – they have dollar signs in their eyes when thinking about the advertising budgets coming in from their brand partners. But one has to wonder if they’ve asked their customers if this was something THEY wanted as part of their shopping experience. Recent negative press about this update would indicate that they did not.
Just a quick Google search will provide a list of head-shaking products that make you wonder - what were they thinking? Some of our favorite brand extensions and innovations no one asked for? Cheetos flavored lip balm, Bic’s perfume line, and Colgate’s frozen dinners have us really confused. And while Gadget Garys and Device Debbies loved the Twitter Peek, Google Glass, and Fire Phones, most consumers found these new technologies unnecessary and/or overpriced. And who can forget Crystal Pepsi and New Coke – perfect examples of, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. (*Disclaimer: All of the brands mentioned here are amazing and we love them - so please don’t be mad at us! 😊)
So how do you avoid spending your time and money on developing a product or marketing strategy that no one wants? Ask yourself these important questions first:
What problem are we trying to solve?
Who has this problem?
Why are we the right ones to try to solve this problem?
How are we going to solve this problem?
What do we want to achieve in solving this problem?
If you can effectively answer these five questions, you’ve identified your idea, target audience, vision, strategy, and goals and have a good foundation for product development. But if you are struggling to get through these questions, you may be wasting time on a non-existent problem or a wrong-fit development for your company or brand. Remember, if the problem doesn’t exist, or your solution doesn’t fit the problem, the product becomes meaningless and people won’t buy it. And while an off-target solution can be fixed or adjusted, a non-existent problem is a dead end to development success.
Another word of advice: Don’t confuse features with products. Oftentimes, developers get really excited about user experience and creating features that are enticing to customers. But features don’t work without the product, and if the product doesn’t solve a problem for consumers, the features, along with the product, will still fall flat. Make sure your designers aren’t first starting with flashy features and backing into the product second.
What’s the easiest way to make sure your new product is a success? ASK YOUR CUSTOMERS FIRST. So many times companies forge ahead with their new inventions that they forget to consider who determines true triumph. At Vennli, our mantra is “Trust your customers, not your gut” for good reason. We’ve helped our partners gather first-hand, voice of the customer insights that have either validated their product development, pricing, and marketing strategies – or exposed weaknesses and problems before it was too late.
So go ahead, ideate and innovate away! Just remember to check in with your customers to corroborate your creations – or you might end up on someone’s list of favorite flops down the road.