Launching a new product? Challenge your customers to improve it!

We are almost done – can you arrange the market introduction?

As a marketeer you may experience this: “The product is almost ready, can you arrange a good way to put it on the market?”. There you are – at the end of a project – that has already completed. And the development budget is gone. You would have preferred to participate in the initial phase and do customer research, but hey the product manager takes care of it with the development team. If you are lucky, they have tested with customers. Then you can find a way to work out what needs this new product really responds to. And how to design the communication content for a compelling story.

Seriously, we still run into this every day! Organizations where product development / engineering and marketing – let’s put it nicely – “work in a sequential manner”. In that case you may have to deal with lack of time and people, or management attention to really work as a team from the start. The structure or culture does not enable collaborative design it by itself and asks for initiative from you to smooth things out.

Customer at the very heart of your business

The practice is stubborn and change does not happen by itself. What will definitely help is if it is internally agreed that the customer is central to everything the company stands for. So use this joint starting point to look for cooperation.

Make clear to your boss and colleagues why you as a marketer do not just want to be involved in market research and product planning. But that you have a meaningful contribution during concept development and prototyping. This task is to ensure that you analyse the customer needs, and validate and increase the customer value of the new product with prototyping. Everything you get from customer feedback is immediately usable for fine-tuning your marketing communication and the packaging of the new product.

and now, back to the drawing board?

Goodness No. Imagine you have not been able to do all this, but you are now being asked to put the product on the market? In that case, you can still optimise your marketing results. How? By interviewing the customers who participated in the pilot, or else by giving your most important customers a pre-introduction (clinic or trial) asking for their opinion.

We do this more often for our clients and can quickly give you feedback that you can use to set up your marketing campaign and sales training.

How your customers will help you

If you follow the principles of Design Thinking from now on, you will see and experience that it works. The principle is to focus on customer needs throughout the product development process. As a result, you know whether your product meets a need, what it should be able to do and whether it will catch on the market. So you have less development risk and are more likely to have a good and successful market introduction.

Design Thinking is based on 5 steps that we have summarised into: Immersion, Ideation, Prototyping, Learning Launch and Transition. In each step you can, if desired, use techniques that are used in Design Thinking. In this article by Liedtka and Ogilvie you can read more about the different techniques. It is your choice which one you use, and we are happy to help you.

1. immersion (What Is)

During the planning phase, use the journey mapping (customer interviews) and see what suppliers can contribute to innovation if you purchase components or services from them (value chain analysis). You can record the research results both in writing and visually. We call this the Design Criteria for your new product or service.

2. ideation (What If?)

From the design criteria you start the concept development with the team. Pay particular attention to also describing all the assumptions that you have with the product idea. You will validate these assumptions. Both by challenging each other to improve the ideas, but also by validating these assumptions at customers. Once you have determined your choice for the new product concept, consider Rapid Prototyping.

3. Prototyping (What Wows?)

By briefly and concisely describing the product and visualizing it, you will improve the design in steps. In this phase you can use a select group of customers that you ask for feedback to improve your prototypes. Tip: make sure the design is not 100%, you want people to spontaneously help to finish the design. When you have done this verification, you have more certainty about the practical and economic value of the product for the customer, and which features it should have to be successful.

4. Learning Launch (What Works?)

Now the designers and technicians can get started to build the product and prepare it for a trial with a few customers. From this pilot (Learning Launch) you gather user experiences and quotes from the users about what they think. Use this concrete information to finalize your marketing communication and roll-out plan.

5. Transition

If all goes well, you now have sufficient ammunition to do a thorough market introduction, and to train and inform the sales team and the service organization.