Which comes first – the target or the product?

Should you come up with your new technology, product or service first and then retrofit it to a target? Or vice versa? Like the chicken and the egg, that is the question. So what’s the answer?

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While the answer may seem fuzzy (sorry – baby chick pun), this much we know for sure:
• All too often, organizations and entrepreneurs come up with something…a seed…a concept…a technology…a business…whatever. It seems cool, so they launch it and then try to find an audience for it, banking on the notion that the proper customer set will emerge. But way too often this doesn’t fly (come to think of it, chickens aren’t real good flyers either).
• And then there’s targets themselves. Each target flock (okay, enough with the bird references) has different needs, different problems, talks in different lingo, has a different set of urgency, different emotional needs and a different time frame. Not to mention a different amount of money they’re willing to spend.

So, here’s an idea to incubate: given the above, the smart play is to pick and understand your target first and then create your product SPECIFICALLY FOR THOSE PEOPLE. Catering to exact needs, speaking in just the right language, etc. will create more spark, resonate more strongly and ultimately increase your odds of success.

About the author: Eric Greene is a principal at Elevation (it’s different up here). Elevation is an innovation firm that specializes in A-Z new product/service/growth strategy development (including guerrilla research, opportunity I.D., brainstorming, concept development, industrial design, prototyping and engineering). To learn more, go to: http://elevationid.com/

 

Want better research? Get your hands dirty.

Want more out of your research? Get your hands dirty.  Go guerrilla.  Go to where your customers and prospects are are.  Hang out where your target does real things in real-time under real conditions.  This is where you can have casual, comfortable, genuine conversations.  This is where you can walk in the shoes.  This is where your consumers are their absolute selves and act accordingly.  And where you can make observations and gather subtle insights that consumers would never even think to articulate, let alone be comfortable enough to mention in a more sterile or artificial research setting.

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By way of example, on a client assignment awhile back, we spent a couple of weeks with dog owners.  We hung out in dog parks, backyards and trails.  We tried products and lived life alongside people and their pets.  We learned a TON by experiencing what consumers experience…and by simply chatting people up.  We also learned by observing subtleties and taking note of the occasional frustrated look on a dog owner’s face…a cringe…a change in body language – things that people never think to say, even when you ask, but that are real.

The result: deeper insights that drove several new product innovations, with incremental national shelf space to match (and competitors who never saw any of it coming).  This can, and has worked with a variety of products, services, technology and start ups in all kinds of settings.  Just show up. Get your hands dirty.  And see what happens.

About the authors: Eric Greene & Keith Poulson are principals at Elevation (it’s different up here).  We are an innovation firm that specializes in A-Z new product/service/growth strategy development (including guerrilla research, opportunity I.D., brainstorming, concept development, industrial design, prototyping and engineering).  To learn more, go to: http://elevationid.com/

Focus groups pretty much suck

The notion that focus groups pretty much suck has crossed your mind.  Only now someone is saying it out loud.  Having spent over two decades in the innovation (new product, new service), marketing, growth strategy, entrepreneurial and industrial design spaces and having sat through countless, mind-numbing focus groups, I’ve learned the hard way.

Here are reasons why the traditional focus group may just be the LAST PLACE ON EARTH to gain game-changing insights into your consumers and their needs:

  • ImageTraditional focus group rooms have are dull, artificial, sterile and have two way glass.  The real world (outside of XXX shops and select Las Vegas venues), doesn’t have two way glass or any of the other features just mentioned.
  • Most groups will have a Bossy-Pants, gotta talk early and often, know it all who sets the tone for the rest of the group.  Regardless of what others think, many respond in agreement with said bossy-pants just to fit in.  Worse yet, others then just shut down altogether.  This toxic stew gains you close to zero in terms of real world, usable insight.
  • People don’t make purchases or decisions in a group that sits around a conference room table.  They think and act alone under real conditions in real settings.
  • It doesn’t help whatsoever that most people have a really hard time telling you exactly what they want in the first place.  If they could, innovation, “the cool factor” and new product/service development wouldn’t be such a damn riddle.  The unnatural, uncomfortable focus group setting only exacerbates this problem.

In summary, if you want to be bored silly, get fat eating too many backroom M & M’s, burn your budget and LEARN LESS THAN YOU SHOULD ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMERS, by all means continue to rely solely on traditional focus groups.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to be bored silly, get fat or blow money, add in some guerrilla to your research.  Nothing will help you see the challenges, feel the frustrations, gain insights and uncover opportunities faster than spending time with your customers/prospects in natural settings where they actually use products and services, experience brands and live life in real time.

More on this next time.

About the authors: Eric Greene & Keith Poulson are principals at Elevation (it’s different up here).  We are an innovation firm that specializes in A-Z new product/service/growth strategy development (guerrilla research, opportunity I.D., brainstorming, concept development, industrial design, prototyping, engineering).  To learn more, go to: http://elevationid.com/

Lessons from a lone goose

You know how geese tend to run (and fly and gather and poop) in flocks? Well there’s one goose in the field along the road by my house that does things differently.  While the other geese have been hanging out nearby in groups of 10, 20, 30 or more, “Gandolph Goose” (as I’ve named him) just wants to stand alone.  And in doing so, Gandolph the lone goose has taught me some unexpected lessons about innovation and marketing.

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Gandolph has been hanging out solo in the field for a couple of weeks now.  Rest assured, he’s healthy, no hurt.  He can fully fly, function and take care of himself.  Yet still he chooses to stand apart from the nearby flock.  And in doing so, the damnedest thing has happened.  I notice him.  Everyone notices him.  People stop in their cars to notice him.  They snap off pictures.  Somebody fed him bread crumbs.  I saw someone else roll down a window to say hi.  There was a little kid who tried to chase him.  even other geese from further down the field stop by to visit. Gandolph lets them hang out for a few minutes, but then moves several yards away to be solo again.

The punch line here? The mere act of separating from the flock…and staying separate…has resulted in our lone goose GETTING NOTICED AND GAINING OUTSIZED ATTENTION while nobody looks twice at the geese in the larger flocks. Doesn’t this same insight apply to your products, services, strategy, marketing, sales efforts, communications, website, user interface, app, promotions, whatever? The mere act of standing apart and staying apart makes you much harder to ignore. And what’s good for the goose is good for your business.

 

 

 

 

Sniffed some Play Doh (smells like innovation)

Sniffed some Play-Doh the other day. You should really go out and do this right away.  Why? The effect is an instant, unmistakable, highly positive association with childhood.  The experience is delightful and conjures up all kinds of great memories.  It also conjures up important insights about differentiation, innovation and competitive advantage.

Play-DohOne of the brilliant things about Play-Doh is the built-in delight.  That powerfully distinct “smell of childhood and fun” you get when you open the can.  This powerful instant queue thrills customers in ways that stand it FAR APART from similar competitors. Think about it.  There are scores of similar products.  But there is only one Play-Doh.  They dominate without much marketing.  Savvy marketers, new product/service developers, designers, retailers, restauranteurs,  web and software developers often take the same approach.  By building in powerful touches…from any of comfortably familiar, cool, fun, emotional or in other ways delightful…you cement differentiation and customer loyalty that features and functions by themselves just can’t match.

Obviously, not everything we need to know about differentiation and competitive advantage is learned from kindergarten.  But this much is certain: put someone in charge of developing and integrating queues and touches that bring the cool, fun or delight – and your differentiation and competitive advantage will be elevated.

8 things Sochi teaches us about innovation and marketing

So what do the Sochi Olympics teach us?

1. If you build it poorly, your customers will do anything to break free of you.  And  then they will complain.  Loudly.  On social media.

12. Beware of scope creep.  The larger and more elaborate the plan, the bigger the over-runs (and the more hands that come out grabbing for money)

3. Don’t make things so complicated that you forget the simple, important stuff
2 4. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver.  For example, don’t promise “an Olympic experience that exceeds China” and then fail to provide clean running water or enough pillows.

5. Bureaucracy, committees and too many meetings are killers of productivity.  If you want to get more done, involve less people.

6. Create positive advanced buzz (and a lot of it).  In the absence of such positive buzz, negative buzz takes over, infests everything and grows out of control.  Next thing you know, everyone is paranoid and nobody wants to visit, pay or watch.

7. Big egos tend to get exposed in ways that turn off your prospective audience

38. The product can speak volumes for itself…if you avoid the above and simply let it shine.

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Here’s To The Crazy Ones

Way back in the stone age days of 1997, Apple Computer came out with a kick ass ad campaign during the launch of the Macintosh. This “Think Differently” campaign rang true then, and it’s still equally powerful today.  Here’s how it went:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

think differentSo while everyone else is telling you why not, nay-saying, resisting, saying “we can’t” or “we won’t” or just being a general all around pain in the you-know-what, just keep telling yourself:STAY CRAZY That is, if you really want to make a difference.