Product Decisions – Is Your Back Facing the Window?

by: Dave Randall

Are you considering the development or launch of a new product or service?  Before you jump head first into this significant undertaking, here are a couple of basic (but not always easy to answer!) questions for you:

  1. Are you sure that your idea will address a genuine market need?
  2. Do you really understand your target market’s requirements?

Amazingly, many organizations invest heavily in building cool new product ideas without ever properly validating them against real world market demand.  I don’t want to squelch innovation or dampen enthusiasm, but product and service organizations need to be looking out into the market and validating that their products and services will address a customer need, solve real world problems and be valuable enough to be worth purchasing.  The challenge is to know where to look to find the information to prove the value of the offerings and validate that they solve a market need.

Over the years, I have worked with a lot of companies developing and commercializing new products and services.  I’ve learned that there are often valuable bits of market intelligence that go unnoticed “shining in” through various company windows into the market.  Product ideas that start internally can be validated quickly against these pieces of information.  Such first-pass insight can save a lot of time and money by helping to guide the creation of the right product and steering you away from the wrong ones.

There are many useful sources of insight within the daily course of business that can inform product development and launch decisions including:  customer feedback, sales trends, commentary in industry forums (including analyst reports) and competitive intelligence.  For example, taking the time to understand the competition, their value proposition and their market positioning can prevent a new idea from getting washed away in a storm of high quality competitive products and services.  Depending on the scale of the product decision, you might even assign a product manager or hire a consultant to consolidate these internal sources with more comprehensive market research.

For both startups and well-established companies, a small investment in understanding critical market drivers, identifying key requirements and selecting well-defined target markets for products or services is essential to business success.  So, if you’re making new product decisions based only on internal perspectives, with your back to the market window, turn around and open the curtains to let the light of market information shine in on your project.  Otherwise, that market window might just slam shut and it will be curtains for your product before it really gets to see the light of day!

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