Over and again, I have found that fledgling innovators or entrepreneurs start with the product idea first and link their strategies to it. Campaigns flounder because they start from their vantage point rather than that of their clients. In the end, these individuals may end up pleasing just themselves – or not even themselves because they end up at a loss.
Here’s a far better way to innovate and launch new product development:
Start off by having no idea whatsoever. Watch social media conversations that are relevant to your industry to find pain points and a desire for solutions that don’t exist.
The social media platforms that best fit your need, generally, include Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and blogs. Google+ is slipping, but may still give you something.
In countries outside the U.S, sites such as Bebo, Habbo, Hi5, Zorpia, or Orkut may help you.
Here’s how I used this approach to write a book proposal.
It is well-known that the most popular, bestselling category is self-help. Yet, self-help also has a reputation for not working. I specified my field of inquiry in order to limit it: self-help in terms of self-development; not spiritualism nor money nor health nor aspects like Zen (etc.). To maximize time, I listed the 12 most popular blogs and groups on Facebook and Twitter and spent two days reading comments of the past two-three months. I came up with an unsolved pain point which had a significant following and twisted an idea around that.
Traditional market research
Now’s the time to proceed with polls, focus groups, telephone interviews, A/B testing and other traditional research strategies. There’s a way you can do this, while protecting the discovery of your pain point and your hunches.
The so-called “Mother of Invention”, Patricia Nolan-Brown, who has sold millions of products, holds multiple patents, and has her products featured regularly in national newscasts and magazines, protects her hunches by formatting her survey questions around existent product pain points rather than her idea. So, for instance, she tested her idea of an innovative car seat mirror by asking mothers what bothered them about their baby seats and their wish for a fantasy baby seat, rather than divulging her idea and asking what they thought of it. This helped her not only confirm the validity of the need, but also gave her other perspectives.
For all you know, one or more of your competitors may have already hit on your idea, or seen the gap and proposed some viable solution. Check their website and PR to make sure you’re the “king of the castle” and not colliding with someone else. It’s ok if someone else has picked up the same need; you may be offering a different solution – one that may even be more effective. The important thing is to make sure your product solution is unique.
Marketing consultant, Michael J. Hunter mentions an important point. Checking competitors pays off in other ways, too. Your competitors may have unsuccessfully tried to launch product ideas that resemble yours. Learning from their mistakes helps you not only improve your own idea but gives you feedback on which marketing strategies to avoid and which to pursue.
Why not the traditional way?
Most marketers, entrepreneurs, or innovators flip this funnel. They come out with the product idea; then, adopt traditional marketing strategies such as polls or focus groups, to supplement their research. Unfortunately, science shows that this brings skewed results for many reasons that include the fact that you’re approaching your sample with a bias – you want to prove your ideas and are less open to disagreement. Respondents are, also, more likely to tell you what you want to hear, and they respond differently based on social contexts, the way they read the questions, their disinterest, or their mood. A far better way is to start with social listening instead.
“Marketing is what you do when your product is no good,” says Edwin Land, American scientist and inventor. Unfortunately, most people begin new product development with an already existent idea that they then proceed to market. That doesn’t always work. A far better strategy is to catch pain points and missing solutions and develop a product idea that fills that gap better than any existent solution does. Then, you market accordingly.
The 3 steps in short
- Listen to relevant social conversation for pain points and nonexistent solutions.
- Conduct your traditional research strategies such as A/B testing, polls, focus groups,and so forth
- Check your competition to make sure your idea is unique and to analyze their failures.