In order to have a successful product you have to have a market. But so often, teams forget the one key to product launch success – defining your product market fit with primary market research. In our experience, it’s undeniable: Primary market research is the key to product success, especially now, with more data at our fingertips than ever before.
We explain this to clients every day. And occasionally, we get some push back – clients insisting that they understand the market even better than the market understands itself. Or, that great innovations – think Steve Jobs and the iPhone – are the product of instinct, not research.
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And it’s true, Steve Jobs once said, “I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”
But it’s also the case that not all research is created equally, and blue-sky ideation is correlated with success far less frequently than creating products in direct response to identified opportunities, at least according to Deloitte’s Innovation Study 2021.
At Mod Op Strategic Consulting, we don’t dismiss the power of intuition – of great leaders developing breakthrough products that customers didn’t even know to ask for. But we argue that even in those cases of gut instinct driving product development, you still need to do the work to ensure you aren’t chasing a set of customers that will never materialize.
With that in mind, we’ve gathered three key pitfalls that could spell disaster, or worse yet, wasted time and resources…and how a firm like ours can help you avoid them.
One customer is not your target market
It’s natural to get excited about your next great idea. But just because a product is perfect for one customer, doesn’t mean that will translate to the wider market.
And it can be dangerous (and expensive) to assume that one data point equates to a universal need for a product.
We’ve seen clients get so far as to begin building out their new product offering, only to discover key differences between the original customer and the rest of the market. Differences that seriously limit the product’s broader appeal.
In other cases, we’ve seen clients discover that what they thought was a standalone, out-of-the-box product would actually require so much customization for each buyer that it would more accurately be considered a custom service.
All of which is to say, we always encourage approaching more than one customer – or, better yet, approaching prospects not yet associated with your brand.
By widening the scope, you can determine if there’s a real gap in the market, or just an idiosyncratic need for one customer that’s not worth the energy for you to address.
And this is where a third-party (like our team) can often add the highest value: we have access to prospects that you may not. And we have the ability to get honest feedback from customers who may be biased in their conversations with you, telling you what they think you want to hear.
It’s never too early to test
It’s not a knock against your intuition to back up your gut instinct with data. And it’s certainly not necessary to wait until you have a fully developed product to go out and test it.
We encourage clients to get a concept or a prototype into the market as quickly as possible – testing to see if customers really like it, and what they have to say about it.
Often, brands get hung up on at least developing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). But there are lots of ways to get early feedback, and we’ve found real success simply using:
Additionally, we start asking the right questions early:
- How important a product like this might be to a customer
- How useful it would be and to what teams
- What their budgets might look like in the coming year
All of which helps us to gain a better understanding of not just the market that’s out there, but the price point that makes the most sense for that market.
We did work recently for a financial service client who was convinced they had a winning new product concept. That is until we went to 100 prospective customers with the idea. To put it simply, their feedback was not what the client had expected, and it led to a significant shift in the focus, resulting in a product that was much more in line with the market need than the original plan had been.
And that right there, is the magic of early testing.
Market research isn’t just a one-time activity
It’s tempting to drop a dipstick in the market, see what customers say, and then go back to your silo and continue developing your product on your own.
But that’s a flawed way of looking at market research.
It’s far better to see market research as an ongoing feedback loop, a constant conversation with customers and prospects, helping you iterate and adjust as needs change and the market moves.
At Mod Op Strategic Consulting, we talk about driving continuous product improvement, through ongoing analysis – discovering how to unlock new market opportunities and best serve your existing customers and gain new ones.
In the end, the most successful products reflect customer needs and demands. Developing a thorough primary market research process means you won’t end up chasing a market that isn’t really there.
Ready to see how Mod Op Strategic Consulting can help? Schedule a call today!
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Len Gilbert, COO
Len has over 25 years of industry experience and is passionate about helping clients understand their digital potential, especially focusing on digital strategy and digital growth. At Mod Op Strategic Consulting, Len is responsible for building out the company’s digital transformation and advisory services and scaling the company’s external business and internal capabilities.
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