The challenge in successful product innovation is to design a playbook, blueprint, or process by which new-product projects can move from the idea stage through affordable smoke products to a successful launch and beyond, quickly and effectively. Before charging into designing this playbook, let’s first understand the secrets to success – what separates successful innovation projects from the failures, the critical success factors that make the difference between winning and losing.
Some are fairly obvious, but before you dismiss them as “too obvious”, recognize that most firms still neglect them. As we probe each success driver, reflect on how you can benefit from each, and how you can translate each into an operational facet of your new-product system or playbook.
1. A unique, superior product is the number one driver of new-product profitability.
Delivering products with unique benefits and real value to users – bold innovations – separates winners from losers more often than any other single factor. Such superior products have five times the success rate, over four times the market share, and four times the profitability of products lacking this ingredient.
The definition of “what is unique and superior” and “what is a benefit” is from the customer’s perspective – so it must be based on an in-depth understanding of different customer needs, wants, problems, likes, and dislikes:
Determine the customer needs at the outset – build in voice-of-customer (VoC) research early in your projects. Wants are usually fairly obvious, and easy for the customer to talk about. But spotting needs, particularly unmet and unarticulated needs, is more of a challenge, but often yields a breakthrough new product.
Do a competitive product analysis. If you can spot the competitors’ product weaknesses, then you’re halfway to beating them. The goal is product superiority and that means superiority over the current or future competitive offering. Never assume the competitor’s current product will be the competitive benchmark by the time you hit the market!
Build in multiple test iterations to test and verify your assumptions about your winning-product design. Test the concept with users – and make sure they indicate a favorable response. That is, even before serious development work begins, start testing the product!
2. Building in the voice of the customer into a market-driven, customer-focused new-product process.
But the great majority of companies miss the mark here, with insufficient VoC and no fact-based customer insights (in more than 75 percent of projects, according to one investigation). A thorough understanding of customers’ or users’ needs and wants, the competitive situation, and the nature of the market is an essential component of new product success.
Research has shown that top performing companies: work closely with customers and users to identify needs/problems, work with lead or innovative users to generate ideas, determine product definition via market research, interface with users throughout development, and seek market input to help design the Launch Plan.