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Seven Questions Product Innovators Must Ask
(Marketing Memo April 2010)

When you have an idea for a truly innovative product or service, how do you gauge market acceptance of the new offering? Prospective customers may say they would purchase the new offering, but this is an indication of interest, not a guarantee of purchase. Here are some questions to ask to find out if customers will be receptive to your product or service:

  1. Does the new product or service solve real problems? MedCorp spent two years and a small fortune developing a cardiac monitor that measured ejection fraction even though medical professionals did not know how to use this data. When you know how your target market operates, you are more likely to provide them with real solutions to real problems.
  2. Who has these problems? The apparent target market may not be your real target market. Starbucks has introduced Via, a high-end brand of instant coffee. Time will tell if Starbucks' customers will pay a premium for instant coffee, or if the coffee is better-suited for high end grocery stores.
  3. Is your solution practical? Axel Aviation developed software that blended geographic data from different sources for emergency management personnel to use at disaster sites. Following an earthquake in Haiti or Chili, emergency personnel need finished maps, not GIS software that requires manipulation.
  4. Does the product or service fit into customers' workflow? It is much easier to gain acceptance for your offering if it requires minimal changes to workflow. How do your potential customers operate? The mapping software described above disrupts, not simplifies, users' work. Aid workers want to help victims, not manipulate mapping software.
  5. What objections do users have, and how can you overcome them? You may think that your new offering creates efficiencies; however, many customers fear that adoption of certain labor saving products will give them more work or cause them to lose their jobs. To address these objections, you must first identify the objections.
  6. Besides novelty, what value do you offer? You must offer considerable value to make up for the time and money needed to alter processes or switch products or services. By offering quicker refunds, the IRS convinced many citizens to file their tax forms electronically.
  7. What can you learn from the experiences of related companies? An industrial products company wanted to be the first in its industry to offer online support to its customers. To capture best practices, we studied IT industry leaders that had pioneered online services. We recommended to our client that they adapt some of these practices for their own customers.

If you are introducing a novel product or service, we can help you test the market and find answers to questions, such as the previous seven questions.

Copyright 2011 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.

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