We’ve long been a proponent of the use of primary customer research to guide and inform marketing activity, because it makes so much sense to simply ask your customers or members how they would like to receive communications from you, in what form that communication should be, and what the focus of those communications should be. “Give the people what they want” is something of a mantra around here, and it has been very effective for our clients, driving solid member growth, higher retention rates for non-profits, and smarter customer interaction, higher engagement levels and higher customer loyalty levels for commercial businesses.
Taking that a step further should yield even better results – don’t just ask customers how to market to them, ask them how they want the product or service to look, feel, be delivered and how it should function! Bringing your customer input into the business stream at the product development level can offer stellar results, and not doing it can deliver disastrous consequences.
Imagine pouring your blood, sweat, and tears, not to mention scads of time and money, into developing a product based solely on secondary market research – other products on the market, SWOT analysis, competitive scan, staff intelligence gathering and R&D imagination, then getting all the way to the sales pipeline and discovering that no one really likes or wants the product as it is. Heartbreaking, sure, but also damaging to the brand, the company, the bottom line, and the credibility of the company for potentially years to come.
But, ask some key questions ahead of time, toss in a focus group or two, build some inexpensive prototypes (for products of a certain size and price point) by 3D printing or other inexpensive method, and see how actual users react, how they interact, how they approach using the product, and you can build a fully-viable product, well-suited to it’s intended target market. You get it right the first time, spend less on marketing costs, and can scale up with confidence, knowing that the product has a viable, receptive market.
Yes, we know this doesn’t work for every product or service. We can’t very well have experimental pharmaceuticals out there floating around in a focus group and having the participants dropping like flies because they determined their own dose, and having the astronauts test the rocket on their own prior to building it can be expensive, and a little dangerous. But for many products, and a significant number of service businesses, a little primary research and customer input before the launch will save a huge number of missteps and headaches, and make the launch a bolder, more confident, less anxiety-racked event.
Based on some of the products I’ve seen out in the marketplace recently, the phrase “There’s never time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it over” seems to resonate with inventors and product originators more often than ever, and in the rush to market, many seem to have ignored the mistakes of others in the past regarding assessing the needs, wants and preferences of the marketplace. With broad-spectrum consumer research an inexpensive option due to newly developed technology, there’s no excuse not to do it right the first time, and have nailed down your customer’s needs before the product ever hits the shelves.
Do you agree? Let me know in a comment if you’ve discovered any new products or services you’ve seen where you thought “Who were they thinking would buy this?”