Monday, February 20, 2012

Real innovators ship products customers can adopt

So here's a big conundrum in the world of new product development and innovation.  Why is it that after careful needs gathering, excellent idea generation and a streamlined but productive product development process that your new product is met with the customer equivalent of a shrugged shoulder?  Why is it that when you've done everything right - spotted trends, walked a mile in the customer's shoes, pursued a jobs to be done strategy, and so forth that too often new products don't seem to jump off the shelves?  I'll stipulate the reason is the difference between evaluating ideas from an internal perspective and assessing a product from a customer's perspective.  What we think is interesting and valuable does not matter.  What matters is if the customer is willing to take the risk to change.  And yes, every change from an existing product or service to a new product has embedded risks.

There are three risks in particular that we must address when introducing a new product or service into the marketplace.  Clearly the product or service must offer equivalent benefits at a lower price or new and improved capabilities at the same value proposition.  But if you've achieved these offerings then you have won a seat at the table.  You must then overcome the risks that customers perceive in any new product or service:
  • Will it be difficult to adopt?
  • Will it be compatible with my existing way of life?
  • Is it "complete"?
No matter how well the idea ranks in our evaluation frameworks, the customer is seeking products and services to make their lives easier, or better, or more informed.  If your idea achieves those goals, that's table stakes.  If your idea is difficult to adopt, requires significant change, forces the customer to acquire education or more knowledge in order to use the product effectively, then you've probably lost the game.

Inertia is probably one of the biggest barriers to new product or service adoption, and to overcome inertia the customer bases has to recognize that a new product or service offers very enhanced benefits, and doesn't create a lot of work for a customer in order to switch and adopt.  The more work the customer has to take on to adopt the new product or service, the better the benefits had better be.  This is why even great new solutions often aren't quickly adopted, the inertia level and adoption effort is simply too high, even for an idea that offers compelling new benefits.

Beyond forcing the customer to change in the adoption of a new product or service, there's another significant question - does the product or service "work" with the existing infrastructure of operating systems, conventions, protocols and other expected and long held agreements?  If a new product offers compelling functionality but does not work well within the rest of the customer's solution set or needs, it won't be adopted.  Far too often, innovators dream of "disruption" but don't understand the power of compatibility.  Every product or service is launched in a market where thousands of formal and informal agreements, standards, conventions and protocols exist.  No matter how compelling your product or service is, it had better be compatible with the existing infrastructure or offer so much value that it can rebuild the infrastructure from the ground up.

We innovators are often the "early adopters" and as such we expect others to be early adopters as well.  When Geoffrey Moore wrote about Crossing the Chasm, he wasn't talking only to large corporate entities but also to every innovator.  In the long run it does not matter how much the early adopters love your innovation, if the product or service can't cross over to the early majority.  And what the early majority wants is "completeness" or what Moore called the "Whole Product".  The difference between an early adopter and the early majority is that both are interested in new solutions, but early adopters are willing to try products that don't quite have a support strategy, or perhaps don't have all the documentation complete.  Early majority, on the other hand, wants new technologies but wants all of the "augmented" product in place - support, communities, online and offline resources, channels, training, accessories and so forth.  Without this "whole product" the early majority isn't going to bite, no matter how compelling the new product or technology appears to be.

We at OVO have a 7C framework that examines ideas from the customer's perspective.  Two of the "Cs" - compatibility and completeness, are described above.  This presentation describes the other Cs that customers use to determine if a new product or service is right for them.  When you evaluate your new products, make sure they meet your internal frameworks and thresholds, and also make sure the ideas will be valuable and important from a customer's perspective. If your ideas aren't receiving the accolades and rapid acquisition you'd hoped for, contact us.  We can help you shape your ideas based on internal evaluations, as well as customer needs and the 7C framework to achieve far more adoption, at a much faster rate.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 1:00 PM


Blogger rseres said...

Focus on "first use" which ties somewhat to the idea of adoption; however, first use is about emotion and how the user experiences the product/service for the first time...
I see more and more co's paying attention to this concept - not only at the very first use, but repeating the "first use" experience each time they use the product...

12:08 AM  

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