A Customer-First Approach to Successful Innovation (and 3 Secrets Shared)

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Whether you believe that 60% of new product launches fail, or the number is 80% or 95%+, the truth is that successful innovation is rare. Why is this? Read on for my own ideas of the reasons and propositions for some simple solutions.

Last year I wrote a highly popular post on “Improving Ideation, Insight & Innovation: How to Prevent Further Costly Failures.” In it, I spoke about the importance of starting the innovation process with customers. I also mentioned that it should be a virtuous circle rather than the funnel that most organisations still use today. 

This time, I want to examine the role of the customer in successful innovation. And why they should actually have a prominent position throughout the process.

 

Start with the Category rather than (just) the Customer

Every customer-centric organisation should start their processes with a review of the customers they are looking to please. But to do this, the first step to both insight development and successful innovation is to identify the category in which you are, or want to compete. Especially when looking to innovate, it is vital to identify what business you are in.

Now you probably can immediately answer that question but would you be right?

A recent client of mine was looking to launch a juice flavoured soft drink. They naturally (?) thought they would be in competition to juices. When we dug deeper, using our “Home or Away™” decision tool, we found they were actually competing with energy drinks for athletes!

Another practice I use is to zoom in or out when looking at a category, in order to identify new opportunities. Today’s technological world is forcing many organisations to take another look at their complete business models – whether they like it or not!

  • Telecoms have become geolocalization data providers to other industries.
  • Pharmaceuticals are being forced (?) to move from treating illness to maintaining wellness.
  • Food companies are moving into nutraceuticals, concentrating the health benefits of certain foods. (have they really only recently understood that our health comes primarily from the food we eat?!)
  • Tobacco companies are reinventing personal pleasure systems with e-cigarettes and other tobacco replacement products. In fact, André Calantzopoulos, Philip Morris International’s CEO recently predicted a “phase-out period” for cigarettes.
  • Alcohol providers are turning more and more to lower and non-alcoholic drinks trying to keep up with the interest in wellness. They have understood that whereas drinking is a social behaviour, most people no longer include getting drunk with that sociability.

From these examples, it is clear that most companies could benefit from a re-evaluation of their assumed category, to see whether it has or will change in the near or longer-term future.

Once the category is defined, it becomes much easier to identify the correct customer segment to target. Of course, you still need to get to know them through customer connection sessions. Continue Reading

Improving Ideation, Insight & Innovation: How to Prevent Further Costly Failures.

As you know, I am a global customer centricity champion. My passion is helping organisations to grow faster by putting customers at the heart of their business. One of the most frequent requests I get is to help in improving ideation and innovation.

This is by far the most common area that my clients struggle with. Is it a challenge for you too?

Many companies create great new products and services – from their perspective – but they fail! They then ask if I can help them to identify to whom they should be selling. Of course, I do help them, but I also suggest that next time it would be better if they called me before they started innovating! In a failure situation, it is almost always due to an outdated innovation process in which the customer has not been involved.

I know it can be difficult to innovate in this new age of technology, but it remains vital for growth. This is why I was recently invited to run two workshops on improving ideation and innovation, as well as to speak about it at three different universities in Beijing and Shanghai.

 

China is an Innovation Hot-House

China joined the top 25 most innovative countries in the WIPO global innovation index for the first time this year. This is because they no longer rely on cost-effective manufacturing alone. They also applied for more patents than the next two countries, the United States and Japan, combined! This clearly shows that China is improving ideation as well as their innovation. But they know they must do even more. To become a truly competitive nation, they have to better understand their customers, especially their growing middle and higher-income residents, who continue to prefer primarily imported Western brands.

Let me share with you a few of the ideas that I spoke about during my visit. They may just save you too from more costly failures.

 

Innovation is Essential

Switzerland continues to lead the world in innovation according to the latest WIPO GII study. It was, therefore, a privilege for me to by invited to help China corporations and academics by proposing a new way to innovate.

Most companies innovate from a technical and skills-based foundation. It doesn’t usually work very well, if at all. In fact, according to Nielsen, IRI, Fortune and many others, it is estimated that between 85% and 95% of new consumer products in the US fail. In Europe, it’s just as bad, with only 25% of new consumer products still on the shelf just twelve months after launch! And less than half that number by the end of the second year.

With such disastrous results, you might wonder why companies continue to innovate. Well there are three main reasons why they do:

  1. It keeps brands fresh. Brands which innovate have something new to share with current and potential clients. We have come to expect it. What excites today, is normal tomorrow and then just boring after that.
Continue Reading

STOP Emotional Innovation!

Last week, I posted about making innovations more emotional; if you didn’t see it, you can find it here. Today, I want to speak about the other side of emotional innovation; how to STOP some of your own emotions, when launching new products.

One Sunday last Summer I had been planning a lie-in, like most of us do when we don’t have to get up for work at the weekends. However, I was woken up very early by one of my cats who came to proudly show me that she had caught a bat! 

Both my cats love hunting and I have to say they are (too) good at it! They give me frequent “presents” that I discretely dispose of, unless of course they are alive, in which case I have to catch them and return them to the wild outdoors, whilst the two of them continue to sniff around the last place in which they had seen their prey.

Anyway, my cat Apricot – a female ginger – was really excited about her very rare capture, which is why she had woken me up to show me. Of course, I was less than enthusiastic about a bat flying around my bedroom at five in the morning! Luckily when I switched on my bedside lamp, the light quietened it down and when he stopped flying, to hang on the wall, I was able to catch him and put him back outside where be belonged.

 

Do your innovations excite you or your customer?

Now awake, my mind started musing on the very large differences in the reactions of my cat and me, to this event. She was excited, happy and proud; I was surprised, disappointed and irritated that I had to stop what I was doing – sleeping – to attend to her “present”.

I think something similar happens sometimes when companies launch new products or services. Everyone in the organisation gets excited about their innovation or renovation, are proud to have developed it and happy that after all the hard word, it is finally ready for launch. The customer on the other h and, can be surprised, which is great if this is accompanied by pleasure, or disappointed if the promise is not delivered. However, he might also be irritated if his usual br and or version has been replaced and is no longer available, or at least no longer on the shelf or store in which he usually finds it. We are in fact asking him to work, to change his habits, which no human being really enjoys, even when it is for the better.

 

5 Questions for winning innovations

So how can you make your new product development more customer-centric? By starting from your target customers’ perspective, and by answering these five questions:

  1. How are your customers currently using your product or service? What are their pain points if any; price, packaging, size, availability, sensorial experience – taste, aroma, colour, sound, feel?
  2. Who is currently changing or has already changed their habits to compensate for these pain points?
Continue Reading

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want me to catalyse your growth and profitability, just book a call.

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