The usual course of events in a business when a new product or service is being developed, or an existing one is being improved, is as follows:
- Someone in the business gets a bright idea.
- A business proposal and product/service specifications are compiled.
- The proposal is approved (or rejected).
- If approved, resources are allocated to the development project.
- The finished product/service is marketed.
The greatest challenge in this approach lies in the fact that we ourselves are often not the potential buyers/users of our products/services. It often comes as a surprise that our ‘no-one has ever thought about this’ product/service does not perform according to expectations.
There is a simple alternative:
Obtain the opinion of your target market on the product/service at the start of the development cycle.
This sounds simple, but where should I start?
- Formulate very clearly what you wish to ask the target audience. Consider every word with care
- Make quite sure that you know who you are going to target with the product/service
- Existing clients (that fall within the target audience) are a good start
- Compile a short survey on a suitable technology platform (there are various alternatives – www.surveymonkey.com is one with a free functional version)
The link to the survey could then be e-mailed to the selected research group with an introductory note.
- You could also ask the input of clients at various Points of Sale, while they are waiting to be served
- You could use the website of your business, e.g. by having a weekly online opinion poll
- Chambers of business are also good places to obtain input from
After you have collected the feedback and processed the information, it is extremely important to include applicable input and suggestions in the development process of the product/service. I have often seen good advice being blatantly ignored.
If clients participate in the development of a product/service, this holds two benefits for you:
- You know their specific preferences and dislikes from the start, and
- They accept co-ownership in order to ensure a quality output
A product/service designed around the specific needs of a target client, simply has a much greater chance of being successful.
The content in this article was provided by Jannie Rossouw, Head: Sanlam Business Market. Sanlam is a diversified financial services group, headquartered in South Africa, operating across a number of selected global markets.
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