The Voice of the Customer – How Market Research Leads to Product Success

What is the best way to truly understand your customers’ needs? That’s right, just ask them. It seems simple enough, however many companies and product development teams omit this vital step in the process.

Why Is Research So Vital?

For the companies who engage in market research the findings are invaluable. The information captured during research exposes consumers’ likes and dislikes of a product and its features. It gives a glimpse of the future of a product or category and often generates new concept direction. Research gives the design team a look into the consumers’ mind and an opportunity to tweak designs to compare one against the other until the final design is exactly what the consumer wants and the price he is willing to pay. Compare it to an eye exam. As the doctor flips the lens, the patient tells him which is better. The same applies to product research, giving the designer the best opportunity to hit a homerun.

In addition to capturing the emotional and behavioral response of a product, research can also raise a red flag when you are heading in the wrong direction. For example, if focus groups of parents tell you they will not pay $100 for a certain type of toy as it is presented; you can almost guarantee that it will fail on the market if you ignore their warnings. This finding is certainly invaluable when you compare the cost of re-evaluating the product to the cost of failing in the market place.

As markets and consumer expectations change, knowing who your customer is and how they spend their money becomes more and more important. And, just when you think you know who the customer is and what they need or want, it changes. Research gives strong evidence of who the customer is and how to best reach them. More importantly, when used over a period of time, trends and market changes can become more easily identified. Analyzing the history of the research also reminds the team how the consumer and the product have changed over its lifecycle, which may lead to new areas of interest for future product development.

As consumers have become more savvy, so have retail buyers. They have come to expect companies to perform due diligence as proof that a new concept, category or design will be successful. The most effective way to do this is to present the new product through the eyes of the consumer, through market research. Without this, you must rely on cold statistics, studies and your “gut feel”.

In addition, rising product liability concerns have increased the need for product research. Understanding how users interact with products and the assembly, use and misuse of products has quickly become an important effort in liability consideration. Fortunately, liability concerns can often be seamlessly tied into many research methods, allowing companies to gather demographic, preference, market, trend and liability data with the same research program.

Types of Market Research

Market research can be very flexible, based on project needs and budget. There are several research methods that can be used throughout the product development process.

Focus groups

Focus groups typically consist of a group of participants and a moderator. The moderator asks the group questions to begin interactive dialogue. This research method is an excellent way to learn why people make the choices they do. The group dynamics often leads to uncovering new ideas and unidentified needs.

Mall Intercepts and Surveys

While focus groups concentrate on the “whys”, surveys focus on “what proportion”. Surveys can be implemented as a mall intercept, where consumers are individually interviewed in a mall or retail establishment, by telephone or through an online survey. All of these methods can successfully gather quantitative information quickly and accurately, however due to intellectual property concerns, care should be taken when using online surveys to gain opinions on concept sketches, etc.

Observation Studies

Observation research studies, a less formal research method, add a unique perspective to how consumers interact with products. By simply watching consumers interact with products in stores, you can gain great insight into their preferences and how products compete on the retail shelf.

Trend Research

Trend research should be considered during the brainstorming and concept phases of the product development process. Trend research often results in new category development and unexpected product applications. This is exactly how a new version of a classic themed product became a best seller at Target. While the Catalyst design team worked to address consumer assembly issues of an item currently in the market, they identified a niche opportunity that was a perfect fit for their client. After recognizing a grass roots affection for a nostalgic stool design, the team presented the idea of re-introducing the stool design to the client’s marketing team, but with modern improvements for the mass market. Just like that, Catalyst had identified an opportunity that became hugely successful simply by taken the unbeaten path during trend research. This type of research can include things like internet research, retail audits, industry and non-industry related trade shows or other events to name a few.

Choosing the Research Team

The people included in the research team can range from corporate level management to marketing assistants. Market research companies may also be included for the design, facilitation and data analysis of the program. However, for product specific research, studies show that the inclusion of product designers (internal or external) plays a valuable role for several reasons.

First, designers view the world from a unique perspective. They can often capture and sketch participants’ ideas on the spot for clarification. This is particularly valuable when weeding out product concepts or brainstorming new concepts.

Second, a strong designer takes personal ownership in his designs. Since designers are intimate with the product, they offer valuable input on things like questions that are asked and what type or how many concepts should be included in the research. In addition, the design team may need feedback in areas that other members of the team may not consider as valuable. Designers want to understand customer needs and expectations, but in order to do that, they need to see and hear the participants’ feedback first hand. Both positive and negative feedback challenge the design team to see their concepts through the eyes of the consumer. It challenges them to dig deeper into their design not only to meet consumer expectations, but to exceed them.

The few product development companies who understand the importance and value that research adds to the product development process actually integrate market research services into their process. While careful not to let the market research consume the team, budget and timeline, they and their clients often rely on research results to validate concept direction, cost/value clarification and feature/benefit preference.

As odd as it may sound, market research results are often considered among the list of “authorities” during the decision-making process, especially since research results should be reviewed by non-linear disciplines within the group. Consider this example: marketing team members will tune into cost/value comments and suggestions while product designers will most likely focus on ergonomic/style feedback. At the same time, engineering representatives will weigh fit and function comments more heavily than others. Relying on only one of these interpretations is short-sided, leaving significant opportunity on the table. It is the combination of these perspectives and the pure, honest consumer feedback that helps companies determine product direction with confidence.

Market Research Leads to Product Success

The inclusion of market research in the product development process can often make the difference between success and failure. Rather than assuming the team has all of the answers, engaging in one or more of these research methods can confirm your position, raise a red flag to a potential issue, identify a new opportunity, validate cost versus value or give them a new perspective on how their product is used and perceived in the marketplace. Market research increases the opportunity for success by removing all of the guess work and understanding your customers’ wants, needs and expectations simply by asking them!

Easy Information Product Creation Tips – Create Your New Product Fast

Can you really make money online creating information products? Yes, you can — people go online to find information, and they’ll pay for it. Here’s how to create your new info product fast: you can even do it in one day.

Firstly let’s discuss information products. What are they? There are many different types of information products: e-books, online courses, videos, audio files, and membership sites.

Information products can be quite short, for example there’s no need to write a 200 page e-book if the information you want to convey is just as easily conveyed in five pages or 10 pages. You could create and sell a half-hour video within 24 hours. It all depends on what your market is looking for.

Let’s look at how to create your new info product fast.

1. Set a Deadline

Until you set a deadline for its completion in your new info product is just a dream. Make the deadline a little shorter than you’re comfortable with. For example if you think it will take you two weeks to write your e-book set a deadline for one week.

If you make the deadline too long you will tend to procrastinate. Your deadline should be short enough so that it eliminates procrastination, and not so short that you don’t have the time to complete your work.

2. Create a Plan With Tasks for Each Day

Once you’ve set your deadline, take out your calendar program. Block out the time you’ll spend working on your product every day. Make the time you spend working on the product non-negotiable.

But what if you’re very short of time?

If you don’t have very much time, outsourcing is a solution to helping you to get your product online and selling fast.

3. Use Outsourcing: Let Others Do What You Can’t Do, or Don’t Want to Do

You can outsource much of the work of creating your info product.

For example, writing the sales page for your information product might be something that you can do easily and are looking forward to, however if copywriting is hard for you, hire a copywriter. The same thing applies to creating the graphics for your Web sales page for your product — if you don’t enjoy creating graphics, hire somebody to do it for you.

You’ll find that you can outsource almost anything to do with your information product and it will be reasonably inexpensive.

So there you have three tips which will help you to get your next information product written fast — get started today.

Sending Your Clients Information to Enhance Their Experience

Do you have an opportunity to send information to your clients on a regular basis to help enhance their experience?

Recently I went on a trip to Scottsdale, Arizona where my family has a timeshare at a great resort. The day before we went down, I looked up the weather forecast and events that were going on for the week that we were going to be there.

This got me thinking about why the resort doesn’t send information to their clients a couple of days beforehand so that the clients don’t have to scramble figuring out information prior to their trip. A simple email with the forecast, the resort events, local events and other pieces of information that people might find of interest.

What can you do to enhance your client’s experience?

Here are 3 tips you can use to help send your clients relevant information to enhance their experience:

1. Ask for permission – Before you send information to your clients make sure that you get their permission and tell them why you will be sending them information.

2. Inform your clients with relevant information – As in the example of the resort, make sure that you are sending information that your clients will find beneficial or helpful.

3. Make it a continual – Depending on what information you are sending, make sure that you stick to a schedule. For example, the resort should see who is coming down a couple of days in advance and then send them information for the following week. If you are in sales, perhaps you can send quarterly “New Product” information. Just make sure that you have a schedule and that you stick to it.

If you are stumped for some examples, here are a few that might get you started:

Hotel: Send weather information, local events

Realtors: Information on the neighborhood, important dates – like school registration dates

Sales People: Manuals and training information, updated product information

Doctors: Any information that someone would need to know prior to their visit

Auto Repair: Reminder with the ability to schedule drop off time and a ride to work

There are a lot of companies that are missing a great opportunity to enhance their client’s experience. By informing your clients with relevant information that they will find beneficial, you raise the bar compared to your competition and also increase your likelihood of having your clients recommend you to other potential clients. Think about what you might be able to offer and just get started on this.

Creating a Sales Funnel for a New Product, Part II

In my last post, I talked about the importance of doing your research and making sure there’s a need for your product. This is a critical step that should happen before you even create your product.

Once you’ve established that there’s a need for your product, it’s time to start building your sales funnel. So many business owners and even marketers are guilty of focusing on short-term sales, without thinking about a long-term strategy.

Why not put a solid sales funnel in place now, and avoid being a one hit wonder? Here’s how.

Build a Strong Online Presence

If you don’t already have an online presence, this is going to be a prerequisite for your funnel. Building a strong online presence may consist of:

Building a website or blog
Building an audience
Adding relevant, useful content to your site
Driving traffic to your site using Google PPC, Facebook ads, SEO, social media
A strong presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and/or any other popular social media sites in your niche
Credibility in your niche

This doesn’t have to take years… but do expect to have to commit some time and energy to develop your credibility. The key here is to provide solid content to people in your niche, and to establish some level of trust.

Collect Emails and Build your Social Media Following

This can (and should) of course be happening at the same time as you’re building your online presence.

At this point you’re not collecting emails and followers in order to sell something. You’re continuing to engage your readers through newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, and by sending people back to content on your site.

Create & Promote an Entry Level Product

This may be the product you created in part I of this series, or this may be another product. However the key here is that this product should be low-cost.

By offering a low-cost product, you’re beginning to feed potential customers into your sales funnel. Your net will be cast wide here, as your goal is to collect emails and information from people in your niche. This will be crucial in terms of promoting and selling your back-end product further down the funnel

Continue to Build Relationships

Just because they’ve now bought your product doesn’t mean they’ve completed the funnel (or at least it shouldn’t mean that). Unfortunately, this is where many marketing strategies stop. For long-term success, make sure you’re focussing on long-term relationship building.

Continue to build relationships through newsletters and social media. Be sure to ask for feedback and to conduct surveys of customers who bought your front-end product. This will help you in creating your back-end product.

Segment your customers into groups, and continue to develop products that meet their individual and ongoing needs.

Create and Promote your Back-End Product.

This is the key to long-term growth. Too many marketers stop at #3, and while they can still be profitable, they’re missing out on a huge pool of untapped sales opportunities.

Your back-end product is your ‘deluxe’ product: It will have a higher price point, will often take much more time and commitment to create, and will require that your customers trust you before they buy.

Who better to create and sell a product for a particular niche than someone who has:

Already sold to them in the past
Knows their needs and desires
Has built a relationship with them, and
Who has already established a degree of trust.

I hope this has taken a bit of the guesswork out of building a sales funnel. Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments section of my blog!