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The Worst Advice about New Product Development

Business school is great.  It gives a solid foundation in business techniques and theories, builds the idea of teamwork and collaboration, and it certainly creates lasting relationships for years to come.  However, when tasked with real world projects, running a business, and developing new products; it seems we reach out to others who have walked the same path to ask for advice and guidance.

Most of that advice is good and provides a foundation and road map for success.  However, there are some bumps in the road that we thought we'd share. Some of the advice received seemed to fly in the face of logic and, if followed, would lead to an inevitable train wreck.  The real issue is we have seen many of these dynamics play out in the work we do now.

Follow the Leader

So often we see that Teams have been told that a particular executive or the entire executive team ‘likes the idea’ and it should be launched.  Even worse is when an executive’s wife or husband likes an idea and that is sole reason for an idea moving forward.  However, fear should not drive product development — a plan and vision should. While it was intimidating at first to propose opposing perspectives to an executive, if they are truly doing what is best for the brand and business as a whole, they will eventually listen to sound research and alternative points of view.

Once and Done

So often teams are told to do research and, when they get the result of that work, it is the result that sticks … forever.  This one snapshot becomes the touchstone against which product development, messaging and launch plans are made.  However, in reality, new product development is more of a fluid process; as development progress the product offering, look, feel and positioning may change.  These changes should be brought to consumers to ensure that the idea is still relevant and compelling as the project progresses.

Tell the Best Story

There are a lot of voices in new product development.  There are the voices of the Team that is running the project; those closest to the project.  There are management voices; all with their own opinions.  There are a host of consumer voices … some positive, some neutral and some negative.  All the voices are important and all should be given their due.  Often, especially as a project gets further down the path, there is pressure to tell the best, most positive story.  However, again, as product development morphs on its way to launch, the most positive story may not be the most truthful.  Avoiding research that may not be positive could not only lead to a negative launch result but could affect the team’s trust in marketing leadership as well

Build it and They Will Come

Perhaps the biggest issue seen is new products that are developed by R&D or other internal teams.  These individuals have found a new technology or process that “could be cool” and develop a product around it.  However, it is done in a vacuum with no basis in consumer reality.  The Team is then tasked to force fit an insight and benefit to the product; to try to create a problem the product needs to solve when there isn’t one.  In virtually all instances, if you build it, few will come without a reason.

Be Directive

New product development is the lifeblood of many companies. As such, the team and process is usually under good deal of scrutiny.  Often, leaders of the team are told to be more directive; telling others exactly what to do to keep the project moving forward.  Instead, the leader should be supportive; helping them be the best at what they do.  While there is pressure to succeed, simply helping the team understand the project goals fully and clearly makes them more a part of the process and Team; walking beside the lead, not behind.

If you’re working on developing a new product, Insights in Marketing can help. Click here to learn more about our services, including our new IIMPronto research solution that offers results in seven days.

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