In all product management cycles there comes a point where a product or service must be enhanced and/or evolved, or it will stagnate as a good money-maker for your company and in your prospective buyer's minds. An enhanced product or service is a great way to grow revenues and even revitalize a company. All customers want the latest & greatest version of a product or service. Many want to be wowed. Tangible product or service enhancements directly feed that want. Done well, big revenue gains follow. Consider Apple as just one standout example of how refreshing products can drive massive sales gains.

The Optimal Product Management Model

The optimal product management model is a mix of internal expertise and external objectivity. The internal talent understands the nitty gritty aspects of the product and corporate capabilities while the external talent's lack of bias, exposure to corporate spin & politics, etc, can yield great clarity in terms of recognizing product weaknesses & opportunities. Used together, this tandem can help you keep your products on the cutting edge wooing new customers to buy and old customers to buy again. BI can be your external resource charged with helping your product managers do this crucial function to the fullest. We love to help companies roar to new record revenues.

BI can contribute a very polished, highly-refined model for product management that has proven to be the most effective way to produce and maintain the hit products customers will want to buy while minimizing the risk of expensive product failures. We call the model collective brilliance because it taps into 3 dimensions of stakeholder intelligence to yield best-in-class observations and recommendations:

  1. Customer analysis: actually involving customers and target prospects in the design and development of new products and the evolution of existing ones.
  2. Competitive analysis: thorough and ongoing analysis of competitor products so that you can lift the brilliance of their product development breakthroughs and incorporate them into your products.
  3. Company innovations: unique concepts influenced by customer and competitive observations that add a layer of innovations on top of what is realized from the first two.

A typical product development model is one in which products are mostly developed by an internal team fueled by little-to-no supporting customer or competitive research. These companies build a product the way they like it and then hope to find a market that will want what they chose to develop. Instead of identifying a market need and then building a product that fulfills that need this approach tries to make it work in reverse. This backwards model creates an additional- sometimes steep- challenge to success. Not only do you have to market and sell the product but you also have to sell prospects on liking it the way it is created- as is. Sometimes companies luck out and get it somewhat-to-mostly right with this approach but usually the product created this way misses the target. How far off target drives whether it will be a marginal producer or an expensive product flop.

Working like a business-technical translator, we are expert at bridging the gap between what the business people want and what the tech team can code

The collective brilliance approach transfers a good chunk of the creative process to the buyers (customers) which dramatically increases the chances that the resulting product will be something they want to buy. If the market is playing a collaborative role in shaping the product the end result is likely to be much closer to the bulls eye. This will minimize opportunity loss and maximize sales.

Similarly, by absorbing the "best of" features from competitor products, collective brilliance recommendations minimize customer reasons to consider competitor alternatives. If your product is evolved to meet customer wants head on, stand out from the crowd with a few unique innovations of your own AND incorporate any perceived advantages of your competitors, a buyer should see little reason to buy from anyone else. Nail all 3 areas and you should be able to take lots of market share... if not dominate the space.

Collective brilliance involves utilizing a discipline of classic market research with customers. Typically, this is a blend of surveying, focus groups, telephone interviews, etc, plus various new communication channels through which customers can voice their opinions, contribute to concepts in development, etc. BI is expert at helping companies facilitate the channels through which customer intelligence can be tapped to help build products or services customers want to buy.

Using Competitor Research to Develop or Evolve a Hotter Product or Service

Competitor analysis is often best accomplished by becoming an actual customer of your competitors. This gets real products delivered to you which can then be thoroughly dissected by a team focused on finding the best features to incorporate into your new products. You can also leverage your competitors work by taking note of their dominant selling thrusts, particularly in how they attempt to differentiate their products from competitors (like your company). This is essentially tapping the brilliant minds of your competitors- people spending every hour of their workday trying to strengthen their product mix. We can help you take their best concepts and blend them into your offerings.

If you have the budget to actually buy competitor products you can also fully document their approaches to selling those products to customers. This gives you access to their best marketing creative, timetables for frequency of their various efforts to move customers toward a close and answers to questions like:

  • when do they follow up with phone support?
  • exactly how do they build value?
  • exactly how do they differentiate?
  • what are the key hot buttons they are trying to push?
  • what are their purchasing options?
  • what exactly do they do that differs from our sales model?
  • what stands out in their marketing?
  • etc. (there are many more)

How Our Product Development Consultants Help You Do It Right

Utilizing an outside team like BI is a way to covertly mask the real purpose of the purchase. In other words, if a known competitor is buying a product the sales presentation will adapt as it is obviously not a normal sales transaction. If you want to get the clearest image of competitor sales models, tactics, etc, you want your buyer to seem as real to your competitor as any other prospect. This Innovative ideas from Big Innovations can help you team implement the next big thingwill motivate them to execute their sales model in a normal way giving you the opportunity to document everything they do better than your own model. Absorb their advantages and your sales model becomes stronger yielding more revenues & profits.

Objective summaries from the 2 dimensions are presented to the internal team to expose them to what is often many alternative observations and recommendations. Most can be quantified & verified by statistical measures which can help prevent them from being dismissed because "we didn't think of that" or a fear of the implied change that would follow acceptance.

A very simple example of this would be something like a choice of color for a consumer product. At one point, Ford dominated the automobile industry. There was a famous Henry Ford quote: "My customers can have any color of car they like… as long as it is black." Ignoring simple buyer analysis made Ford miss out on retaining the same share of sales when competitors learned to give car buyers what they collectively wanted- more colorful cars. Eventually, Ford had to adapt by rolling out cars in other colors but there was no way to go back and reclaim the customer money that went to competitors nor quickly retake market share lost over something as simple as not listening to what near-term buyers wanted to buy. All that would have taken was some cheap surveying of prospective new car buyers, ranking the things they would like to see in new cars, then working out ways to evolve his product toward the higher-ranked wants on that list.

At the time his managers were probably biased to the the bosses view of such matters. The corporate view might have had some of them convinced that black was the only way to go. Corporate politics might have made others bite their tongue rather than risk going against the corporate view… even if they thought the boss was wrong about this one. Emotions like fear can make very intelligent subordinates choose NOT to go against the opinion of their superiors. Ford's staff might have dismissed a customer-driven recommendation- even one backed by the statistical validity of a near-term buyer survey. As a result this narrow-mindedness fed into competitor aspirations to take market share from Ford. And they did.

This very same strategic issue is an extraordinarily common problem in many companies even well into the 21st century. In some ways it's a major contributor in why the consulting and contracting industry exists: there's no substitute for objective views of companies, products, approaches, models, markets, etc. We have no corporate biases. Company politics do not drive our viewpoints and we have no perception of "we've always done things this way" mentalities. Instead, consultants can offer a clarified view in all of these kinds of matters and recommend ways to help companies discover that it's time to adapt before it costs them much share... or so they can take share from a stubborn, egomaniac competitor.

BI is expert at the collective brilliance model. We can offer turnkey execution and leadership of all 3 dimensions. We can help your company develop, install and run its own incarnation of it or execute this kind of work as a fully objective, outsourced solution. We know of no better way to develop or evolve wow products while minimizing the risk of product failures. Contact us for a free consultation. We can apply proven solutions to helping you evolve your products or services into wow forms... an important predecessor to record revenues.

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