Monday, December 19, 2011

Innovate or die

New product development is the lifeblood of a business. Failure to innovate will result in stagnation and eventual decline. 

The rate of new product introduction in most markets is now relentless, so just to keep pace calls for a regular flow of new products. Few will be genuinely innovative, most will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary but the evolution will move forward the market’s expectations. 

So where to start? Having reviewed the focus for the new product and market positioning through preliminary research, it is time to start putting together a brief for the development team and a specification for the new product. Perhaps the most important consideration is the target market. What is the role of the product, who will buy it and use it and what does it compete with or replace? Developing a product without a clear understanding of users' needs  will raise marketing problems throughout the process. So it is vital to get this right from the start. 

Today many companies find themselves competing in the global market with all sorts of regional variations due to custom, culture and legislation working against their attempts to develop a single, universal product. One approach could be to develop a core product or technology, which can be adapted or customised to suit different market needs. Such decisions have to be taken before any other work starts and if they are wrong, the product may be loaded with unnecessary costs for any one market, or too bland for acceptance anywhere. The attempt to incorporate everything for everywhere is not only expensive to implement, but results in an unsuitable product for any country. Another outcome can be the ‘lowest common denominator’ solution where the product brief meets the minimum needs of its principle markets, but ends up being totally uninspiring and unexciting to everyone. 

Finally by designing with only one country’s needs in mind, may for want of some simple-to-do considerations at the briefing stage, enable far greater sales to be achieved in many more countries.

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