Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Launching New Products – Success is in the Process

imageIt is fun to imagine the inventor, the creative mind, toiling away on a mission, inventing something no one has seen before. We all dream that if we only had the time, guts, and determination…… then that could be us. But this is not really the way that successful new products are invented. Having launched many new items in my career, the story of the successful hero/solo artist is like a romance novel -– fun, but rarely the way it works in real life.

First of all – let’s remember that 80% of new consumer products fail in the market. Radical new ideas? Information Resources Inc., which tracks consumer product sales in retail outlets, reported that of the 1,500 or so successful new national products launched every year, over 90% are close-in variety extensions of existing powerful brands. And even of those, many will not be around for even a few years.

Process is Top Priority for Success

There are three broad components to any new product launch – Product, Process and Passion. The most important of these is process – product and passion are actually just the tools and stuff needed to make it through the process. This is counterintuitive to most inventors, developers and marketers - who are far more excited by the strength of the product idea.

Successful companies such as P&G, Apple and others launch great product ideas. But their strength and success is actually the internal process which has refined, improved every detail, every step of the way. When this process is solid, they fill the funnel of new ideas and trust that the process will improve and validate each to lower the variability and chance of failure. Successful innovators have their own processes tailored to their unique strengths and resources.

Passion is also a key element of success. Following a process that improves ideas, builds stronger ideas, kills bad ideas is hard work. For a first time inventor, the sequential and logic of the process can be exhausting to the creative mind. The tendency is to want to move more quickly by skipping important steps, cutting corners, and minimize obvious product flaws, assuming that the brilliance of the original idea will make up for it in the end. Customer demands are another cause of cutting corners.

The original product idea is actually of lesser importance. A good process will identify targeted, useful new solutions using tools. Product ideas are cheap and bountiful and most are usually deeply flawed in terms of potential market viability. The process of improvement and selectively weeding them out is much more important than the original idea.

The good news for smaller businesses is that gaining advantage to compete against larger players with more resources can be gained by focus on the strength of the new product process. Many large companies suffer from poorly constructed process or don’t follow them effectively.



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