Fast-track New Product Success

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How can you come up with innovative ideas that customers will love, even when what they say they want isn’t what they want at all?

Here are three tips:

1. Don’t Fight Herculean Battles
If you want to change your customers’ habits, you’re in for a long, uphill battle that you’re gonna lose.

It is probably the single biggest place where innovators go down. When you invent something new and you are the innovator, you think, ‘Oh, this is the greatest product idea in the world. The world is going to flock to it and change its habits.’ And that’s a big mistake. Don’t expect people to change their habits. You do not have enough marketing dollars to change people’s habits.

So what should you do instead?

Adapt to their habits.

Fit into existing consumer behaviors. If you want to go out and invent new products, then watch behaviors, watch what people do, figure out what you can invent that can fit into those things. Live with customers…don’t have them in a focus group room. Watch people go shop. Then talk to them.

For instance, when a washing machine manufacturer was getting tons complaints from their Chinese customers, they went into the field to find out why. They found out that people were using the washing machines to wash their vegetables, and the vegetables were clogging the machines and the machines were breaking down.

Of course, misusing the machine voided the warranty. But instead of scolding their consumers, they were very smart and said, “Consumers are doing this, we need to be number one in this marketplace, let’s adapt our washing machines so they also wash vegetables.” They added a special basket and labeled their machines as vegetable-friendly. Now 40% of the company’s revenue comes from rural China.

2. Think Like a Stoner
Steve Jobs said that he learned to how to make his products so uncomplicated that even a stoned freshman could figure them out.

People don’t want a lot of bells and whistles. But the problem is that people think that they do. If you sit people in a focus group and give them all the special features, they say, “I love these features. I want every single one of them.” However, creating these features costs a lot of money, raises the price, and then people will never buy those products because they become too complicated.

So how can you create something that people will actually buy?

Keep it stupid simple.

In everything you do, simplify. The simpler the better.

Simplify what your product does, like Steve Jobs did with the iPod. Make your product represent one thing, and make it do it really well. Simplify your message, too. Particularly in the technology field, the more that you can use icons to represent what you have to say, the more international your products will be, and the easier they’ll be to understand. I try and convince all my clients to use as few words as possible. No one has the time to read stuff at the shelf.

3. Jump Off the Cliff
If you’re trying to get your idea just right, give up. Don’t even try.

You waste too much time trying to get to 100%. You lose too much time in the marketplace. Someone will get there first.

That’s because making mistakes is part of the game. Your idea is based on the ideas of others, and how you’re tying that all together. You’re bound to get it wrong right out of the box; no one thinks of absolutely everything. It’s just built into the process.

So how do you figure out when to launch?

Make some mistakes ASAP.

Launch when it’s basically ready, not when it’s perfect. If you’ve got what you want 80% there, get it out there.

That’s because you want to make mistakes. Mistakes are great because you really learn so much from them. Innovation is based on the scientific method. It’s trial and error. Get some feedback. Make some mistakes. Learn. You cannot live in a vacuum, and the more you can learn, the faster you can learn, the better.

This post was co-written with, based on an interview with Debra Kaye.

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