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ADVICE

Making things sell themselves

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Thinking about introducing a new product or service? Regardless of whether you sell to consumers or business-to-business, this might be a great time to do it. The economy is inching its way back, and while many businesses are still in defensive mode, there are opportunities to leap ahead by taking well-researched actions to introduce something new.

But this kind of “considered innovation” isn’t about flinging product ideas willy-nilly against the wall to see what sticks, said Dan Adams, a product development specialist and president of Advanced Industrial Marketing. “You can’t afford to waste your time, energy and money on hopeful guessing.”

It’s critically important to first understand what the market needs – not merely what you or your employees think it needs. Then develop the product or service to meet that need. Adams called this the “ask before you innovate” method.

Here are some of his tips for developing products and services that will ultimately sell themselves:

• Get everyone at your business excited about the future. If you plan to create and introduce something new, it’s important to have everyone at your business engaged in the process – whether that’s one person or 100. And to get people fully engaged, they may need to embrace a new mantra that the goal of your business is to understand and meet customer needs – not just make a profit.

• Do some competitor benchmarking. Customers almost always have alternatives. In order for them to choose what you are offering it has to deliver more value than their next best alternative. And that means you have to develop a deep understanding of what that “next best alternative” really is. Only then can you design and price your own product to deliver more value.

• Make sure what you create is truly customer-centric. Most businesses believe they are “customer-centric.” But most are really “supplier-centric” – that is, they think in terms of providing a competitive product or service, when they should really be thinking about providing customer alternatives. The difference is subtle but important.

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