Saturday, August 16, 2014

Delivering Breakthrough Innovation: Selecting customers for feedback and launch

The series of posts on "Delivering Breakthrough Innovation" are based on my experience. And in this post, I would like to talk about the challenge one finds in the marketplace when introducing innovative products/services. 

If you believe that overcoming organisation's internal skepticism & resistance for a breakthrough idea is all it takes to introduce an innovation in market. Wait, till you step in the market! One would find that the internal skepticism also reflects in external world. This shouldn't come as a surprise, because internal industry and market experts have the same mental map as the customers. And hence, they mirror the customer behavior and expectations. 

Customers too are engrossed in their day to day operations and would not imagine something disruptive in their way of working. In a B2B scenario, the customer like any another company, would have their silos, with each functional head expecting incremental improvements in their areas. Hence, level of internal resistance can be a good indicator of resistance to be expected in marketplace. 

So, one needs to be realist and not expect their innovative product/service to be an instant hit in market. At the same time, one should not get discouraged due to initial skepticism and kill the idea prematurely. Following are the pitfalls to be avoided when going to market:

___The management will insist on early feedback from customers before further investment in the idea. But all customers are not alike. Some are conservative and others are progressive, commonly know as 'Early Adopters' and 'Laggards'.
  • If progressive customers are known, feedback should be taken from them. 
  • If progressive customers are not identifiable, then customer feedback should come from a reasonable sample size. This lowers the risk of a conservative feedback. 
  • Also, as mentioned in previous posts, a prototype helps to get objective customer feedback. Even a conservative customer though skeptical, would still be forced to be objective in evaluating it. 

___Some disruptive innovations may require customer trials for further improvement and benefit assessment. While selecting a launch customer for trials, it must be ensured that the customer has reasonable interest in the idea and will give necessary support during trials. Also, the customer can be incentivised in terms of foreground IP sharing or concessions rates going further.

For success of a disruptive innovation, managing externally (market feedback and launch) is as important as managing internally (internal buy-in and development).

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