Tag Archives: business opportunity

Why it’s good to fail

Win early, and win often is the best option but if you are going to fail then … fail early. Rob Adams, author of ‘If you build it will they come’, and many others including startup guru, Steve Blank, advise businesses to get out there and learn. Don’t refine things to the nth degree then launch, the market may have passed you by, or indeed your product may not meet customer’s expectations.

Everyone likes to win: “winning isn’t everything it’s the only thing” is a saying that comes to mind. But sometimes failing is the best way to win; quite logical when you think about it. The learning’s from failure will help ensure the next output is more likely to succeed.

So use market validation as the critical first step. This may mean an initial ‘fail’ and return to the drawing board to develop another idea to be tested on the market. But it’s better to fail early, than later with a full on product launch!

That doesn’t mean that you should plan to fail, but rather the time involved in planning and getting product to market are minimised knowing that there will be further iterations. In summary, once the product is in the market, move aggressively to figure out what’s needed to further penetrate the market, and quickly bring the updated version to market. By developing and shipping a series of minimally featured products at a rapid pace, you will receive regular feedback to utilise in future iterations. This approach is far more efficient than a longer development cycle while your market is shifting.

Some other ways to structure this approach are:

  • Market validation should be performed by a cross functional team supporting the product but led by product management
  • Recruit design partners (including those with real world user input)
  • Allocate 60 days to the market validation before starting to build your product
  • 5-10% of development budget should be allocated to this pre production stage.

An approach like this will validate the opportunity. You can then develop a product that has the minimally acceptable features and the level of quality to meet market standards while getting to market asap.

Go 2 Market principle: getting it right first time isn’t critical, but getting it right is. Embrace failure as part of a method to generate success.

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Making a good idea great

After some first hand experience, including a 54 hour startup weekend, I’m now clearer than ever about what it takes to make a good idea great. I suspect you all know the answer. It’s in marketing textbooks, talked about all the time, and should be part of what we do, but so often don’t. I’m talking about the need to validate your idea with your target market.

As marketers we should be delivering a product or service that responds to what the customer wants. Too often the idea comes from ‘the top’, is what ‘group think’ suggests, or is the ‘flavour of the day’.

Where’s the customer in any of this? More often than not the customer is represented by …. (fill in your own words based on your experience). Too often it’s too easy to rush the product/service, offer, or just as often only hear what we want to hear. How many times have you seen research interpreted to suit the outcome desired by the client/product champion?

The mobile space is a case in point. There seems to be lots of companies feeling the need to develop a mobile app. Smartphones are a growing market for sure. But you would have to be sure that your target customer is part of the 18% of mobile users whose phone is a smartphone. Even if so, is the app you’d like to produce something they want, and are willing to pay for, or even if free, use?

Research indicates that most popular mobile destinations are news and information, weather reports, social networking, search and maps. Does your idea fit into one of these categories? If not then consumer testing is even more critical.

Confirming the risk of developing an app is this article that might help with your broader online strategy: Some very quotable comments from the article and discussion include: “Building your own app is not the only way to reach your consumers”, “No one wants to download an ad”, “Build ‘em and they will come”.

So back to testing against your target market. There’s some off the shelf research that’s a good starting point e.g. the latest TNS Digital Life Study, but your customers are your customers. So validate your idea with them. If you have a broad range of customers then target your research into the segment/s that matter most.

Go 2 Market principle: what will make a good idea great is customer demand. So who better to ask about meeting that demand than the customer!

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Who copied my idea?

I’ve already blogged about being a flexible thinker and starting to take a different perspective. Here’s another article that writes in general about the same topic (don’t be put off by ‘startup’ being in the title): Why You Should Embrace Opposing Views at Your Startup

The point is, whether it’s your sector or a different one, don’t dismiss ideas that deliver to customer need. In fact go looking for what your competitors and others are doing, and consider why and how they’re doing it. You may copy the idea (staying clear of intellectual property issues) or adapt. When it’s incorporated as part of your total offering no one is likely to know or care.

As an example, a useful business trend right now is to suggest other products or services that align with a purchase. They might either be complementary, or popular with other people that have bought the same product. This isn’t anything new, rather returning to good old personalised customer focus. Technology is the enabler for this now. For example, Air New Zealand sent me an email with some accommodation, rental car/campervan suggestions based on a booking I’ve made with them. They also included some non-sales information about our destination too. To me their approach is unobtrusive, easy and practical.

Fashion items including clothes, books and music all provide an opportunity for adding more benefit (and sales). But there’s many more businesses that could do the same surely, e.g energy companies selling energy efficient products; florists providing a service to manage all your special occasions; motor vehicle dealers arranging insurance; sports stores that suggest complementary items, to name a few. Think of it as: ‘what problem can I help solve for my customer?’

I’d suggest you want to understand what emotion is being stirred up in users when a different approach is being used and replicate the good stuff. Also ensure it’s aligned with your brand and customer needs.

Of course you have to try and find this stuff. Talking to your customers is always the best bet. Try to do it yourself, but otherwise engage with partners that are interested in your success. Customers will know what your competition are doing.

Go 2 Market principle:  don’t be precious. Adapt others ideas to help create your success.

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Why not, everyone’s doing it

Seems to me that everyone is doing it, brand extensions, that is. Caterpillar footwear, Jeep clothing, Amazon tablets, State Insurance roadside assistance, Vogel’s cereal, Air New Zealand taxis.

So can your brand also be extended to products or services that aren’t its reason for being?

In my last blog I talked about focus on your target market. So this topic seems a natural followon, or extension if you like.

There are lots of good examples where consumers will buy an additional product from a brand they trust. Your brand’s credibility and also the perceived link between product extensions are all important. Summed up by this article on what are the limits of your brand’s relationship with its target consumer, and what will your consumer allow you to do.

The power of the brand can be impressive. Even for older brands e.g Pan Am, an airline brand of yesteryear, is today selling travel merchandise.

However, don’t underestimate the challenge with jumping into a brand extension. Firstly, has the rationale for the brand extension been thought through, and does it support the strategic direction. Second, you need a viable product or service that adds value to consumers you’re focused on. Then you need to ensure it doesn’t detract from your current brand equity either by its introduction or by you losing focus on your main activity.

There are a number of brands that haven’t been extended e.g Toyota. They arguably had consumer permission to sell up market cars but didn’t have the credibility so it developed the Lexus brand. What about Coca Cola? It sells a vast variety of drinks, but very few have the Coke brand name. So brand extensions are not always the answer, and indeed need to be very carefully considered and managed.

Final thoughts from the CE of Starbucks, Howard Schultz: “consumer-based business is changing so significantly that you just can’t embrace the status quo”. They are really trying to push the envelope according to Starbucks Coffee Marketing.

Go 2 Market principle: understand well your brand equity, customer perceptions of a brand extension, and how to deliver an extension that strengthens your brand.

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15 easy ways to get out of a rut

It’s easy for the days to start to blend into one another. Before we know it, the week’s gone, then the month and then the year!

Part of the challenge to overcoming this feeling of being on a conveyer belt is to have a vision, goals along the way, and celebrations that recognise achievements. Alongside this, and to aid achievement, I’d suggest starting to take a different perspective.

We can all benefit from looking at things a different way. Get your left brain engaged. Here are some suggestions to enable that to happen:

  • Take up a new sport/hobby e.g. bridge, cooking, bike riding, walking, Toastmasters
  • Go to work a different way or get off the bus/train before your normal stop
  • Have lunch with other people in the organisation
  • Invite some senior university students to have lunch with you and some of your team
  • Have a picnic lunch at the park and play a few games while there
  • Mix up your team by age, gender, ethnicity
  • Buy a magazine you’ve never read before
  • Go to an event you’ve never been to before
  • Invite a senior manager from a non-competing company to come and talk to your staff about something they’ve achieved
  • Organise a fancy dress day for staff
  • Have a walking meeting
  • Sit people in a different place
  • Buy some clothing that is a bit ‘out there’
  • Sit with customer services for half day a week
  • Change your routine when you come into work in the morning.

There’s dozens of ways to break the shackles of the normality of the day. Starting first thing in the morning, all the way through to how you might sleep at night. My 15 ideas could be expanded ten fold. Have a go!

Go 2 Market principle: be inspired by taking a different perspective. You’ll find that it not only inspires you but others too.

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