Can your innovation team afford not to talk to users and customers?
Research shows that over 80% of products launched to market fail. Most fail not because the product or technology is inferior, but because there are not enough customers interested in the product. Can your team afford to develop new products and technologies without external input?
New product development methodologies are recognizing the value of customer discovery across the innovation ecosystem. Top innovators and R&D teams spend substantial effort reaching out to the different stakeholders within the ecosystem to validate their product or technology and to understand market needs, barriers, and risks that could delay or jeopardize the commercialization of the technology.
The thought leader of this process is Steve Blank, taking lessons from open innovation ecosystems, agile product development and launching new enterprises. His “Customer Development” model provides a structured framework for technical teams to discover market needs and to validate the technology minimizing commercialization cost and risk. The process emphasizes (1) constant and intensive interaction with different stakeholders, (2) technology hypothesis development and validation, and the (3) piloting of Minimal Viable Products (MVP) that solve a market need or customer pain.
Our team recently participated in a national technology commercialization boot camp largely structured in accordance with Blank’s Customer Discovery framework. During this program our materials development firm was mentored through an intensive 4-week customer discovery and product validation program. We initialized the program with a series of hypotheses based on the value propositions that we perceived to be of great importance to our target customers: “The end user wants a harder material. The end will buy based on performance.” The team contacted multiple stakeholders within the target marketplace. We learned how to talk to the innovation ecosystem, speaking with end users, customers, suppliers and competitors to understand the specific market requirements and discover unmet needs of current products.
These discussions provided great insight on market needs, sub-segments, product definitions and yielded prospective business opportunities. Some of our hypotheses were validated by potential customers, and some were rejected. We also gained valuable detail into the reality of the value chain and were able to attach names and faces to the actual decision making processes of who would adopt our products. Two potential customers are interested in engaging the company to develop pilot programs to validate materials and product opportunities.
By engaging the ecosystem through customer discovery, the company has been able to laser focus on very specific products that highlight the material performance and alleviate real customer pain points. These pilots will reduce commercialization risks and develop accurate costs models for the company, while supporting the development of a product with a willing customer.
Customer Development is the process of interacting with potential customers in target markets and analyzing feedback to develop minimum value products to test critical aspects of your product and business model. This process is a potent tool that can vastly increase your commercialization success rate through customer interaction and hypothesis validation.
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Technology & Business Innovation
Chief Technology Officer