Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The problem of creating new products and services

The problem of creating new products and services: by Jason Li 2012 ©

I was part of an inventor network...

With some genius’s like the Doc in Back To the Future...

Where enthusiastic inventors created lots of brilliant ideas (and gadgets which even Batman would like)...

And we also brain stormed workable new ideas and work-arounds. In the main, the message I always heard was create an invention to solve problems.

Invention to solve problems

I heard the best way to find that eureka moment for inventors and know which new product or service to create was when they started finding new problems which they thought other people would want solving too. Most projects started this way.

But me being me, I used to add:

“How much would people really pay to use your product to solve that problem?”

This is really crucial and may look like a very trivial question. But believe me, I have seen enough people spending years of their lives either close up or on television programmes creating products that just solve problems.

Unfortunately, just solving problems does not work.

So what’s wrong with this? Well we all have problems and I’m sure we’ve all said if only someone could make this widget do this then I’d use it. Sure, who wouldn’t use if it made your life better. If you ask people if they would use it, you will get a yes answer 9 or 10 times out of 10.

But ask people how much they will pay, and that is a completely different question, a different curve ball, not even in the same ball park. It’s not even asking: “Would you use it?” or “Would you pay for it?” which is a better question.

“How much will you pay?” will tell you the truth.

Sometimes, the truth will hurt. You will get a hesitant: “possibly £5-£6”, or someone may flip your widget around and um and err not sure. This is what you need to hear. If you give it to someone and they say: “I will give you £10 now if you have one,” and hear this quite a few times, you know what that means, no need for me to say anymore.

Which project

By knowing which projects people will definitely pay for, you will narrow down from really good potential projects to commercially viable projects.

As an example, you might have a great new product for hair removal without having to use hair laser treatment. Hair removal pays good money, and lots of people may have hair in places they want to tidy up. But many people in reality get by without it. If they don’t then they will pay for a good proven method to remove hair. So by asking someone if they will use your product you might get a yes. But ask how much they will pay today and you will get real feedback. This will save you years of time working on something that might not get payback. Now I’m not saying don’t create on the first rejection if no-one says they will pay as it maybe that your product needs some fine tuning.

Letting the customer decide what you make rather than your big idea deciding on commercialisation will give you a better chance of making a commercial success. Any ideas that get rejected might need fine tuning. But at least in the short run you are focusing in the projects that have the highest possible chance of being profitable.

Outside in/ inside out

So what is a better way to create a product that the market is more likely to want to pay for?

Most people start to think of a product and service and say this will sell well, which is all well and good. This is called inside out – a bit like an inventor that creates hit-or-miss products showcased on the TV programme Dragons Den. The inventor loves it but none of the dragons see why anyone else would buy it.

But try this exercise by being the customer called outside in. Take one of your products or services and create idealistically what your target market would want to use. Remember, it’s not what you want to use, although some of the features are likely to be used by you too. Think of everything from the product, the components, how to use it, service aspects, expected results, packaging, and lastly pricing.

Brain balancing for sprucing those creative juices

For years I just used my right hand for virtually everything. So according to scientists I used just one side of my brain. One day I forced myself to learn to touch type and can use both hands and fingers equally; and both sides of my brain, a bit like a pianist when I type.

Scientists have said that using one hand means you regularly only use one side of your brain. So you are only using 50% of your potential. Recently, I have tried to use my left hand to do other things to work my other side. This means that creatively I might come across an idea and be able to run with it better as my whole brain can consider the thoughts. Soon enough, I will be able to understand Einstein’s theories. Although I cannot prove it works: yet. Why not try it, you have nothing to lose. Here are ways I have tried to use my other side of my brain:

Left hand brushing teeth

Writing letters and numbers on a pad

Holding a cold drink with my other hand

Opening the door with my left hand

Moving the cursor with your left hand when reading the internet

Juggles some balls at the pub quiz (I dare you)

Disrupting the market

I have heard this phrase from time-to-time. It’s a phrase entrepreneurs have for mission statements to say they have a new or better offer for the current market that customers will prefer, and that their business is the only one that is introducing the idea to a steady market. In fact, many businesses that are disrupting the market are very successful. Here is some proof:

McDonalds – standardised food in every town which cafes once dominated

Apple – hardware and consumer gadgets which Sony, HP and Nokia once dominated

Zopa – get eloans provided by people and not banks.

Google – a way of searching for results which Info seek, Ask Jeeves once dominated

So you should be able to take some ideas here and create some new products and services which people will pay for. The best thing about the methods above is that it’s so simple to do; by just focusing on creating things that people are willing to pay for. So what can you create this week that people will pay for?

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