New Product Development

How To Use Your Year-End Budget To Get To Know Your Customers – Article

You can download a PDF version of this here: How To Use Your Year-End Budget To Get To Know Your Customers

How To Use Your Year-End Budget To Get To Know Your Customers

By: Andrew Zenyuch, Innovative Issues Editor

The year is slowly winding down (or quickly if you’re in my shoes), which means it’s time to start thinking about your budgets for next year (and if you haven’t, you may want to hit that panic button soon – like right now – go!).

Some of you have the distinct luxury of still having money left in your budget. If you do still have money left – bravo! You’ve managed your budget well and met your goals in a cost-efficient manner. The only problem is you’ll lose the money you have if you don’t spend it. Worse yet, you might get less money next year than you did this year for your budget.

If you find yourself in this situation, why not use what’s left of your budget to get to know your customer better? You never know what valuable insight you might gain from it, and it’s relatively cost-effective when all the costs are taken into account.

Here are a few ways we recommend to get to know your customer with what’s left in your budget:

  • Blogging
    The blog continues to evolve as a great way to get in touch with your customers. The logistics couldn’t be easier: you set up a password- protected blogging website (we use where only the customers your recruit would have access. Each post is a question you would like your customers to respond to, and they do so in the comments section of that post. They are responding from the comfort of their own home at a time that is convenient for them. Using this method is cost-effective and logistically-easy to accomplish.
  • Homework
    Homework is something we typically ask an ethnographic respondent to complete either before or after their interview. This can take the form of collages of images cut out from magazines, pictures of a certain event or moment in time, or a video of a customer talking about what they like and don’t like about a product or just of their daily routines. We’ve been using the last option a lot lately. Disposable video cameras are only about $30 each. You could even have them post the video directly to YouTube. Video is a great way to see exactly what the customer experience is with your product or service. How better to hear about potential consumer needs than a video of a consumer using your product? Flickr is also a great way to get to see customers’ photos without going to visit them (as is evidence by the Flickr What’s In Your Bag Photo Pool). These homework options give you insight into your customer’s lives and value systems without having to leave the office.
  • LIFEBytes Online™
    A great way to leverage the audio and video tapes/files you have from recent projects is to upload them to your own LIFEbytes Online searchable web portal. A database is created from the transcripts of the audio/video (not simply key words as in YouTube). The video is then edited so that a simple ‘Google-like’ text search is done, and the result is the corresponding audio/video clips. This is a powerful way to put the Voice of the Customer on the desktop of all your team members. As video is added from new (or older) research projects, the database will hold not only the specific findings of each project, but also the comments/observations that at the time seemed less important. We are finding that these ‘out-takes’, when searched across many reports, can result in very significant insights.

So as you can see, having left over money isn’t a bad thing – especially when you use it to get to know your customer. And who knows? You may take advantage of one of the activities above and find an insight you didn’t previously have, which could lead to a whole new innovation or product.

Or, you can take the money and blow it in Vegas, but that’s a whole different article…

“Well, Why Not?”: The Value of Naivety In The Fuzzy Front End – Article

You can download a PDF version of this here: “Well, Why Not?”: The Value of Naivety In The Fuzzy Front End

“Well, Why Not?”: The Value of Naivety In The Fuzzy Front End

By: Andrew Zenyuch, Innovative Issues Editor

“Why would you want me? I don’t really know much about developing products,” was a phrase I heard recently while trying to recruit a consumer for one of our innovation sessions. She was hesitant about coming to our session because she felt she wouldn’t add anything to it.

I reassured her that her opinion was valuable or else I wouldn’t be asking her to come. It took some convincing, but she eventually agreed to come to the session. At the session, she did really well and had some really interesting ideas and insights.

The situation really got me thinking about how valuable naivety is in what we do at the Fuzzy Front End.

Now when I say naïve, I don’t mean someone who lacks understanding in general; I mean someone who is naïve to the new product development process and a given company’s capabilities and culture. It’s not that they couldn’t understand – it’s just that they don’t know because they aren’t around it and have never been exposed to it.

The value of someone who is naïve to your company and product development process is that they challenge assumptions because they aren’t constrained by them and aren’t aware of them.

Companies have many different constraints within them: manufacturing capabilities, cash flow issues, internal processes, procedures and policies, cash flow management, project schedules, target goals, not to mention employee personalities and company culture. All of these factors lead to assumptions of what ideas are and are not acceptable and can be accomplished.

A company employee could have a great idea, but it’s automatically rejected in the employees mind because they know the company would never do it. The idea is never articulated, and therefore never happens.

A naïve outsider’s perspective isn’t going to know what your company can and can’t do. They will articulate ideas based on their needs and not on the companies capabilities. They challenge the company’s assumptions with their ideas and force the company to break away from their conventional thinking.

If the idea is met with negativity or reluctance at the session (which happens sometimes, even though we preach unconditional positive regard), naïve outsiders question why the idea can’t be accomplished – they ask “why not?”. This challenges the assumptions of the company. Naïve outsides can lead to a company becoming innovative because they can ask “Why not?”, because they honestly don’t know.

Innovation lives in figuring out how to do things that have never been done before, at least by that company. An idea from a naïve perspective challenges a company to be innovative by forcing them to take a look and find a way to make it happen.

Companies can benefit from being naïve themselves. A great example of this is Southwest Airlines. When they first started out, they were running flights between 3 major airports in Texas. They were competing against bus companies for passengers, and had their cost structure set up to compete with bus fares.

When they started expanding, they kept their structure the same, still competing against buses. They were able to capture a good portion of the airline market because they’re naïve to the market and it’s internal structures. They didn’t know the fees and cost other airlines charged, so they didn’t feel the need to emulate them. Their naivety to the airline market made them a success.

The next time someone asks you “why not?” when you say your company can’t use their idea, take a step back and review what your answer would be. They’re viewing your company from a different, more naïve perspective than you, and could be onto something big.