According to AcuPoll more than 95-percent of new products fail each year. This harrowing statistic should sound an alarm, one that says the way we approach the conceptualization and launch of new products does not work.
Every year, billions of dollars shrivel down to zero. Careers and jobs lost. So much talent and energy gets wasted in the misdirected compulsion to have something new.
In reality, the world doesn’t need new stuff just because it is new. Landfills and aftermarket discount stores are filled beyond capacity. New doesn’t equal net new growth. All new, in fact, is not created equal. New for the sake of having something new to sell, is the most short-sighted, non-strategic, and unthinking mode of behavior for a company.
Here’s the crux of the issue: if you want to create products and sell them to people, well—to be blunt—nobody’s cares anymore. The mass-market engine that drove this mode of production and type of selling has expired, hence the 95-percent failure rate. Don’t create products for a too-general target and hope to push them.
Somewhere in the lust to create new value the most important factor in a successful equation was overlooked: the real people who may use your product. These humans, not objects to which you move a unit, but flesh-and-blood with the power to purchase, naturally desire a better life. If you create with them as part of your process, your success potential because much, much greater.
But new products that meet a real need for real people; well, that’s something useful and novel, a product with distinction and different than the rest of the heap. Just ask Swiffer, users of Dr. Scholl’s kiosk, or any other leading brand that keeps their consumers at the heart of the innovation, product development, and marketing efforts.
The trick: find people from whom you can solve problems. Then, get to know them deeply. Hang out in their homes, at their work, go shopping with them. Understand their rituals, their motivations, their relationship to the world and things in it. Know the people for whom you are creating.
Know also where the trends are pointing a few years out. Think about it in reverse. If you look back five years ago, half the people you knew didn’t have Smart Phones, most had never stayed in an AirBnb or taken an Uber to their destination. Now, they use their phones to book these services and do so much more. Trends and technology are accelerating at a quantum speed.
If you want to be in the product business make it your business to know where culture, the market, and the world will be in two-to-five years. Product development can take a year or two, so make sure you are creating for how your people may be interacting with the world a few years out.
People matter to the success of your new products. Ignore them at your own risk. If you can add value to their life, you thrive.
If not, goodnight.
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Michael Graber is the co-founder and managing partner at Southern Growth Studio, a Memphis, Tennessee-based firm that specializes in growth strategy and innovation. A published poet and musician, Graber is the creative force that complements the analytical side of the house. He speaks and publishes frequently on best practices in design thinking, business strategy, and innovation and earned an MFA from the University of Memphis. Follow Michael @SouthernGrowth