“What are the strategies to help drive consumer needs into product benefits to go to market faster?”
There are two parts to this question that we can focus on. The first has to do with driving consumer needs into product benefits, which, in my interpretation, is really about gathering information about what customers want and then turning that information into products and services that they actually want to buy. And, as it turns out, I already answered that part of the question back in Episode 44, so I definitely recommend that you refer back to that blog post, or listen to the current podcast episode to learn about some techniques that will help you gather feedback from your customers and turn that feedback into something that you can act upon.
But that’s not the aspect of this question that I want to address in this week’s post. I actually want to focus on the last part of the question that correlates understanding customer needs with being able to “go to market faster” – mostly because this plays into a common misconception that, in my opinion, deserves just a little bit more attention.
If you’ve heard of the agile development process (especially as it relates to software development), chances are you’ve also heard the rumor that the primary purpose of this methodology is to help companies get their features to market faster. And although the name “agile” would certainly tend to support the notion of speed, this is actually not the primary tenet upon which agile development is based.
Although agile development is now the subject of many books and the foundation of many consulting practices, it was actually the result of a “manifesto” that was created by 17 software development professionals who gathered in a ski resort in Utah back in February of 2001. The primary purpose of that meeting was to find some agreement on a better way to develop software in an ever-changing technological landscape. What emerged was the “Agile Manifesto,” which can still be found by visiting agilemanifesto.org. At that site, you will find 12 principles of agile development, with the highest priority principle being to “satisfy the customer.” And although releasing early and releasing frequently may be a part of that overall approach, these actions only exist for the purpose of satisfying customers – not for the purpose of beating out your competition.
And this is where one of the most common misconceptions about agile software development – or any development process for that matter – comes into play. It’s not about speed; it’s about quality. The reason you iterate in an agile process is not so you can be faster than your competition, but, rather, so you can incorporate as much customer feedback into your product as possible and deliver a product that continuously meets their needs. If you do this better than anyone else, then you will also inevitably beat out your competition But, if beating out your competition is your primary goal, then I’m afraid you may be missing the point.
The only reason I feel compelled to address the question from this point of view (even though there was no official mention of trying to gain a competitive advantage) is because I see so many companies making this exact mistake every single day. They rush products to market that are half-baked just to get there quicker than anyone else. And then they wonder why customers don’t buy in. Well, the reason is simple: If you’re solving problems by creating more of them, then the net benefit to your customers will be exactly zero.
In short – if you are gathering information about your customers so you can go to market faster, you run the risk of actually making things harder on them in the process. But if you are gathering information from your customers so you can solve their problems in the best way possible for them – no matter how long that takes – then, by all means, carry on!
And what if your competitor does it faster? Well, then just make sure you do it better. Because, in the end, customers don’t generally care how fast you get to them, they only care about how completely you’ve solved their problems. If you do that better than anyone else, then they’ll pay you handsomely for the privilege – even if they had to wait a little longer for you to get there.
Listen to the podcast episode
Dear Strategy: Episode 066
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Bob Caporale is the founder of Strategy Generation Company, the author of Creative Strategy Generation and the host of the Dear Strategy podcast. You can learn more about his work by visiting bobcaporale.com.