We’re convinced that when you describe your new product idea to prospective customers some the most valuable responses come from customers who are critical of the idea.
Inexperienced interviewers take a customer’s criticism as a rejection of the idea. On the contrary, a customer often considers the basic idea as sound. However they want it modified to solve an important need they have but haven’t previously explained.
Dig deep to unearth latent unmet needs
For success you need to dig deep in fieldwork interviews with prospective customers and end-users, with those who dislike the idea as well as those who like it. We’re confident, after doing thousands of interviews in B2B product idea evaluation, that listening as if you are wrong will unearth latent needs. Many times satisfying a latent need by modifying the idea proves to be the key to creating economic value that will distinguish your product from competitive solutions.
Defending your idea … don’t do it
In the fuzzy front end of new product development, your early description of the idea exists to be shaped and adjusted by Professors, knowledgeable customers and endusers. Your job in the interview is to remain in the role of the Intelligent Pupil, asking questions which delve into why the Professor doesn’t completely favor the early idea.
Earlier in my career I was an inventor. My attitude then was my invention was my baby and like all proud parents I didn’t take kindly to criticism of my baby. Well a few people think all babies are ugly in the same way they think all new product ideas are worthless. But the majority wants to help babies in every way possible. Knowledgeable criticism of your product idea will make it a success. Don’t defend. Do ask Professors simple questions that will help make your product more desirable.
Dig deep and challenge
We have found that, when interviewing Professors, simple questions such as “I don’t understand” or “Tell me more” introduced at the right time can plumb the depths of the expert’s dislike. Often by the 25th to 30th interview in a product idea evaluation project we will use more challenging questions. For example, “I don’t understand, I’ve interviewed two people at the XYZ company and they don’t agree with what you say are saying”. Used at the right time, a challenging question prompts the Professor to go deep into territory uncharted in the open literature. Often an important latent need surfaces.
Fuzzy front end fieldwork discovers valid prospective customers’ reactions to your new product idea when the cost to modify it is low. In fieldwork conversation with “Professors” they tell you what they like about your idea and … what they dislike. After 40 evaluation interviews you will have shaped a strong concept to develop for new product success.