Four Tips for Finding Latent Needs “Gold”

Gold PanningGold panning separates small flakes of gold from large quantities of sand. In a similar way, in the front end of product development the “gold” of customers’ latent needs can be separated from an overburden of core needs.

Finding latent needs  provides a route for a current technology platform to move to new growth through innovations that solve latent needs’ hidden problems. Recognizing and surfacing latent needs from core needs requires insightful conversations with customers for your new product.

Tip 1: Pick a place to pan for gold 1

Scan markets — existing, adjacent, new — where product developers have found “gold”. Once you’ve located a gold-bearing stream find crevices or niches where the latent needs tend to concentrate.

Tip 2: Pick one of these gold-bearing niches to explore

Decide which market niche your new product concept, in combination with your existing innovation levers such as R&D and market insights, might best exploit a latent need.

Tip 3: Fill your gold pan, tilt and shake

Assemble a random sample of lead users, early adopters, and end users in this market niche. Interview at least 40 individuals in the sample in one-on-one conversations. Guide the conversations to elicit the problems and challenges they face.

Tip 4: Concentrate the gold at the bottom edge of the pan

Often after an individual in the sample gives a long list of core needs, then some of the hidden problems and frustrations settle out. Patterns begin to unfold as these latent needs   concentrate.

Case Study: Unearthing and fulfilling a latent need in an adjacent market for new product success

Twice a client tried and failed to crack open an adjacent market through a technical solution to what their customers identified as the top core need. (The client was recognized worldwide in their primary market for exceptional R&D skills.)

Before developing a third technical solution for the top core need, the client engaged me to research the adjacent market and get feedback on latent and core needs the solution might solve. I found after 40 elicitation interviews with customers and their end users that the end users didn’t care a whit about the customers’ top core need.

Surfaced and concentrated however, was a latent business need. The client resolved this need by switching to an innovative business model for the adjacent market. In the past fourteen years the client’s market share increased from 6% to 65% in a >$40 mil./year global business .

1.  (2011) Daniel “How to Pan for Gold the Easy Way”