Valuable product concept, Wrong customers

“They should be our customers”

It’s common for a product concept’s originators to waste time and skills by failing to connect with early adopters for their new product. Often it’s because they’ve chosen to work with familiar customers in a familiar market. Even after the originators spend time and skills to convert the concept into a prototype, these customers still view the concept as a “might be nice to have” but not as a  “must have” new product.

Meanwhile, alongside the familiar market is an emerging market with early adopter customers for whom the new product is a “must have”. They see the concept as a solution to an urgent problem with significant commercial importance.

Understanding the value of a product concept in an unfamiliar market

It’s hard for a product concept’s originators to pivot from a familiar market and grow relationships with unfamiliar customers in an adjacent market. Identifying early adopters in the unfamiliar market eases the pivot. Doing so helps the concept’s originators block competing new products from establishing a foothold in the unfamiliar market.

Giving early adopters first access to a product concept eases the pivot in three ways worthy of attention.

  • Early adopters are the first major group of customers in a new product’s innovation adoption lifecycle 1.
  • They work closely with the originator in testing the product concept for market fit
  • They pay more than succeeding groups in the lifecycle giving favorable early cash flow

Finding early adopters by testing a verbal product concept statement

Product concept statement 2

A product concept statement describes what is new about a product concept and how that newness might benefit a future customer. The statement links the product concept to products that are familiar to the customer. The statement can be presented to future customers in one of three formats.

    1. Narrative (verbal)
    2. Drawing, diagram, sketch
    3. Model or prototype

In our experience, presenting the statement in narrative format during a telephone interview with prospective customers in an unfamiliar market provides attractive outcomes.

Among these attractive outcomes are:

  • Rapid elicitation, worldwide, of customers’ expressed and, previously unarticulated, latent needs the concept might satisfy.
  • A deep understanding of the customers’ views of how to satisfy these needs.
  • Self-identification of early adopters.

Telephone elicitation interviews quickly identify early adopters and test product concept statements

My service for testing a client’s B2B product concept statement consists of: a. identifying prospective customers, b. completing one-on-one interviews with forty prospects, and c. gathering and analyzing the prospects’ feed back. My informal but usually accurate test for early adopters among forty prospects comes as a result of elicitation interviews.

When an elicitation interview passes fifteen minutes or more, the prospect will say something like the following. “George, I know you can’t tell me the name of your client but as soon you finish this project I want your client to contact me.” My reply is “Yes I’ll be glad to do so. I’d like to understand why, so if it’s possible could you tell me why?” These comments identify an early adopter. Later contact by the client corroborates this identification.  A client often gains a foothold customer for the new product’s launch.

1. Everett Rogers Diffusion of Innovations 5th Edition, Free Press (2003)

2. C. Merle Crawford New Products Management 4th Edition, Irwin, Boston, MA (1997)