Having moderated numerous ideation sessions and testing hundreds of new product concepts and prototypes, I’ve seen first hand which new product processes work, and which don’t.
But before ideating or testing anything, you have to know what influences to even consider. Where should you go for inspiration for new products?
1. The competition.
Ever wonder why there are so many “me too” products launched each year? Because they’re effective. Seeing a promising new product break through in the marketplace can be a clue that there’s more demand where that came from.
2. Your own products.
“Me too” products can also be driven by your own product line. Try shifting a feature on a current product, like color or size. Or combining two successful products into one new hybrid one.
3. The past.
What was your company founded on? Can you modernize a blast from the past or go completely retro? Can you take a current product and make it new by combining it with influences from a historical design era?
Food company? Try brand traits from technology. Auto company? What would a club DJ do to your new car style if given a chance?
5. Customer feedback.
In my experience, direct consumer brainstorming often proves ineffective. Your buyers are best used to gain specific reactions once you have something to show them. But customer comments or open-ended, qualitative research can yield needs, wants, frustrations and criticisms that you can turn into new product ideas for success. So many entrepreneurial stories start with a personal issue that the founder could only solve themselves. They then figured that others had similar concerns and a company began to form. The same can be done with issues from your current buyers.
How has nature solved similar problems? Ideas that have stood the test of time usually have something fundamentally strong about them. Whether this means removing chemicals from food instead of adding them, looking at how our feet actually work instead of forcing us into unnatural shapes, or simply observing the colors of a sunset, you can take your inspiration from the world that exists beyond people.
7. Your employees.
People who interact directly with your buyers in the company or those who make things work day to day often have ideas about what should be launched next. Find ways to harness these ideas and compile them into themes and concepts.
8. Pure creativity.
In the process of being influenced by internal and external forces, you will no doubt have new product ideas that seemingly come from nowhere. Capture these ideas as well, even those that seem really far afield. Wild ideas can be tamed over time, and might form the next big thing for your company.
Products go through lifecycles, so at some point most products will have reached the end of their profitable existence. New products replace the old and can be used to grow your company. Structured new product processes can add the edges to your innovation and increase your odds of success.
Jennifer Cooper, President of BuyerSynthesis, helps established and emerging brands grow revenues through better understanding their buyers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.