Sources of Innovation – Your Customers

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If you are looking for inspiration and guidance for a new product line or ways to improve your products, look no further than your current customers!

Your customers are already familiar with your business, your products, and most likely your competition. Your customers know your product’s strengths and also its weaknesses. They’ll be the first to complain about your products and also the first to applaud them.

How can you tap into your customers thoughts and feelings about your company and your products? We have four suggestions:

Send a Survey – An easy way to get a response from a large customer base would be to send out a survey. There are many online survey tools that companies can use to gauge their customers. One of the most popular free online survey tools is SurveyMonkey. To increase the likelihood of a customer filling out a survey, provide an incentive such as a coupon or a prize.

Hold a Contest – If you are looking at expanding an existing product line, you may consider running a contest where customers can have a say in the development of your new product. Many consumer brand companies have success running product contests where customers provide suggestions on naming the new product, picking a new flavour, or uploading a video with their ideas.

Lead a Focus Group – By holding a focus group with a small group of your customers, you can learn your customer’s thoughts and suggestions on your new product. It’s a chance for customers to touch, use, smell, or taste your new product and  is a great way to test customer reactions, opinions, and attitudes on your new product. Maybe provide a few potential product prototypes and have customers discuss what they like and don’t like about each slightly different product. You can also gauge your customers on potential pricing, marketing, and packaging of your product. Ask that participants sign a non-disclosure agreement before showing them the new product if there are pending patents.

Trial Use – Give your top customers the opportunity to use your new product on a trial basis. A customer that uses your product in a real world scenario can provide valuable feedback on a new design or new features. Many software companies offer customers the opportunity to use ‘Beta’ versions of their software program to get the bugs out of the system before it is widely released. A customer could provide a testimonial about your new product, which can help with marketing your product to new customers.

Including your customers in the new product development process will make them feel more connected to your company. They will feel valued and honoured to be asked to participate in improving your business. If customers are included in the beginning stages of the development of a new product, you may learn some valuable information and advice before making a costly mistake.

Do you have an experience working with customers to help develop new products? Share your story in the comments below.

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