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No matter the popularity or demand for your product, its development remains the most important prerequisite for continuous business success. This is true for all industries and sectors, especially in our fast-paced world, where the consumer market changes rapidly and market trends shift at a moment’s notice.
Even when things seem to move slowly, there’s no denying that the only way to stay relevant and competitive is to invest in product research and development. Continuous innovation, however, is a costly process that, without the help of your customers, can fall through very quickly.
Customer opinion is the crucial link that ties the product development process together. Leverage your customer base for successful and cost-effective innovation.
Here’s how your business can benefit by involving customers in new product development.
How to Involve Customers in New Product Development
- Start with the buyer’s persona
- Manage everything in your CRM
- Optimize your strategy for local markets
- Engage with your customers on their terms
- Create surveys and capitalize on user research
- Incentivize your customers to participate
- Collate the data and create a development roadmap
1. Start With the Buyer’s Persona
Building a detailed buyer persona is one of the most important steps toward understanding your ideal customers. This includes their core values, aspirations, and behaviors in life.
A buyer persona allows you to align your brand’s identity with the unique needs of your target demographic, making it instrumental in the brand-building process. After all, you want your brand to resonate with the hearts and minds of your customers.
When it comes to involving customers in new product development, the buyer persona not only allows you to identify the ideal customer in the process but also identifies at what stage to include them. It’s, therefore, crucial to creating a buyer persona that you regularly optimize, so your company’s intel on your target demographic stays up to date.
In order to effectively use your buyer persona for product research and development, make sure to have updated information on the average customer:
- Age, gender, occupation
- Job title
- Goals, aspirations
- Key values and drivers
- Income level and income streams
- Challenges and pain points (personal and professional)
- Desired products
- Desired features and improvements
- Interests and hobbies
- Other brands they love
- Preferred online platforms and communication methods
2. Manage Everything in Your CRM
Before moving on to some product development best practices, let’s discuss the most valuable tool at your disposal: your CRM platform. Customer Relationship Management platforms are comprehensive tools companies use for lead generation, marketing, sales optimization, customer support, and much more.
It goes without saying that a platform that hosts all of your customers’ key data in one place is a vital tool in customer-led research and development. The purpose of a CRM is to provide your brand managers, product managers, innovators, and other important teams with the customer data they need to:
- Find the best and most involved customers
- Identify loyal, long-term customers with a high CLV
- Generate actionable reports and insights
- Collaborate effectively on a single platform
- Identify the stages in each buyer’s journey
- Create the best ways to approach each customer to elicit relevant feedback
Once you have set up your CRM and updated your buyers’ personas, you can move on to the best practices, starting with localization.
3. Optimize Your Strategy for Local Markets
Localization often gets overlooked in the initial stages of product development, which can be a costly mistake down the road. When developing new products, you need to consider all the markets where you’ll be selling and shipping those products.
Product localization means adapting the product’s branding and features to better fit the target market. When done right, good product localization boosts your corporate brand as a whole in the local community, and the product itself will create better customer acquisition and retention in the short, mid, and long term.
To localize your product and the product development process, don’t forget to:
- Identify all your target markets
- Identify the most lucrative target market
- Analyze the key drivers, values, pain points, and challenges of the local community
- Analyze the local culture and demographic background
- Analyze the product’s brand and the messaging surrounding it
- Engage the local community in refining the product for that specific market
Now that you understand the importance of localization, let’s move on to engagement itself.
4. Engage With Your Customers on Their Terms
Getting the right feedback from your customers involves much more than asking the right questions. You need to consider the unique preferences of different customers, such as how they like to communicate with brands, what kind of messages resonate with them, and the best way to reach them in the first place.
Some customers prefer to fill out an automated survey on a website or answer a few simple questions in an email. Others, however, want to talk to a real person and would love to jump on a virtual phone call to answer questions and provide in-depth opinions. Both of these avenues are excellent data sources you can use to your advantage.
With that in mind, make sure to:
- Research your customers and their habits
- Identify the most relevant customer touchpoints for your business
- Include all relevant online and offline communication methods in your strategy
- Optimize your messaging and questions for each touchpoint and format
- Give your customers the opportunity to choose their preferred method to engage with you
5. Create Surveys and Capitalize on User Research
An effective way to collect valuable feedback from your customers is to have them complete a survey. Surveys can take many formats and are quite versatile. You can incorporate them into a myriad of communication tools and touchpoints to serve every preference.
If a particular group of customers like short surveys delivered by email, you can optimize a survey for their needs. You can do the same for customers who are willing to complete long-form surveys directly on your website.
There are numerous possibilities, but the key is to optimize user research for product development specifically. Make sure to adapt your survey questions, format, and engagement type for every unique customer segment.
Keep the following aspects in mind when creating your surveys:
- Template and visuals
- Order of questions
- Wording and tone of voice – make sure both are on par with your brand identity
- Survey delivery method – email, social media, DMs, website, website chat, and so on.
- Survey localization and multi-language options
- Incentives for customers to take the survey
This last one brings us to our next important point.
6. Incentivize Your Customers to Participate
No matter how loyal some of your customers are, the question always remains – what’s in it for them? You shouldn’t expect people to simply agree to provide feedback about your brand, products, or the things you’re currently developing, no matter how exciting they may be for you.
Customers need an incentive to participate in any survey, focus group, poll, or feedback in general. With that in mind, consider the kind of incentives you’re going to offer.
Incentives should bring value to the customer, but they shouldn’t break the bank. Instead, these can be small one-time discounts, personalized deals, store vouchers, loyalty points, promotional branded products, or even some of your paid digital products like guides and eBooks.
Consider what your customers truly think is valuable to them, and offer it as a token of gratitude for participating in your program.
7. Collate the Data and Create a Development Roadmap
Finally, you need to put all the data you collected to good use. While your new product cannot satisfy everyone’s needs, analyzing the data will allow you to identify the trends and averages you need to create a successful product development roadmap. This roadmap will be based on the wants and needs of the majority.
The key to a successful product and market pricing is to satisfy the majority of your customers. To do that, you need to pool all the data, extract the recurring answers and opinions, and weed out the non-essential feedback.
Group your feedback according to product functionalities, features, needs, and wants, as well as customer pain points and challenges to guide the development process in the right direction.
Involving Customers in New Product Development – Conclusion
Remember that not meeting market demands is one of the top reasons why so many businesses fail. New product development allows small businesses to grow in a competitive market and keeps established brands relevant in the eyes of their customers. It requires a lot of time, effort, and financial allocation to get right, but it’s worth it – especially if you involve your customers throughout the process.
Now that you understand the importance of involving customers in new product development and how to do it right, leverage your customer base to develop amazing new products that will take your business forward both now and in the years to come.