Like most, your company doesn’t have a true product development unit. Instead, folks just run their ideas by the CEO. It’s all quite ad hoc in which the next steps depend on their mood at the moment more than anything else.
But as you survey the organisation’s state of innovation, you are concerned. The truth is this approach isn’t yielding a consistent flow of results. Your measure? Your products and services look like your competitors. Or if you are a monopoly, your offerings are stale. Nothing innovative has emerged in years.
To set yourself apart, you need ideas that can differentiate your offers in ways that customers find valuable.
However, you can’t afford to hire a full-time R&D team. And if you did, you aren’t confident that a group of newcomers could do the job effectively. How can you achieve consistent differentiation?
Recently, I trialled an approach described by Alex Hormozi in his book $100m Offers. It has produced great initial results and allowed me to do my own R&D. Why do I recommend this method? It is an inside-out approach based on customer experience. Here are the steps I used, illustrated with a local example.
Step 1: Describe dream outcomes – Make a list of the experiences you want your ideal customers to have. If they convey a true desire, record them, even if they are not attainable.
Step 2: Brainstorm all the problems they experience – Start with the moment the customer thinks about your offer. What are the points of friction that stand in the way of their outcomes being achieved? Continue by adding further obstacles that occur during and after consumption. Where do people wish things were different?
For example, imagine if you were the owner of the local Krispy Kreme franchise. There are individuals who have yet to experience the product, but you want to give them an introductory taste.
From their perspective, what are all the problems blocking a first-time taste test? As a curious potential customer who has never tried their donuts, there were a few considerations standing in my way: the traffic around the store’s intersection is too bad; the lines inside are long; I am on a diet; I dislike food that is too sweet; and I tried a competitor’s product and swore “never again”.
This is a quick start, but you should keep going until you have at least a hundred points of friction for your offering. The more you add, the more immersed you become in the customer’s experience, leading to better insights. They are of much higher quality than those gathered in a survey.
Step 3: List solutions for each problem – This may seem simple, but it’s an important interim step. Address each point of friction with a solution expressed in the form of a how-to phrase.
For example: ‘I am on a diet’ would be solved by ‘How to test the donut/product while sticking to your diet’.
But is this statement enough? In general, the answer is no, so proceed.
Step 4: Create vehicles to deliver answers – Here you let your imagination run a bit wild. List offers (that is, vehicles) that speak to every how-to solution in the prior step. Give distinct names to your vehicles that are descriptive and would catch the attention of your customer.
Once again, the key is to be thorough and deep. Cover all the offers that apply, including those you have no intention of providing.
For example, let’s take the solution from the prior step – how to test the donut/product while I am on a diet. What are possible names of vehicles that could attract my attention as a customer?
• The 47-Calorie Donut Hole;
• The Perfect Donut for a Dieter’s Cheat Day (help dieters plan effective cheat days courtesy of this brand);
• Free Traffic Morsels (offer complimentary pastries for hungry folks stuck in traffic);
• Our Lowest-Ever Calorie/Fat Gram Donut (give diet-conscious customers an excuse and reward their diligence); or
• The Unsweet Spicy Donut (some dieters are turned off just by the idea of a sugar overload).
This list took me about 10 minutes to create. But it’s not because I’m particularly creative. You can follow this structured process to escape ruts in your thinking with impressive speed.
Step 5: Rank solutions – Finally, add two measures to each vehicle. First, note the value to the customer. Then determine the cost to your business to create the vehicle. Use these to rank order your offers and establish a timeline for implementation.
The bottom line is that these lists can jumpstart your innovation. Courtesy of Alex Hormozi, they are lightweight forms of R&D which build on existing experience being gathered every day.
Francis Wade is a management consultant and author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity. To search past columns on productivity, strategy and business processes, or give feedback, email: email@example.com