If you've finished your product innovation, you're probably thinking about how to market and sell it, who you'll need to hire once this thing becomes the most successful thing ever and how much money you'll make.
It also helps to think about something else during the post-production period—product innovation. That's right: Once you've developed a new product or service, you never stop innovating. You can't rest on your laurels for long—especially if your product is in tech.
But even if you've just developed something very non-techy, like a new sandwich for your restaurant or new colorways for quilts, you could argue that your creative machinery should never be turned off for very long. Customers get bored, and you can't give them the same old same old.
—Rafe Gomez, co-owner, VC Inc. Marketing
So the next time you've finished working on a product innovation, consider doing the following to keep things moving.
1. Remember why product innovation is so important.
“If you think you're ever done innovating, you will inevitably become obsolete," says Arik Levy, the CEO of Luxer One, a package management and locker solutions company headquartered in Sacramento.
“Even if you're the market leader with no threat in sight, think about how the paradigm could shift," he says. “Consumer behaviors evolve, indirect competitors become direct and whole new platforms emerge. Are you going to be the one who changes the paradigm? Or someone else?"
He has a point. It isn't just that it's a good idea to innovate. Innovating can keep your company fresh, relevant and alive.
2. Get feedback from your customers.
Yes, you probably market tested the heck out of your offering. But those were focus groups. Now you can (and probably should) get feedback from your customers, says Anayet Chowdhury, CEO and co-founder of ArgoPrep, a provider of supplemental educational products and services based out of Brooklyn.
“Truth be told, the real innovation starts after you launch your product or service," Chowdhury says. "After you launch a service or product, you will learn how to improve user experience as you get valuable feedback from your customers."
Particularly if you're offering a service on a website, “implementing changes never stops," he says.
"As you grow, you will gain insight into important user data and will see what changes you can make to provide a better experience for the user. A simple change of a color of a button on a website can make a significant difference in how users interact with your website."
3. Have a goal when you innovate.
“Innovation for innovation's sake can generate a lot of wasted energy," says Carl Mazzanti, vice president and co-founder of eMazzanti Technologies. (The New York City-based company offers cloud, IT and network services.) Mazzanti suggests that when you innovate, you have an end goal in mind, such as making your customers more profitable or successful.
Innovation for innovation's sake may turn up something special and profitable for your company. But if your product innovation can solve an existing problem, you may make money and save money at the same time.
4. Establish a company culture that prizes product innovation.
Rafe Gomez, a co-owner of VC Inc. Marketing, a multimedia public relations firm in New York City, says that the best businesses never stop innovating. You need to find ways to thrill and surprise your customers, Gomez says.
“Whatever you're selling, you need to avoid thinking that you've come up with the ultimate and perfect solution, and that once it hits the marketplace, your work is done," Gomez says. “If you relax, kick back and fall into this delusional mindset, you'll be crushed by a more savvy competitor that will offer a better—or cheaper or faster or more convenient—version of what you're selling."
5. Unveil your new innovations as soon as its feasible.
It's going to work out differently for every company, but here's a general rule. If you've improved a product or service, and there's no reason to not launch or relaunch it, then launch it.
That's how John Gattuso sees it. Gattuso, who is based out of Atlanta, is the CEO of FIXD, an app that you plug into your car to monitor your vehicle's health.
“You build what you think your customers want, but then when the customer starts using it, you often find that they wanted something else," Gattuso says. “The quicker you can iterate on incorporating user feedback into your product, the quicker you can deliver a product that your customers care about."
And, of course, your opponent is innovating, too—another reason to stay on top of product innovation.
6. Keep an open mind.
The thing about innovating is that sometimes the changes you come up with can completely turn your company around.
Earl Takefman is the CEO of Perfect Pressure, a mattress company based out of Aventura, Florida.
His company launched a mattress on a home shopping network and sold out of the product in 32 minutes. There were more home shopping shows and many more sales. Takefman was euphoric, of course. Every day, he would ask his wife if she liked the mattress and how she slept on it. And then one day, well...
“She finally told me that she hated it. That she woke up with back pain every morning," Takefman says.
Along with his wife's not-so-stellar testimony, some mattresses were returned. Even though sales were still going well, Takefman ended up changing the direction of the entire company. He decided all of their mattress products would be customizable and personalized for every customer. He ultimately decided to discontinue his mattress in August 2017 and pull his products off the market for about six months.
His new mattress is now in numerous department stores and sales have been going well.
That said, Takefman is still engaged in product development, continually “fine tuning" the mattress.
No matter what business you're in, if you're engaged in product innovation, you'll be able to stay ahead of your competition by offering better services and products to your customers. And if you know that your business can do that, you may be able to sleep a lot better—even if you don't sell mattresses.
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