Implementing product/service development/innovation plans
Product and service improvement is the process of making meaningful product changes that result in new customers or increased benefits for existing customers. The two most popular ways to make product or service improvements are to add new product features or improve existing ones. Developing and implementing product and service improvement plans involves three steps.
It begins with a product vision, which aligns everyone with the shared objective for the product or service. This is followed by a product/service mission - the ultimate purpose of the product/service, who it is for, and what it does for them.
With product vision and mission statements in hand, primary goals for the product can be established. These may be a little unclear in the early stages, such as finding product-market fit, but they can rapidly evolve into measurable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These measurable targets help shape which features, enhancements, and capabilities the product needs to achieve them.
Step 2: The roadmap
Assuming customer research and validation has already occurred, you can now draft a product roadmap, prioritising the significant themes and features to be addressed.
Step 3: Implement the roadmap
Once the product roadmap is agreed upon, it needs to be implemented. Implementation teams can create schedules, break down significant themes into short activities and generate prototypes of the product/service. This creates a feedback loop from customers, the sales team, and support, identifying new opportunities, pointing out shortcomings, and shining a light on areas to hone, improve, and expand.
Step 4: Reviewing and improving
This is a cyclical process and involves reviewing data, synthesising feedback, and continually updating the product roadmap while refining and developing the product/service.
See full case study below:
Customer Relationship Management
Identify a problem
How to proactively manage the marketing and communication process with prosects and customers in a small business resulting in increased sales. The use of metrics generated by KEAP enables the company to make small, continuous improvements to its processes, products, and services.
A challenge faced by most small companies is how to capture, process and use prospect and customer data to drive sales and profitability. Small businesses often do not have the staff to respond in a timely manner to sales enquiries and to run promotional campaigns.
Within weeks of introducing a Customer Relationship Management system, the sales and service support processes were transformed resulting in increased sales, profitability, and customer service.
Exponential Training & Assessment needed to streamline the customer service process from marketing to enquiry and sale through to post purchase support and service.
The solution was to re-design its entire customer and internal communication system. The selected off-the-shelf solution was a subscription, cloud-based Customer Relationship Management and Marketing automation product called KEAP.
To maximise the benefit of innovating the company’s communications process, the ’customer journey’ was mapped from start to finish. The subsequent process maps enabled the automation of sales enquiries direct from the company’s website into a sales and customer funnel and a customer database. Using data tags, fields and codes, KEAP is able to automatically respond to prospects and customers with personalised messages and letters. KEAP maximises efficiency enabling people to focus on more important tasks (e.g. building relationships with customers). The reporting functions enables management to monitor sales conversion rates and to create new customised marketing campaigns.
The introduction of digital marketing and a move away from traditional paper-based marketing in 2016 required Exponential Training to re-design its marketing and promotions strategy. Once set up with automated campaigns and response sequences, the company was able to provide a 24-hour response to sales enquires and to manage the communication process. To maintain improvements, the company is continuously monitoring key metrics and making small, continuous modifications to its processes and its’ products and services.
1. You Should Bounce Your Ideas Off Friends and Colleagues
No matter how objective a person you may consider yourself to be, you cannot possibly look at your own product/service and see the same flaws as someone who has no vested interest in its success or failure. Your idea may seem great to you, but before you can adequately judge whether it is a product/service of value to enough customers, you have to start with some small-scale feedback. If everyone around you is not sure your product or idea is something they would invest in, it may be time to adjust the idea, even if only slight adjustments, to ensure the product you end up releasing is the best it can possibly be.
2. Create a Working Prototype
In theory, many things can work well, but the real challenge is to make sure it works in reality and at a price customers can afford. You may need to sample different materials and test out several different combinations before you hit the right combination to head to market. In the end, it is much less time consuming and even more cost-effective to address problems as early as possible. The last thing an entrepreneur needs is to invest time and money into a product/service that cannot possibly work for whatever reason. Take the time to test out all your options and conduct your market research with a fully functional prototype to get the most accurate information you need to proceed with your launch. You will almost certainly find bugs and the time to correct them is at the prototype stage, not the launch stage.
3. Invest in Customer Analyses and Focus Groups
Customer feedback will be invaluable to you as an entrepreneur. In fact, it is also extremely valuable to well-established businesses with well-known products/services for sale. At the end of the day, the idea, improvement, or innovation is to satisfy a need for consumers. Their feedback, good or bad, can be extremely valuable. An entrepreneur need not give up on something if customer feedback is bad, but rather, take that negative information and apply it to help improve their existing idea or product. Nothing is impossible.
4. Prepare for Setbacks
It is nearly impossible to find a successful company that has not experienced failure, or even multiple failures, at some point along the line. Failure is a part of entrepreneurship, however, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Failure does not mean the end. It can mean the beginning of something even better. There is much to be learned from each individual failure in a company’s history and if you are alert, you will learn from yours. Expect setbacks because there is nothing worse for your morale than the total shock and surprise of finding out something you were confident was perfect as is, was not. Every setback is an opportunity to improve and continue building. If you look at setbacks as motivators, they can help you modify your product into something even better than you had initially expected. No one reaches success by remaining inflexible.
5. Think Like a Buyer, Not Like an Entrepreneur
Entrepreneurs are born, not made, so it is safe to say they often think as a businessperson all the time. It is a way of life for many entrepreneurial people. But when it comes to product/service development, you must think like your customer and not an entrepreneur. Put aside the pride you have for your idea and the realisation of it and think about how your customer would perceive this every single step of the way. Any time you make a modification to the product or the idea behind it, you must ask yourself if a customer wants or needs this and if you were buyer, would you buy this product from someone else.
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