Getting ready to pitch your new project idea to your company's Project Steering Committee? Here are some proven tactics that can enhance your success prospects.
Visualize Market Opportunity: Your proposal should vividly depict the market opportunity to capitalize on or create meaningful "white space." For instance, coconut water marketers recognized that sports-minded consumers were interested in a more healthful, natural alternative to Gatorade-type beverages. Be sure to define and ideally, quantify the customer(s) you are targeting.
Make Your Product Real: Even at the earliest stages, where practical, get a functional product prototype made. It doesn't need to be slick or fancy, but it should competently represent your value proposition. Prototypes make ideas appear "real" and can build support in ways that words alone simply can't. That said, in product categories where taste and style are primary purchase drivers, be careful that it doesn't distract. While I worked at Bath and Body Works, I heard an EVP dismiss a merchant's home fragrance product prototype as, "something I might find being sold on the Pennsylvania Turnpike" (if you couldn't tell, that was not a compliment).
Use Data To Inform Your Initial Business Case: Apply available secondary market and consumer data. Fashion and trend info are very relevant in retail industries. It may even be possible to run small scale consumer research to enable target customers to react to your proposition. While at P&G, I used results from small scale research piggy-backed on top of other consumer research to help build early support for what would eventually become Cheer Free Laundry Detergent.
Scope Technical Feasibility: Quite often, project sponsors will present a business basis for interest, but won't address technical feasibility until considerably later in the development process (usually following product concept development). To help reduce uncertainty, it can be helpful to identify enabling technologies at a program's outset. For instance, a category manager for a department store chain wants to develop a line of dishes and bowls that employ recycled materials. A search reveals technology commercialized for ceramic toilets and sinks that incorporates a percentage of recycled glass along with conventional ceramic materials. This approach is directly applicable to his proposed program.
Cultivate Sponsors: Where appropriate, informally talk up your initiative with respected managers and seek to cultivate their support. (Who hasn't been asked by a senior exec, "So, what are you working on these days?") After all, managers do chat amongst themselves separate from scheduled meetings. Generating some positive "buzz" about early stage initiatives can help keep them in play and allow a bit of breathing room to prove them out.
What approaches have worked for you?
Good luck and Happy New Year.