Building A Strong Case For Your Business Idea: Part 2
A colleague has asked me, "How do I identify technologies that will be of interest to my Marketing counterpart?" The answer depends upon how one goes about defining a strategically relevant value propositions that uniquely fill available market space. Sometimes, one can define the needs that the customer requires, and can then identify solutions that best capitalize on this "white space". It is also sometimes true that robust technologies can present opportunities for development of various possible product positionings (technology push). However, both approaches require the development and validation of compelling customer hypotheses...and a strong product execution.
Let's separate the executional aspects of a value propositon from the conceptual ones and start by defining the term, "value propostion." According to renowned Marketing expert Professor Mohan Sawhney, value propositons are defined as: "A set of promises (i.e. benefits) that you make to a defined target audience that are differentiated from other alternatives that customers might consider and are backed up by reasons to believe." He goes on to say that value is defined by the particular customer, and is not necessarily the same for each customer, as their needs, situations and competitive frame can be very different.
It is often very useful to start new product development efforts by defining whose needs you are seeking to address, and what these are. For instance, consider a technology that helps mitigate gingivitis and "dog breath" (literally, foul dog breath), which frequently occurs due to irregular and often inadequate oral hygiene measures taken by the pet owner. I believe that there are at least a couple of potential customer audiences for this type of solution: pet owners who are concerned about their pet's oral health (but are not very active in its management), and pet owners who are offended by their pet's breath. These audiences are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
While this is a reasonable starting place for a strong value propositon definition, in its current state it is simply an expression of a hypothesis. In order to turn this into a more robust proposition, it would be helpful to collect information that helps to define the customer market segments within pet care (so one can research their particular behaviors, attitudes and needs). Also helpful is info that speaks to the extent and breadth of dog oral care problems, how they are currently being addressed (or not), the alternatives currently available to customers, including technologies and products being marketed in this space, and my technology's inherent superiority to these.
Only after we've "carved out" this space and more fully defined the customer opportunity is it truly ready for a more thoughtful discussion and consideration. Short of this, it is always possible for anyone to second-guess or dismiss the idea on a highly subjective basis. I don't always have or make the time to develop these business case fundamentals, so I realize that this puts the opportunity at risk of getting shot down. However, I also realize that doing this leg work improves my success prospects as it enables me to more fully dimension the opportunity and convince myself (and others) of its merit.
I'm not saying that prospective innovators need to make an air-tight case going in to a discussion with Marketing before they can share their ideas. I am saying that in most companies, someone (usually Marketing) will have to compile this info at some point. As such, building a strong foundation for a new proposition will likely enhance its durability.
This leads into the topic of product prototypes and their role in the selling process. We'll discuss this topic next week.
Are you having challenges in developing and communicating clear value propositons? Give me a call to discuss. I'll bet I can help.