Rely on Customers and Prospects to Identify Needs, Test Solutions and Conceptualize Products

Roughly speaking, Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), systems integration firms, and technology consultants can go one of two ways as they proceed down the path of new product design:

  1. Build the product and then find out if anyone needs it, or
  2. Communicate with customers, prospects, competitors and representative groups within a market to discuss areas of need that can be addressed by products and/or services within the range of company skills and production capabilities

In my estimation, option 1 is practiced far more often than option 2, usually as the result of an assumption on the part of an entrepeneur that option 1 represents the easier and faster approach. In my experience, however, products produced by the option 1 method generally fail. The fact is that it is next to impossible to extrapolate from an individual notion to an accurate estimation of a pervasive market need.

Rather, strict application of the option 2 method, which starts with zero assumptions, whatsoever, about solutions, market needs, etc, is a much more reliable and ultimately less costly approach to product development. After all, walking away (before any product development costs have been incurred) from an assumed marketplace that is found to be non existent, is certainly the right course of action.

Option 2 is easy to implement through a teleprospecting function. Prospects and customers will be much more willing to participate in telephone conversations that are not encumbered with sales offers and product presentations. In fact, some contacts who are involved with marketplace topics will be eager to share information with a skillful teleprospector.

The teleprospecting program should be crafted to not only gauge product needs, but also, and of most importance, the level of clarity with which prospects and customers perceive these same needs. It is especially important to make some estimate of marketplace clarity in order to accurately forecast the length of any sales cycle as well as the actual timing for product development. After all, it makes no sense to develop products for an immature or “broken” market. Better to work closely with prospects and customers to clarify needs. Once needs are clear, then products and services can be recommended as solutions for needs.

Presently in the winter of 2011, many technology marketplace needs lack clarity. Compounded failures to deliver value, false promises of amorphous value, together with underestimation of what it takes to deliver Business Process Re engineering (BPR) have rendered many a technical marketplace into a “no man’s land” which ought to be avoided.

Better take surveys than dream up products for enterprise business 2012.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved

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