Proposition development: how to approach it successfully?

Many companies struggle to realise new products and services. And especially to do so quickly and efficiently. Ideas for new products or services are often still there. But then? How many times have you walked around with an idea that nobody seems to listen to/ Or to which you hear: nice but... and then 20 objections. Will you be discouraged or will you rise to the challenge? Here, we share our experiences and give you some practical tools to do successfully launch a new product or service.

At ICE-UP, we know that having an idea for a new product is not enough: what matters is that customers want to buy it from you.

Therefore, the first step crucial to properly understand your customers' needs. As second step the key is to flesh out the idea so that you can get a picture of the impact, opportunities and risks and decide on it. And if third step it is advisable to stay in touch with your target audience to get faster responses to your ideas.

Step 1: Start by finding out what your customers want

The most important thing to start with when developing a new product or service is to get clear on your customers' needs. Customers will only buy something from you if it meets his/her need or solves a problem. For instance, you don't buy bread because you like it but because you need food. Too often we see a proposition serving its own internal purpose, such as increasing sales or customer numbers, because it is technically possible or because the competitor has it too. These are all derivative issues; primarily it is about the customer wanting it.

How do you find out what the customer wants?

There are several models that can help in finding out customer needs. Before using any model, it is important to keep in mind:

  • Don't fill it in for the customer by immediately coming up with a solution. Find out the need properly first and only then start coming up with solutions for it. A well-known example is that one of people's needs is to get from A to B easily. You can then immediately start making a car but that is not necessarily what people want in all cases. For instance, sometimes an OV bike is a good solution, sometimes the train and sometimes the car. By shooting straight to a solution you may miss out on solutions that are easier and cheaper.
  • So it is important to understand the customer well. You do this by talking to the customer and, above all, by asking a few good questions to find out the underlying emotional aspect as well as the functional one. For example, we once tested a new function in an app that gave customers insight into their energy consumption. Discussions showed that customers liked all kinds of detailed information but mainly wanted to know whether they had to pay a lot or a little extra. As many customers received the bill at the end of the year, that in turn was important to know how much they had to spend for the holidays they wanted to spend with their families in a nice way. A thumbs up or down was enough for most customers. We adapted the app's screens to this.

A good model for working towards solutions from needs is the Value proposition model.

In this model, you stand next to the client in your mind (or sometimes literally) and look with him or her at what tasks, wants and needs someone has in everyday life.

In the right-hand side of the model, you indicate the customer's tasks ("Jobs") on the specific topic your idea relates to. Then you indicate what makes customers happy or satisfied in doing so (the "Gains") and what makes them resist doing so (the "Pains").

You then start coming up with solutions that you fill in on the left side to reduce the annoying things (the Pains) or to further increase the fun things (the Gains). Ideally, customers already have solutions for these themselves and otherwise a brainstorm is a good way to come up with a number of solutions in a short time.

Step 2: Elaborate the ideas into a concrete proposition

Now that you have found one or more product ideas that meet a customer need, the next step is to make these ideas more concrete. With the aim of giving you or your organisation a better idea of what the proposition will deliver and cost.

There are many ways and models to work out a proposition. A pleasant and widely used model is the Business Model Canvas. It is a compact model in which you work out an idea on 1 A4 in 9 sub-areas that together form the proposition.

Our advice is to start in the middle with the value proposition, which is basically the pitch of your proposition. Then the right part, which is about the customer. Then the left part which is about the realisation of the product and finally the bottom financial part. Do not fill in this model on your own but use the knowledge of your colleagues and partners in the different sub-areas.

As you gain more knowledge and you are filling in more fields, you may have to make some adjustments to what you filled in earlier. You will notice that the fields are interrelated. For instance, if you want to offer a better service, that will cost more money, which means the price will have to go up, but that might make you too expensive and nobody will buy it. So it's quite a balancing act. With the completed A4 of the Business Model Canvas, you have a nice and concise overview to share internally and get decision making on it

Step 3: Test the proposition with your customers

It has worked, everyone in your organisation is excited about your new product and you are eager to start implementing it. Before you do that, it is wise to test your product idea with your customers. After all, they are ultimately the ones who have to buy it in order to reduce their "Pains" or increase their "Gains". This way, you get immediate feedback on whether you are on the right track or whether adjustments are still needed.

Testing ideas with customers can be done in many different ways. To name a few:

  • Describe your proposition as a pitch (like your value proposition in step 2) or make it visual through a drawing, comic strip, photo or video. Share it with your customers during an interview and then ask what they think of it and what could be improved.
  • You can also do the above by questioning customers online in a customer panel or survey. Then pay extra attention to your description; it should be immediately clear because, after all, you are not there in person to give explanations.
  • Pretend the product already exists in real life and let your customers use and explore it to gather feedback. You do this by creating a prototype. That is a simplified version of the real product. Especially for website and apps, there are plenty of tools to quickly create a "just real" version. Then let your customers use it and collect their feedback.

Keep in mind that the purpose of testing is not for you to convince customers of the new product's qualities. But rather that you are looking for honest (and sometimes harsh) feedback of customers. So an open and curious attitude is important, as is asking through. Remember that if customers don't like it, it's still profit. Otherwise, you would have found out much later, when a lot of money and time had already been spent on it. You will have avoided that. But if you've gone through the process properly, this shouldn't happen very often.

Because that's the lesson....

Working on new propositions and products is great fun and not easy at the same time. Persevering, working in a structured way, listening, adapting and moving on again. Curious about what ICE-Up can do for you? As a solution provider, we at ICE-UP also help our clients develop and realise new propositions.

Take contact us If you want to know more about this!

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