Understanding Customers “real needs” in developing new products
When starting out with a new product many people develop a range that they love and try it on family and friends and usually the feedback is “this is great” “you should sell this”. Of course, it may be an amazing product that tastes fantastic and has no additives or preservatives or indeed it may be its completely free from and a vegan option, as that is in trend right now. Perhaps it is a real premium offer in the most fantastic packaging and looks great and would make an amazing gift for someone.
What no one wants to hear however when presenting it to a buyer is “you have an ugly baby” it is not right for my customers and will not make it into the range we offer.
So how do you make sure before presenting your products that it will be a great fit and something to be proud of that is ideally suited to the buyer you are presenting it to and their customers?
Desk top research is a must and most of this can be done in your pyjamas while having your morning coffee sitting in front of a laptop but nothing will and can replace getting out and about to better understand and capture the real selling point that you must build into your products offer, even if it is just to match the competition. Number of facings, shelf ready packaging, pack size to name but a few. Whatever your products position benchmarking the competition is a great start and a must but the most important part of developing something new is to have a product that meets real customer’s needs and has a genuine selling point.
To do this you now need to move away from the practical steps required in developing your customer offer and move into the area of meeting the customers’ needs by identifying who they are, how your product makes them feel and what emotional connection it has with them. Only by doing this and then using these connections with the customer can you genuinely benchmark against the competition, to create a product range that will resonate with your customers and make them want to buy into your brand.
So, what are a few examples of this? Well recently my niece said, through frustration of not being able to buy what she wanted, that she should go into the manufacturing of dairy free cheese (as both her children have allergies to dairy). After some discussion it was mostly about the taste of the products but then as the conversation developed further, I asked her who would it be designed for? Children exclusively or appeal to adults also? Should it be grated, sliced or block, do you want it to be re-sealable or not, round in shape or square, multi packs or bulk, flavoured or not, mild, or strong…you get the thought process.
The point is that customers have a real connection to products that are more than just price based sometimes. The reply “Only my kids eat it so re-sealable would be good and a long shelf life to save on waste”. “Some flavours also as their diet is limited and some choice would be great”. Grated would be ideal as we could also use it on pizza and yellow in colour (as we are in Scotland most cheese is that colour) so the kids feel they are getting the same as everyone else”. The headlines of what her feedback consisted of.
Now when you start to re look at the market place and pick out just 2 value propositions, from her real needs, then that’s when you can benchmark against the competition showing you have a product that meets a genuine customer emotion. For example, she mentioned the target customer initially as children but is it more parents and grandparents who are buying for them so packaging doesn’t need to reflect this, and as it’s grated, is functionality a stronger message together with convenience? Taste is obviously key but so is feeling the same as everyone else so offering a range of products and creating a choice may offer that customer connection element. Making it re-sealable and saving on waste is important but is that just industry standard now and taken as a given? Of course, the other fact-based information around number of packs, product size, price per 100g etc is also required but suddenly there is the real gap starting to develop in the market to explore and there is your elevator pitch sorted.
Now you can add into your value proposition other products with similar emotional connections and benchmark against these as well as the price to help identify if you have something special or not. Then use these points on your packaging to highlight to customer that you have what they are looking for.
Needless to say, my niece has decided to leave it to the professionals, but it makes you realise that to develop a brand and create loyalty your product must have a genuine value proposition, that appeals to the customers emotions and how they feel when using it.
Guinness have a great brand proposition map that details this well. Its more than just a pint of liquid when taking the customers emotions into consideration and their feelings….."it’s slow to pour but so worth the wait, it makes me feel special, it’s a treat I look forward to, I look cool when drinking this and its always an amazing pint".
Knowing this and delivering it is not an easy task, because if it were 75% of all new products that are launched each year in retail would not fail and they currently do! But by doing the research and conducting gap analysis on the marketplace early enough will undoubtable help you stand a better chance of success, help you reduce the time spent that is wasted and improve your costs.
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